Confucius (Chinese: 孔夫子; pinyin: Kǒng Fūzǐ; Wade-Giles: K'ung-fu-tzu), lit. "Master Kung," September 28, 551 BC - 479 BC) was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher, whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese thought and life.
His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. These values gained prominence in China over other doctrines, such as Legalism (法家) or Taoism (道家) during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). Confucius' thoughts have been developed into a system of philosophy known as Confucianism (儒家). It was introduced to Europe by the Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who was the first to Latinise the name as "Confucius."
His teachings may be found in the Analects of Confucius (論語), a collection of "brief aphoristic fragments", which was compiled many years after his death. Modern historians do not believe that any specific documents can be said to have been written by Confucius, but for nearly 2,000 years he was thought to be the editor or author of all the Five Classics such as the Classic of Rites (editor), and the Spring and Autumn Annals (春秋).
"What one does not wish for oneself, one ought not to do to anyone else; what one recognises as desirable for oneself, one ought to be willing to grant to others." (Confucius and Confucianism, Richard Wilhelm)
Although Confucianism is often followed in a religious manner by the Chinese, arguments continue over whether it is a religion. Confucianism lacks an afterlife, its texts express complex and ambivalent views concerning deities, and it is relatively unconcerned with some spiritual matters often considered essential to religious thought, such as the nature of the soul.
Confucius' principles gained wide acceptance primarily because of their basis in common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong familial loyalty, ancestor worship, respect of elders by their children (and, according to later interpreters, of husbands by their wives), and the family as a basis for an ideal government. He expressed the well-known principle, "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself" (similar to the Golden Rule). He also looked nostalgically upon earlier days, and urged the Chinese, particularly those with political power, to model themselves on earlier examples. "The superior man seeks for it in himself. The petty man seeks for it in others"
Because no texts survive that are demonstrably authored by Confucius, and the ideas associated with him most closely were elaborated in writings that accrued over the period between his death and the foundation of the first Chinese empire in 221 BC, many scholars are very cautious about attributing specific assertions to Confucius himself.
Religion in China
Many traditional Chinese developed a Chinese religion, which included Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Confucianism was seen as very masculine and dealing with orders of the State and Taoism was seen as feminine and dealing more with health and spirituality. Buddhism was the glue and the middle way between the two. Today, many Chinese nominally practice all three religions and there is no conflict between them.