China was in the midst of social and political upheaval at the time of Confucius' teaching.
The behavior of the average Chinese citizen was influenced by years of tradition and custom but many
of those traditions and customs that governed people's lives were being ignored as people became
more individualistic. Warfare between different states was continuous and Chinese civilization teetered
on the brink of self destruction. The individualism that began to emerge in Confucius' time was seen as
a prelude to social anarchy. Custom and tradition was the "mortar" that kept society together and the
"deliberate tradition" social system that Confucius built appealed to the people by using existing
behavior established by precedented custom and tradition. Confucius used the teachings, morals,
values and ideals of the Chinese people to create a philosophy that would allow the people to behave
responsibly and still retain the essence of China's history and cultural identity. The following five terms
outline the basic concept of Confucius' philosophy.
- JEN: "The virtue of virtues". The goodness of the human spirit. The perfection of what would
make one supremely human. Untiring diligence,unselfishness, courtesy and empathy. "Do not do
unto others what you would not want others to do to you." The idea that all of mankind is bonded
together as brother and sister , the ideal relationship between human beings.
- Chun tzu: One who is comfortable with oneself and one's surroundings and acts confidently. A
- Li: "The way things should be done". Everything in its place should know its place and act
accordingly, if you find yourself in a strange situation and don't know how you should behave try
to act with personal dignity. Revere the elderly for their experience and knowledge and learn from
them of how to behave correctly.
- Te: "The power by which men are ruled". Te is the ruler's virtue, discipline, honor and charisma
with which he/she leads the people. It is also the power that makes people want to be ruled by
- Wen: "The arts of peace". The creative side of society (culture) that produces art, poetry,
philosophy, dance and music. These things are admired and emulated.
Confucius was a sociologist. He broke down the problems facing his people and came up with a solution
that somehow worked. People were ready for change but not as yet able to identify what that change
might be. Confucius gave a well thought out answer and made it easy to live a good life and still be
Information compiled from individual study.
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