Confucius (kənfyōˈshəs) [key], Chinese K'ung Ch'iu or K'ung Fu-tzu, Pinyin Kong Fuzi, c.551–479? B.C., Chinese sage. Positive evidence concerning the life of Confucius is scanty; modern scholars base their accounts largely on the Analects, a collection of sayings and short dialogues apparently collected by his disciples, and discard most of the later legends. Confucius was born in the feudal state of Lu, in modern Shandong prov. Distressed by the constant warfare between the Chinese states and by the venality and tyranny of the rulers, he urged a system of morality and statecraft that would preserve peace and provide people with stable and just government. He gathered about him a number of disciples, some occupying high positions, although Confucius himself was at most granted an insignificant sinecure, possibly because of his extremely outspoken manner toward his superiors. From about his 55th to his 65th year he journeyed to several neighboring states, but he was never able to induce any ruler to grant him high office so that he might introduce his reforms. Later tradition depicts Confucius as a man who made special study of ancient books, in an effort to restore an older social order. It is said that he was a minister of state and the author, editor, or compiler of the Wu Ching [five classics] (see Chinese literature). His supposed doctrines are embodied in Confucianism.
For bibliography, see Confucianism.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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