Here I want to focus on biography and life of Confucius and basically some ideas. Also I will focus on some aspects of his life that seem to be legend and a question of his existence.
His Chinese name is Kong Qiu and simply great man with great ideas. He lived during Spring and Autumn Period( 771BC-476BC) a period of formal supremacy of Zhou dynasty in terms of politics and culture while there was large division on many states who often were in rivalry relations and fought wars. Confucius was born in state of Lu in Qufu in todays Shandong province in 551BC. Confucius was born during rule of Duke Xiang of Lu. He became later known as Kongfuzi what means master Kong so from this name he is known as Confucius. Confucius never met his father as he died when he was only 3 years old. He originates from aristocratic family which was impoverished already by time of his birth. His ancestry dates to house of Dukes of Song during Shang dynasty. At age of 15 he was learning classical six arts which were compulsory for scholars of Zhou dynasty and those were rites, archery, music, calligraphy, charioteering and math. At age of 19 Confucius married with Qiguan. At age of 23 his mother died and he mourned for 3 years as was tradition saying. First he tried to be governmental official and worked on some position, He served as magistrate and later as assistant in Ministry of Public Affairs. .Confucius later became Minister of Crime in state of Lu. At that time he was in mid 30ies and decided to become teacher too and spread his ideas and education as he saw biggest value in education and spreading it. By proposing his ethical and governmental ideas he was collecting some disciples. Confucius was trying to give education for more people and never took money from his disciples like at that time aristocratic families were paying tutors for their male kids. Confucius played role of diplomat too in managing relations between rivalry dukes and tried to mediate conflict peacefully and was successful several times.
Confucius was successful at this and centralized power and restored order in state of Lu. But state of Qi tried to distract Duke of Lu by sending beautiful dancing girls. As legend says Duke didn’t attend governmental meetings for few days and Kong Zi was disappointed ad decided to leave the Lu because of lack of morality of duke for whom he served. At that time he was in his 40ties. Kongzi visited many of smaller and bigger states and visited courts there but dukes and kings listened only to his proposals. But never applied them so Confucius was always on road seeking for someone who will apply it and collected disciples on his way. Kongzi considered rituals, governance and music of Western Zhou as core for Chinese culture and state and these ideals he promoted and tried to apply in Lu and other states. Western Zhou was period when state was united and before Spring and Autumn decentralization. Confucius was teaching his disciples all 6 arts, ethics and governance. At age of 68 he returned his home to state of Lu. Before that he climbed a Mount Taishan which was sacred at that time already. In his hometown he continued teaching most until his death. Confucius was very friendly towards his disciples used to joke but also demanded respect but respected them back too. His son and one of favorite disciples died early and he felt sorry for both of them. At age of 73 Confucius died in his hometown in 479BC As a highly respected person he was buried on grand ceremony and state mourning was declared. Kong Zi was buried in his hometown Qufu and his tomb still can be visited and people come there to pay respect.
He believed that basis for happiness is ideal family in which younger give respect to older and women are submissive to men. From a basis of ideal family goes ideal harmonious society with hierarchy respect and where everyone knows its place and deserves place according to education and skills. Education, respect and harmonious relations are basis of society and everyone by self-cultivation improves his position in society. Kongzi believed that every human serves to society for a higher good and functioning of society. He also believed that following virtues, traditions and high education give you better status in society. Confucius is often seen as conservative person promoting old traditions, rituals and customs which keep unity of family and society. In keeping family tradition each family must worship its ancestors what brings family unity. Under ideals of Western Zhou which established concept Mandate of Heaven legitimacy of ruler must be based. He considered that ruler must worship Heaven in order to gets its blessing and govern under divine power. Confucius considered that state must be strong and ruler generous, powerful and ethical. He considered that highest positions could have only people with highest education and highest skills and virtue. He considered that each ruler and member of society must think about his own behavior, morality and educate himself in order of perfection. In order to get respect leader must be self-disciplined and to respect others too. He believed that you must be compassionate and positive to motivate others to follow law. By education he believed you can achieve higher status and respect in society and only if you have high morality and are self-disciplined. Confucius idealized concept of 4 professions and their contribution to society. Hierarchy, respect, self-discipline are a must according to him. Confucius emphasized highly on worship of Heaven and ancestors and with aim to keep order worship must be highly detailed. Which chants and when, number of vessels and all steps of ritual had to be according to some order done. Kong Qui considered major arts: computing, calligraphy, music, ritual, archery and chariot driving. He believed that they require strict self-discipline and hard working and therefore are contributive. Confucius believed that such concept of state and organization of society leads to harmnonius society. He was against wars and believed that justified war only in case of defense. However despite his brilliant ideas there are some controversies related to Confucius such as misogynic ideas and underestimating living beings. There is a story when he asks only about human lives when there was accident in which horseridrers were involved and behaves towards animals as towards property of human. Also sometimes his philosophy may seem to strict with lack of spontaneity and joy but some important ideas are definitely serving functioning of society.
He never left book behind him but his followers gathered his main ideas into few books. Confucius left behind 72 disciples who continued spreading his idea,, Moreover they wrote his basic concepts in Classics of Poetry, Book of Documents, Book of Rites, Spring and Autumn Annals, Great Learning, Mencius and Analects.
During era of Han dynasty he was deified and worshipped by his followers and scholars. His idea of governing was institutionalized during Han dynasty( 206BC-220CE) when such hierarchy, family and social relations were established like he promoted. Also imperial examination of civil servants who studied his classics existed until 1905. Today Confucianism is still important in China but not in terms of empire, inferiority of women and blaming those sick or unsuccessful and keeping them in poor condition. Today Confucianism serves as idea of hierarchy, social harmony and working on your own skills and education for self-achievement and serving your society.
If you read my history articles you will see how on his principles Chinese state and society functioned for 2000 thousand years. About role of Confucianism in modern China will be in last chapter of history.