The Works of Confucius
A Brief Note On Confucius: According to tradition, Confucius was born in 551 BC. Spring and Autumn Period, at the beginning of the Hundred Schools of Thought philosophical movement. Confucius was born in or near the city of Qufu, in the Chinese State of Lu now part of Shandong Province. Early accounts say that he was born into a poor but noble family that had fallen on hard times.
The Records of the Grand Historian, compiled some four centuries later, indicate that the marriage of Confucius' parents did not conform to Li and therefore was a yehe, or "illicit union", for when they got married, his father was a very old man and past proper age for marriage but his mother was only in her late teens. His father died when he was three, and he was brought up in poverty by his mother. His social ascendancy linked him to the growing class of shì, a class whose status lay between that of the old nobility and the common people, that comprised men who sought social positions on the basis of talents and skills, rather than heredity.
As a child, Confucius was said to have enjoyed putting ritual vases on the sacrifice table. He married a young girl named Qi Quan at nineteen and she had their first child Kong Li when he was twenty. Confucius is reported to have worked as a shepherd, cowherd, clerk and book-keeper. When Confucius was twenty-three, his mother died and he entered three years of mourning.
He is said to have risen to the position of Justice Minister in Lu at fifty-three. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, the neighboring state of Qi was worried that Lu was becoming too powerful. Qi decided to sabotage Lu's reforms by sending one hundred good horses and eighty beautiful dancing girls to the Duke of Lu. The Duke indulged himself in pleasure and did not attend to official duties for three days. Confucius was deeply disappointed and resolved to leave Lu and seek better opportunities. Yet to leave at once would expose the misbehavior of the Duke and therefore bring public humiliation to the ruler Confucius was serving, so Confucius waited for the Duke to make a lesser mistake. Soon after, the Duke neglected to send to Confucius a portion of the sacrificial meat that was his due according to custom, and Confucius seized this pretext to leave both his post and the state of Lu.
While some early sources picture the state of Lu as well regulated, due, in part, to the wise administration of Confucius, many scholars think this is unlikely, and hold that Confucius in fact never held any major position, either in Lu or anywhere else.
According to tradition, after Confucius's resignation, he began a long journey or set of journeys around the small kingdoms of northeast and central China, including the states of Wei , Song , Chen and Cai . At the courts of these states, he expounded his political beliefs but did not see them implemented.
According to the Zuo Commentary to the Spring and Autumn Annals, at sixty-eight Confucius returned home. The Analects pictures him spending his last years teaching disciples and transmitting the old wisdom via a set of texts called the Five Classics.
Burdened by the loss of both his son and his favorite disciples, he died at the age of 72 or 73.
The Works of Confucius
Although three of the following four books are traditionally attributed to Confucius K'ung-tzu, 551-479 B.C. it has been established that he did not write a single word of them; they were written down by his students after his death. The Analects come closest to an actual exposition of his philosophy. These works were put into their present form by Chu Hsi in the late twelfth century A.D. These four books were required reading in order to pass the civil service examinations, started in 1315, which were the gateway to employment in the Imperial bureaucracy. The translations are by James Legge, from his 'Chinese Classics' series.
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