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A Portrait of Confucius
A Portrait of Confucius

Confucius (551BC-479BC), in Chinese pinyin Kong Zi or Kong Fu Zi, was the founder of Confucianism. His given name was Qiu and his courtesy name Zhongni. He was born in the Kingdom of Lu (Luyuan Village of Qufu City, Shandong Province today) in the Spring and Autumn Period. He was a great educator, thinker and was also something of a politician as he was an intellectual of great character. He was honest, optimistic and enterprising. He pursed reality, kindness, beauty and an ideal society all his life. He has influenced China's intellectuals greatly, for thousands of years. 

He was considered as the most erudite scholar then and was respected as saint and teacher of all ages. He worked in various lower-ranking jobs when he was young, but devoted himself to education for the greater part of his life. It's said that he had over 3,000 students, of which 72 went on to achieve greatness in their own right. He edited the Book of Songs, Book of History, Book of Rites and Spring and Autumn Annals, and wrote the preface for the Book of Changes. The defining points of Confucius' thoughts and doctrines were summed up in the book Analects of Confucius, in which he and his best students offer guidance.

His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. These values gained prominence in China over other doctrines, such as Legalism or Taoism during the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). Confucius' thoughts have been developed into a system of philosophy known as Confucianism. It was introduced to Europe by the Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who was the first to Latinize the name as 'Confucius'.

As a child, Confucius was said to have enjoyed putting ritual vases on the sacrifice table. He married a young girl named Qi Quan at 19 and she gave birth to their first child Kong Li when he was 20. He is reported to have worked as a shepherd, cowherd, clerk and book-keeper. His mother died when he was 23, and he entered three years of mourning.

Confucius is said to have risen to the position of Justice Minister in Lu at the age of 53. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, the neighboring state of Qi was worried that Lu was becoming too powerful. Qi decided to sabotage Lu's reforms by sending 100 good horses and 80 beautiful dancing girls to the Duke of Lu. The Duke indulged himself in pleasure and did not attend to official duties for three days. Confucius was deeply disappointed and resolved to leave Lu and seek better opportunities, yet to leave at once would expose the misbehavior of the Duke and therefore bring public humiliation to the ruler he was serving, so he waited for the Duke to make a lesser mistake. Soon after, the Duke neglected to send to Confucius a portion of the sacrificial meat that was his due according to custom, and Confucius seized this pretext to leave both his post and the state of Lu. 

According to tradition, after Confucius's resignation, he began a long journey (or set of journeys) around the small kingdoms of northeast and central China, including the states of Wei, Song, Chen and Cai. At the courts of these states, he expounded his political beliefs but did not see them implemented. According to the Zuo Commentary to the Spring and Autumn Annals, when he was 68 Confucius returned home. The Analects pictures him spending his last years teaching disciples and transmitting the old wisdom via a set of texts called the Five Classics. Burdened by the loss of both his son and his favorite disciples, he died at the age of 72 or 73. 

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