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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Confucius

It is generally thought that Confucius was born on September 28, 551 BC. The son of a once noble family who had recently fled from the State of Song, his father, Kong He, was seventy and his concubine mother, Yan Zhengzai, only fifteen at his birth.

He had 9 older sisters and a crippled brother.

Confucius' father died when he was three. His mother was rejected by his father's family after his death and Confucius' family were forbidden to attend his funeral.  From then on they lived in poverty.

As a boy, he lived on a diet of rice and cabbage with possibly a little pork and bean broth.

His real name was K'ung Fu-Tsu- (The Master). Confucius is the latinised form given to him.

As a boy Confucius followed the Chinese custom of wearing plain metal necklaces like a collar to fool the evil spirits into thinking he was a dog.

A shy and lonely boy, Confucius acted out games with his toys made from clay and flew kites.

At the age of six, people noted his fondness for putting ritual vases on the sacrifice table.

Despite his poverty, Confucius received a fine education, for the Lu state was famous for preserving the state traditions of the Zhou dynasty.

Confucius married at the age of 19, The full name of his wife is not known, only that she was from a family with the name of Kienkuan. A year later the couple had their first child, Kong Li.

Confucius' wife didn't his expectations as a cook. The fastidious Chinese teacher demanded that meat should always be served in its proper sauce, be cut perfectly square and have exactly the right color. For him, even the choicest of rice is generally not white enough, and minced meat rarely fine enough.

It was not a happy marriage. Despite this Confucius stressed in his teaching the importance of a strong family.

Confucius' mother died in 527 BC, and after a period of mourning of three years he began his career as a state official.

As a young man he was a minor administrative manager in the State of Lu and rose to the position of Justice Minister. It is said that, after several years, disapproving of the politics of his Prince, he resigned.

When nearly 50 Confucius accepted governship of a small town where he distinguished himself in suppression of crime and promotion of morality. He performed so well that a neighbouring governor became jealous and plotted his overthrow and Confucius was forced into voluntary exile and wandered around for 13 years.

A portrait of Confucius by the Tang dynasty artist Wu Daozi (680–740)

Confucius then began a twelve year journey around China, seeking the "Way" and trying unsuccessfully to convince many different rulers of his political beliefs and to push them into reality.

Confucius developed his philosophy during a time of anarchy and war. His teachings based on reason sought to inspire true goodness in a social setting of morally correct behaviour governed by a righteous ruler.

During his lifetime he gradually attracted a number of disciples who accompanied him whilst he sought such a ruler who would enable him to put in practice his vision of a just and humane society.

Confucius wore hemp or silk robes over trousers and in winter thick quilted coats and wooden clogs or straw sandals.

Confucius used mulberry for inner ear problems and dizziness, Chinese yam for fatigue and loss of appetite and buckbean root for the common cold.

A story is told of how one day Confucius and his disciples were all thirsty. One disciple discovered a hidden rain puddle, so he filled his rice bowl and offered it to him. Confucius emptied the offering on the ground saying, "It would be too much for one, too little for all of us, let us continue our walk."

One day the Chinese teacher came upon an old woman weeping beside a grave. Confucius asked her why. A tiger had killed her husband and her father in law she explained. Now it had recently slain her only son. "Why then do you live in this savage place?" asked Confucius. "Because there is no oppressive government here came the reply. "My children" said Confucius to his followers. "Remember that oppressive government is worse than a tiger."

Confucius devoted himself to collecting and editing the ancient Chinese holy writings. Amongst the material he collected were 300 Chinese songs, ceremonial dances, love songs and work songs.

He died believing he had failed in his aims but many attend his burial and his grave became a center of pilgrimage.


There are reckoned to be 40,000 direct descendants of Confucius living in China today. Many of them are, to this, day, buried in Confucius forest.

For over 2,500 years Confucianism has been the religion of most Chinese people. In 136 BC Confucianism became the state religion.

Until the beginning of the 20th century all Chinese students training for official posts had to learn the sayings of Confucius, the country's most revered philosopher.

Sources Faber Book of Anecdotes, Food For Thought

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