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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Confucius -Great Chinese Philosopher - Biography 1

Confucius -Great Chinese Philosopher

 or as literally translated, Master Kong (K'ung-fu-tzu or Kongfuzi), lived and worked during what is known as the Chinese Spring and Autumn Period (770-481 BCE), and is by tradition said to have been born on the 28th of September in 551 BCE in the state of Lu located on the Shandong peninsula in northeastern China and died in 479 BCE. It is said, “by tradition” because it is difficult to distinguish much of Confucius’ life between the factual and the legendary. Confucius was an infamous Chinese thinker and educator, comparable to Socrates in the West, who developed a social and political philosophy that is often considered to be the foundation of subsequent Chinese thought. He was the founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought and the philosophical school of thought that has come to bear his name, Confucianism, comes from his tradition and the fragments that were recorded in the text called Analects (Lunyu). One of his most renowned concepts is summed up in the often translated and transmitted phrase:
Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself
As mentioned, it is difficult to trace the historical Confucius as his myth and legend have far surpassed the mere factual coordinates of his life. One legend has it that Confucius was born in answer to his parents prayers they made at a sacred hill (qui) called Ni and hence his names attest as such: Kong equates to the thanking of prayers answered, his forbidden name was Qui and his public name was Zhongni. Fact or fiction, the majority of what we know about Confucius comes from the Analects and other transcriptions and records of his thoughts and goings-on that were mostly transcribed during the Warring States Period (403-221 BCE) in which there was an ongoing struggle among the small states in China to regain the primacy and power of the Zhou. As well, the well-known text, Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji), written by Sima Qian (145-c.85 BCE), who was court historian to the Han dynasty, includes many accounts of the life and teachings of Confucius. The latter identifies Confucius as a descendent of the Royal State of Song yet grew up in the small state of Lu due to his grandfather’s having to flee the turmoil that besieged that of the state of Song. His life in Lu was said to have begun in poverty as accounts have stated that his father died when he was just three and he was raised by his mother in which he soon had to take various odd jobs once he came of age. He apparently wed a young girl named, Qi Guan, who bore him a son, Kong Li.
Confucius -Great Chinese Philosopher

His educational background is unclear except that tradition claims him to have studied with Lao Dan, the Daoist Master, as well as with Chang Hong and Xiang in music and lute respectively. What is clear is that education or study was extremely important to Confucius in which one must be dependent and independent; he is recorded in the Analects as saying: “He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” The Analects, recorded during the Warring States era, are said to reveal the dialogues between Confucius and his pupils in which he transmits, and perhaps expands, on the ideas, or the way (Dao) of the ancient Zhou. He was known to say that he was a transmitter and not a maker, and he had a passion for the wisdom of the Zhou sages upon which his teachings were based, or transmitted from. It is worth noting that it was in the fall of the Zhou Empire that the various small states began to vie for power and such a unified loss was a probable influence on Confucius.
Confucius gathered a following or a group of disciples, the number of which has been overly exaggerated according to scholars. There are claims that he had as many as three thousand, though more accurate accounts put that number at seventy-two (though this number is also suspicious as it is a magic number and purportedly the age of his death). Regardless, Confucius was open to teaching all, no matter their class, through his interpretation of his study and centered that espousal on the edifice of learning as well. His method was never to teach in a preacher-like manner, but rather in a motivational one (so-to-speak), such that the pupil must answer for himself: “I only instruct the eager and enlighten the fervent. If I hold up one corner and a student cannot come back to me with the other three, I do not go on with the lesson.”
Confucius -Great Chinese Philosopher

His teachings, as did his own learning, emphasized morality, government, speech and language and the arts. As well he focused on what was referred to as the Six Arts: archery, calligraphy, chariot, computation, music and ritual. Of the various subjects though, it was morality that was considered of utmost importance above all else. Through a proper understanding and practice of morality all else could be derived, harmonized and rectified. This is revealed in a famous lesson in which a student asks if there is one word that could guide a person through life, the master’s answer is “reciprocity” (shu), and the ‘answer’ is a suggestion, followed by the exemplifying phrase, “never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” A moral education, ideally, provides one with the building blocks for self-cultivation, harmony and ethical action, which can maintain and restore value and meaning for society (something which he considered lost in the loss of the Zhou reign). And for Confucius, it was in the Book of Songs, through its poetry, where one could find the epitome of such imperative study in morality.

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