Sunday, March 1, 2009

Confucianism 3

As with many other prominent figures such as Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus, or Socrates, we do not have direct access to Confucius' ideas. Instead, we have recollections by his disciples and their students . This factor is further complicated by the "Burning of the Books and Burying of the Scholars", a massive suppression of dissenting thought during the Qin Dynasty, more than two centuries after Confucius' death. What we now know of Confucius' writings and thoughts is therefore somewhat unreliable.

However, we can sketch out Confucius' ideas from the fragments that remain. Confucius was a man of letters who worried about the troubled times he lived in. He went from place to place trying to spread his political ideas and influence to the many kings contending for supremacy in China.

The disintegration of the Zhou Dynasty in the third century BCE created a power vacuum filled by small states. Deeply persuaded of the need for his mission - "If right principles prevailed through the empire, there would be no need for me to change its state" Analects XVIII, 6 - Confucius tirelessly promoted the virtues of ancient illustrious kings such as the Duke of Zhou.

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