Confucius was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher who lived 2,500 years ago. In his life, he was convinced that his teachings had not made any impact on Chinese society. However, he is now the most remembered person from ancient China and is widely considered one of the most influential teachers in Chinese history.
Confucius was born into extreme poverty, in a cave in 551 BC. This was a time when China was going through a period of disunity. It is a time also known as the Spring and Autumn period, during which the royal authority (under the Zhou Dynasty) was waning. Although the office of the king of Zhou still existed, it had only nominal power and its function reduced to mainly those pertaining to rituals and ceremonies.
China was fragmented into several principalities, and it was in the hands of its rulers that real power was to be found. The states were often at war with each other, and it was within this chaotic environment that Confucianism would develop and influence pretty much the rest of Chinese history.
Confucius was born in 551 BC in the state of Lu (near the modern city of Qufu, in Shandong Province). Confucius’ given name, which is often avoided out of respect for him, was Kong Qiu. According to the ancient Chinese historian, Sima Qian, prior to Confucius’ birth, his parents had prayed for a child on a sacred hill (丘) called Ni. As their prayers were answered, they name their child after the sacred hill. Confucius is also known commonly as Kong Zi, meaning Master Kong, and by his honorific name, Kong Fuzi, which means ‘Grand Master Kong’. It has been suggested that Confucius is a Latinized version of Kong Fuzi, and was first coined by Jesuit missionaries who visited China during the Ming Dynasty.
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