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孔子 (kong3 zi) (circa 551-479 BC) The Greatest Thinker

ALSO known as Kong Zi or Kong Qiu in Chinese, the great thinker Confucius was born to a warrior's family during the late Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). He lost his father when he was only three and lived in poverty with his mother who died when he was 17 years old.

When he was young, Confucius was a diligent student with a strong interest in a wide range of subjects. When visiting a temple, he would try to learn the art of moderating rituals. During the day, he would learn accounting and at night, he would practice playing musical instruments. When helping others herd sheep, he would ask to learn archery. Once, he even went to meet Lao Zi, the great philosopher, to ask for advice on conducting rituals.

When he was 30, he began to open schools and enrolled some 3,000 students. Among them, 72 were noted scholars who later helped compile ancient books and put Confucius' thinking into the book titled The Analects.

He spent more than 10 years touring various states with his students and disciples to advocate his ideas on correct conduct and the best government. According to Confucius, the best government is one that rules through rites and people's natural morality, not through bribery and coercion.

He explained that if a ruler led his people by morality, he was like the North Star, which would be surrounded by countless other stars. But if he used administrative orders and severe punishment to constrain his people, he could probably force them to refrain from committing crimes, but they would not understand that it's shameful to commit crimes. And only when they had acquired the "sense of shame" would they become good.

Confucius was also thought to be the editor and author of the Five Classics, namely, Shi (诗Book of Songs), Shu ( 书 Book of History), Li (礼 Book of Rites), Yi (易 Book of Change) and Chunqiu (春秋 Spring and Autumn Annals). He also advocated familial loyalty,?ancestor worship, respect of elders by their pious children and subjects' loyalty to their ruler.

As a result, Confucius' ideology was deemed as dominating force in the feudal society that lasted for more than 2,000 years in China. His thinking also became an important guiding ideology in many countries in East and Southeast Asia.

His famous quotations include:

Study and review what you have learned every day, isn't it joyful? With friends coming from afar, isn't it delightful? One doesn't frown on other's misunderstanding, isn't he a respectable man?

To acknowledge one's fault and be willing to change it is the greatest virtue.

If you know, to recognize that you know, If you don't know, to realize that you don't know: That is knowledge.

Once, Zi Gong, one of Confucius' disciples, asked the philosopher: "Is there any one word that can guide one throughout his life?" Confucius answered: "Maybe it's magnanimity! What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

That's perhaps one of the earliest versions of the Golden Rule.


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