Confucianism is a philosophy or way of life based on the teachings of Confucius, a Chinese scholar from the fifth century B.C.E. Confucianism promotes the inherent goodness of mankind, the necessity for correct behavior, and the way to achieve happiness in daily life. While not largely practiced outside of China, Confucianism's influence has spread around the world and is related closely to Taoism, a more widely-practiced philosophy in Asia.
Born around 551 B.C.E., Confucius, or Kongzi, was a thinker and critic who wrote extensively on the topics of moral practices, the essential nature of humanity and reality, politics, and social order. His major work, called the Analects, became the foundation for Confucianism when his popularity grew after his death. His teachings were spread and expounded upon in the ensuing centuries. The most recognizable of his writings is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This concept is the basic principle of Confucianism.
Ethics are a central stepping stone for describing the practice of Confucianism. While Confucianism does not discuss an afterlife or God exactly, it explains there are reasons for doing good. Confucianism supports the understanding that people should act well toward one another not for social clout or reward but because it is better for everyone. Confucius said that people should act well toward each other and that they should act toward each other based on their relationship to one another.
The Confucian view of human nature is that human beings are, for the most part, good. On the other hand, Confucianism also argues that evil and suffering are ever present in life and cannot be avoided. Confucius gives an example of a child falling down a well. Most people want to help the child even if they don't know the child's parents or if they'll receive a reward. In Confucianism, this scenario proves that humans are essentially good and want to limit suffering.
Confucianism is not a faith-based religion that has gods or deities. Because of this, there are not a lot of symbols that define the practice. However, a few symbols have come to represent Confucianism in its relation to Taoism. The Chinese symbol for water often is associated with Confucianism. The idea of water being simple and natural aligns with the teachings of Confucianism. The yin-yang symbol, which more commonly is used as a Taoist symbol, may be associated with Confucianism to represent the two natures of humanity: the inclination to do good and the inherent suffering and evil of the world.
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images