CONFUCIUS a Chinese philosopher, one of the most influential figures in Chinese history.
According to tradition, Confucius was born in the state of Lu (present-day Shandong [Shantung] Province) of the noble K'ung clan. His original name was K'ung Ch'iu. His father, commander of a district in Lu, died three years after Confucius was born, leaving the family in poverty; but Confucius nevertheless received a fine education. He was married at the age of 19 and had one son and two daughters. During the four years immediately after his marriage, poverty compelled him to perform menial labors for the chief of the district in which he lived. His mother died in 527 bc, and after a period of mourning he began his career as a teacher, usually traveling about and instructing the small body of disciples that had gathered around him. His fame as a man of learning and character and his reverence for Chinese ideals and customs soon spread through the principality of Lu.
Confucius lived in the second half of the Chou dynasty (c. 1027-256 bc), when feudalism degenerated in China and intrigue and vice were rampant; he deplored the disorder and lack of moral standards, and believed that the only remedy was to convert people once more to the principles and precepts of the sages of antiquity. He therefore lectured to his pupils on the ancient classics and taught the great value of the power of example. Rulers, he said, can be great only if they lead exemplary lives; were they willing to be guided by moral principles, their states would inevitably become prosperous and happy.
Confucius had no opportunity to put his theories to a public test until he was appointed magistrate of Chung-tu at the age of 50, and minister of crime of the state...