Confucius is the Latinized form of K'ung Fu-tzu, the Master K'ung. He was born in 551 in the state of Lu (now Shantung) during the Chou dynasty (c.1025-256BC). Confucius eventually became a government official, but internal politics led him to leave Lu in 497 and live as a wandering sage, traveling with his disciples from court to court, offering moral and political advice. From his return to Lu around 485 to his death in 479 he taught his followers, who in turn compiled the Analects from their Master's words and deeds some time after his death.
Legend has it that Confucius met his great contemporary, the Taoist sage Lao-tzu, at the court of King Chou. The Shih-chi (Historical Records) of c.1BC, written by Ssu-ma Ch'ien, quotes Lao-tzu's advice to Confucius as, 'Give up your arrogance, your desires, your vanity and your zeal--for they are of no use to you.'
The Tao (Way) of Confucius emphasizes the virtues of jen (benevolence), shu (consideration or reciprocity), chung (loyalty or conscientiousness), and li (morality). Also highlighted are hsiao (respect for parents), t'i (respect for elder brothers) and hsüeh (learning). Confucius did not use Tao in its Taoist sense of the eternal, ultimate reality, but rather as a moral principle that we should seek to follow. His ideas did not embrace religious speculation. Though Confucius' philosophy had little immediate effect on his society, Confucian ideals became, for over 2000 years, the model for life in China, Japan and Korea.
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