Confucianism is an ethical and philosophical system that is often also considered to be a religion.
Confucianism is one of the most popular religions to be developed in China. Confucianism is an ethical and philosophical system that is based on the teachings and ideas of the Chinese philosopher, Confucius. Confucius was born in 551 BC and lived to around 71 to 72 years of age. He died in 479 BC.
Confucianism developed the Spring and Autumn period, which was a period in Chinese history from approximately 771 to 476 BC. However, it really received traction in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), as it was adopted as the official state ideology during this time.
Confucius was born as Kong Qiu, with Kong being the family name. During his lifetime, he was a teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher. Hence, he was also known by the honorific Kong Fuzi, which literally means Master Kong. When romanized, this developed into "K'ung Fu-tzu", and eventually Confucius.
His father was an officer in the military of the Lu state, Confucius’s birthplace. Confucius was born into the class of shi, which was between aristocracy and the common people. However, his father dies when he was three, and his mother raised him by herself and in poverty. From there Confucius grew up to be a teacher, and in 501 BC, he was appointed as a governor, marking his entry into politics.
As a teacher and even after, Confucius thought proper conduct and righteousness. He focused on the practical order, as described in the Tian (cosmos or Heaven), and a proper respect of the gods. He also placed importance on family. He claimed that human beings are teachable, and that through self-cultivation and self-creation, humans can improve and perfect themselves. Confucianism focuses on the cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics.
Some of the principles of Confucianism tout the ethical concepts and practices of rén, yì, and lǐ, and zhì. Ren teaches humaneness, while Yi is righteousness and the moral disposition to do good in life. Li is a system of ritual norms, which dictate how to act in everyday life. Zhì is the ability to see what is right and fair, and act accordingly.
Confucius put a lot of emphasis on study. According to him, man can improve himself through study, and can only then relate to the moral problems of the present. This can be done by comparing them to past political events, commoners' feelings and noblemen's reflections.
Confucius put emphasis respect for human, especially one's parents, teachers, and elders. He taught his students to learn from everyone they encountered and to honor others' cultural norms. However, many people have claimed that Confucianism condones a hierarchy of authority and unquestioning obedience of the elders and those in authority. This was not necessarily the case, as Confucius himself criticized the rulers that he worked for, but not in public. Confucius actually taught his followers the difference between right and wrong, as well as common sense, so that they may make the right decisions.
Confucianism is not particularly considered to be a religion, as it relatively unconcerned with some spiritual matters that are often considered to be essential for a religion. An example is the nature of souls. However, Confucianism is often considered to be a religion, with Confucius as its father figure; similar to Jesus with Christianity, and Buddha with Buddhism.
In the second century CE, Confucianism saw a decline. Other doctrines, such as Buddhism and Taoism came to gain more importance. However, during the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD), Confucianism saw a revival, but its ideas often took on aspects of Buddhism and Taoism. This newer Confucianism was labeled as Neo-Confucianism. The official aspects of Confucianism came to an end in 1905. The New Culture intellectuals of the time blamed Confucianism for China's weaknesses, and sought to replace Confucianism with other doctrines. This eventually gave rise to new ideologies, such as "Three Principles of the People" and Maoism.
However, in the 21st century, there has been a "Confucian Revival", especially in academics and the scholarly community. General people and Western population specifically have been showing increasing interest in East philosophies, of which Confucianism is just one.
Modern scholars claim that Confucianism has had a major impact on East Asian cultures, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and even China itself. They claim that if it were not for Confucius’s teachings, these countries would not have been able to modernize and industrialize as quickly as they did.