Confucius was a mere preserver and transmitter of tradition, while Muhammad was an innovator. Discuss the validity or otherwise of this statement.

Essay by dr molbrayHigh School, 12th gradeB-, June 2008

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Confucius was a Chinese philosopher, one of the most influential figures in Chinese history. (Ching p52) According to tradition, Confucius was born in the state of Lu of the noble K'ung clan in 551 BCE. (Bishop p14) His father, commander of a district in Lu, died three years after Confucius was born; leaving the family in poverty. Confucius nevertheless received a fine education. During the four years immediately after his marriage, poverty compelled him to perform menial labours for the chief of the district in which he lived. His mother died in 527 BCE, and after a period of mourning he began his career as a teacher, usually travelling 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. Confucius described himself merely as a ‘transmitter of culture’, and for the majority of his teachings this is true, but claims can also be supported that he was a ‘conservative innovator’ in some of the ideas he presented.

Unfortunately for Confucius, the fruits of his labours occurred long after his death.

China’s traditional religion was ancient, diverse and as complex as the people themselves. It consisted of two indigenous traditions, Confucianism and Taoism, and later in the 1st century CE, Buddhism crept in from India. All three sat comfortably with the Chinese, often complimenting one another. Yet, religion was not restricted to the practices of these three. Ancient practices such as ancestor veneration and several other folk religions focussing on divination were commonly integrated. Amazingly, each of these aspects blended together to form a coherent whole, a concept that is extremely foreign to western understandings of religion. (Ching p31) Even today, such practices and beliefs are still an...