Confucianism was founded by K’ung Fu Tzu (commonly pronounced Confucius in English) in China during the Chou dynasty.
Throughout his life, as he wandered through many states of China giving advice to their rulers, he accumulated a small band of students. The last years of his life were spent in the province of Lu, where he devoted himself to teaching.
K’ung Fu Tzu’s writings deal primarily with individual morality and ethics, and the proper exercise of political power by the rulers.
Confucianism is a philosophy that is concerned with human beings and their achievements and interests, rather than with deities and theology. In Confucianism, man is the center of the universe. For Confucians, the ultimate goal is individual happiness, which can only be obtained through peace.
Confucianism does not contain many of the elements of other religions, such as institutions and priests. Instead, its institutions are those of society, family, school, and state, and its priests are parents, teachers, and officials. Confucianism is part of the Chinese social fabric and way of life.
Practitioners consider Confucianism to be primarily an ethical system to which rituals at important times during one’s lifetime have been added.
Since the time of the Han dynasty, four life passages have been recognized and regulated by Confucian tradition: birth; reaching maturity; marriage; and death. Each of these important times in one’s life is celebrated with rituals, special meals, and gifts.
Confucian beliefs incorporate many ethical teachings and moral values, including: li- the rituals, proprieties, and etiquettes that form the basics of Confucianism; Hsiao- the love within the family; Yi- righteousness; Xin- honesty and trustworthiness; Jen- benevolence and humaneness; and Chung- loyalty to the state.
There are approximately 6 million Confucians in the world. About 26,000 live in North America, with the rest spread throughout China and the rest of Asia.