Confucianism was regarded as an ethic-political system in ancient China. As opted as the orthodox thinking system for more than 2000 years in Western Han Dynasty (206BC-24AD), Confucianism has exerted a profound influence on the civilization of China. Its greatest contribution to the Chinese nation is that it has shaped and moulded the Chinese character and national soul as well as establishing the complete system of knowledge.
Confucianism is a scholar school founded by Confucius (Kong Zi) in the Spring and Autumn Period (770BC-476BC). Mencius (Men Zi) is the second sage in the Confucian school who has inherited and developed the Confucianism. Confucianism is the orthodoxy in China as well as in ancient Korea and Vietnam and has deeply influenced the ancient Japanese. Though Confucianism is no longer the orthodoxy in China since the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, it is still valued greatly by Chinese that its philosophy and thoughts still deeply influence the modern Chinese in many aspects.
Confucianism has no objection to the existing of gods and ghosts, but its key attention is on the real world of the management of the country and the ethical relations between people. According to the Confucianism, the great previous emperors’ ways of management are the foundation and guarantee of a stable and prosperous society; the filial piety, Ren (benevolence) and thrifty are the moral principles; the violent revolution is not the way to change social status but the origin of social unrest, while study hard and make great accomplishment is the right way.
The central doctrine of Confucius is the virtue of Ren (Chinese:仁). Ren can be translated as goodness, benevolence and humanity. In general, Ren means affection and love, just as Confucius says “a man of Ren loves others”.
According to Confucianism, the ethical thought of Confucius can be summed up as five cardinal virtues, Ren (the will to show benevolence and love to others), Yi (righteousness by justice), Li (etiquette, or moral ways of conducts), Zhi (wisdom and intelligence) and Xin (faithfulness). The national spirit and character can be summed up as, loyalty and piety, affection and love, faithfulness and righteousness, peace and harmony.
Confucianism has left a rich literary heritage to us, of which the Four Books and Five Classics are the most famous. The Four Books are the Analects of Confucius, the Mencius, the Great Learning and the Mean; the Five Classics are Book of Odes, Book of History, Book of Rites, Book of Change, and Spring and Autumn Annals. From the Yuan Dynasty for nearly six centuries (1313-1905), the Four Books were the elementary materials of Chinese education in the feudal society and served as the basis of the imperial examinations by which scholars were selected for official posts at different levels of the government.