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(kənfyo͞o`shəs), Chinese K'ung Ch'iu or K'ung Fu-tzu, Pinyin Kong Fuzi, c.551–479? B.C., Chinese sage. Positive evidence concerning the life of Confucius is scanty; modern scholars base their accounts largely on the Analects, a collection of sayings and short dialogues apparently collected by his disciples, and discard most of the later legends. Confucius was born in the feudal state of Lu, in modern Shandong prov. Distressed by the constant warfare between the Chinese states and by the venality and tyranny of the rulers, he urged a system of morality and statecraft that would preserve peace and provide people with stable and just government. He gathered about him a number of disciples, some occupying high positions, although Confucius himself was at most granted an insignificant sinecure, possibly because of his extremely outspoken manner toward his superiors. From about his 55th to his 65th year he journeyed to several neighboring states, but he was never able to induce any ruler to grant him high office so that he might introduce his reforms. Later tradition depicts Confucius as a man who made special study of ancient books, in an effort to restore an older social order. It is said that he was a minister of state and the author, editor, or compiler of the Wu Ching [five classics] (see Chinese literatureChinese literature,
the literature of ancient and modern China. Early Writing and Literature

It is not known when the current system of writing Chinese first developed. The oldest written records date from about 1400 B.C.
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). His supposed doctrines are embodied in Confucianism.


For bibliography, see ConfucianismConfucianism
, moral and religious system of China. Its origins go back to the Analects (see Chinese literature), the sayings attributed to Confucius, and to ancient commentaries, including that of Mencius.
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Early nineteenth-century French aquatint of Confucius, Chinese philosopher, teacher, and political theorist, whose ideas became known as Confucianism. The Art Archive/The Art Archive.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Confucius (551-479 BCE) was born, lived, and died in the Chinese province of Lu. He was raised by his mother after his father died when Confucius was a young child. A member of the ru class, he learned the "six arts" of ceremony, music (in which he is said to have excelled), archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and arithmetic.

By the time he was thirty-two he was a teacher. This was about the time he was said to have visited with Lao Tzu (see Confucianism/ Daoism). At the age of fifty-one he became active in political life. But after only four years he was forced to leave his position of influence. For about twelve years he wandered, hoping to be called back into active politics where he could use his influence, believing he had the answer for China's volatile social climate. Although he never again filled an important political post, his writings exerted a profound influence on Chinese history. On the last day of his life Confucius is reported to have said, "The great mountain must collapse, the mighty beam must break and the wise man wither like a plant.... No wise ruler arises, and no one in the Empire wishes to make me his teacher. The hour of my death has come." He died at the age of seventy-three, never knowing he would one day be acknowledged as one of the greatest philosophers the world has ever known. Twenty-five hundred years later, people would apply his wisdom to everyday problems by saying, "Confucius said...." But all this took time. It wasn't until 56 CE that Chinese children began to offer sacrifices to him, and in 1908 he was finally granted a form of divinity when he was declared "equal with heaven and earth."

Meanwhile, Confucian scholars would pride themselves on studying his writings, showing their dedication by growing two-inch-long fingernails. After all, anyone with two-inch fingernails can't be doing any manual labor, so he must be studying. In this society, at least, the pen really was thought to be mightier than the sword.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(K’ung-tzu). Born circa 551 B.C.; died 479 B.C. Ancient Chinese thinker; founder of Confucianism.

Confucius was the son of an impoverished noble. He spent most of his life in the kingdom of Lu. In his youth he worked as a minor official; later he founded China’s first private school. The basic ideas of Confucius are set forth in the Analects (Lun yü literally, “conversations and opinions”), which is a record of Confucius’ sayings and conversations with his closest students and followers. Jen (“humaneness”) is the most important concept of the ethical and political teachings of Confucius: it is the totality of ethical and social relations between people, based on respect for and deference to elders and superiors and devotion to the sovereign. The pronouncements of Confucius reflect the class, aristocratic bias of his teachings. He resolutely contrasted ch’ün tzu (“noble men”) with commoners, or hsiao jen (“little people”). The first were called upon to rule over the second and to serve as an example for them. When Confucianism became a state doctrine (after 136 B.C.), Confucius was declared “teacher of ten thousand generations.” His cult was officially supported until 1911 (the beginning of the bourgeois Hsin-hai Revolution).


Popov, P. S. Izrecheniia Konfutsiia, uchenikov ego i drugikh lits. Saint Petersburg, 1910. (Translated from Chinese.)
Petrov, A. A. “Ocherk filosofii Kitaia.” In the collection Kitai. Moscow-Leningrad, 1940.
Istoriia filosofii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1957. Chapter 1.
Vasil’iev, L. S. Kul’ty, religii, traditsii v Kitae. Moscow, 1970.
Li Chang-chih. Kung-tzu-te ku-shih. (Biography of Confucius.) Shanghai, 1957.
Rygaloff, A. Confucius. Paris, 1946.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Confucius (c. 551–479 B.C.)

classic Chinese sage. [Chinese Hist.: NCE, 625]


(551–479 B.C.) Chinese philosopher and writer. [Chinese Hist.: Parrinder, 65]
See: Wisdom
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Chinese name Kong Zi or K'ung Fu-tse. 551--479 bc, Chinese philosopher and teacher of ethics (see Confucianism). His doctrines were compiled after his death under the title The Analects of Confucius
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005