Confucius is one of the few leaders who based their philosophy on the virtues that are required for the day to day living. Known as Master Kong to the Chinese, he taught people how to cultivate the value of modesty, planning, respect, moral behavior, honesty and sincerity, apart from common sense. He said that adopting these values was the only way a human being could lead a good life. Confucius was of the opinion that true happiness would only be brought from well-planned actions and helping of the fellow men. His philosophy was aimed at benefiting not only a few selected groups, but all the people of the empire he was a part of.
Confucius was born in 551 BC, in the Chinese State of Lu. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, the marriage between his father and mother was an illicit union i.e. his father was a very old man and his mother was only in her late teens when they got married. At the tender age of 3, Confucius lost his father and was brought up, in poverty, by his mother. His family was linked to the growing class of shì, ranked between old nobility and the common people. This people in this class sought social position on the basis of their talents and skills, rather than heredity. In his childhood, Confucius loved to set up sacrificial vessels and imitate the gestures of rituals.
Confucius started his career as a shepherd, cowherd, clerk and book-keeper. When he was 23, he lost his mother and went into 3 years of mourning. At the age of 32, Confucius started teaching the ancient rituals to a minister's sons. The next year, he headed towards the imperial capital, Lo-yang, to study the customs and traditions of Chou Empire. At 34, Confucius accompanied the Prince of Lu and both of them fled to a neighboring state, as the latter was threatened by powerful rivals. It was there that Confucius learned the art of music and got so engrossed in it that he forgot even the basic necessity of life - eating. Upon returning to his native land Lu, he indulged in further studies.
Confucius and Politics
At the age of 51, Confucius returned to the political scenario and was appointed as the Minister of Justice, the state of Lu. Eventually, his position was enhanced to that of the Prime Minister of Lu. Adhering to his counsel and advice, the Prince of Lu became increasingly powerful. The state of Lu also became one of the most prosperous states and rose in terms of fortune. Frightened by the rise of Lu, the Prince of Qi, a neighboring state, gave his counterpart - Lu, 100 good horses and 80 beautiful dancing girls.
Excited upon receiving the gift, the Prince of Lu neglected his government completely and ignored the counsels of Confucius for three consecutive days. Deeply disappointed by such irresponsible behavior of the Prince, Confucius wanted to leave the prince, but restrained himself as he knew his act would bring public humiliation to the ruler. However, when the Prince neglected to even send a portion of the sacrificial meat to Confucius, as was due - according to custom, he decided to take action and left both his post and the state of Lu.
After leaving the state of Lu, Confucius wandered for about twelve years, from one state to the other, with the hope that at least somewhere would he be able to put his principles of politics into use. However, his wish never got fulfilled. At the age of 68, Confucius returned to his native land of Lu and stayed there, refusing to accept any government position during his stay. It was at 72 years of age, in 479 BC, that Confucius breathed his last.
Confucius got married at the age of 19, to a young girl named Qi Quan. The couple had their first child the following year. Father of a son and two daughters, Confucius relations with his wife and children were not cordial.
Confucianism - Teachings of Confucius
Confucianism concerns itself with the practical aspects of life, such as good manners, treating others kindly and enhancing family relations. Instead of being poetic about God or metaphysics, Confucius directed his teachings on moral and ethical grounds. Bothered about earthly matters, he rested his theory on two main ideas - being a true gentleman and having proper conduct. He stressed that a true gentleman is one who has five characteristics - integrity, righteousness, loyalty, altruism and goodness. As for proper conduct, the second most important foundation of Confucianism, a person should practice social decorum and rituals, as it is the quickest path to ethical growth.
Confucius was of the opinion that moderation was the only way to stay between life's extremes. He believed that each person in the world should maintain the respect of his or her position - for instance, a father should behave like a responsible person and not dodge away from his duties. For Confucius, family was very important and he believed that a man should always honor the relationship between master and servant, father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger siblings and two friends. Last but not the least, he urged people to honor the aged people.