Samples of Translated Confucianism Texts

"The practice of the Great Way, the illustrious people of the Three Dynasties--these I shall never know in person.  And yet they inspire my ambition!  When the Great Way was practiced, the world was shared by all alike.  The worthy and the able were promoted to office and people practiced good faith and lived in affection.  Therefore they did not regard as parents only their own parents, or as children only their own children...The young were provided with an upbringing and the widow and the widower, the orphaned and the sick, with proper care.  Men...and women...disliked the thought that their energies were not fully used, yet they used them not for private ends.  Therefore all evil plotting was prevented and thieves and rebels did not arise, so that people could leave their outer gates unbolted. This was the age of the Grand Unity. 

Now the Great Way has become hid and the world is in possession of private families.  Each regards as parents only his own parents, as children only his children; goods and labor are employed for selfish ends.."  (Book of Rites, Section 9)

"The ancient kinds had a perfect virtue and all-embracing rule of conduct, through which they were in accord with all under heaven.  By the practice of it the people were brought to live in peace and harmony, and there was no ill-will between superiors and inferiors...Filial piety (hsiaso) is the root of (all) virtue, and (the stem) out of which grows (all moral) teaching..."(Book of Filial Piety)

"Let a ruler base his government upon virtuous principles, and he will be like the pole-star, which remains steadfast in its place, while all the host of stars turn towards it." (Analects of Confucius, Book II.1)

In answer to the question: What is your heart set upon? "The Master replied, "It is this:-- in regard to old people, to give them quiet and comfort; in regard to friends and associates, to be faithful to them; in regard to the young, to treat them with fostering affection and kindness." (Analects of Confucius, Book V.25)

"I have learnt that the 'superior man' should help those whose needs are urgent, not help the rich to be more rich." (Analects of Confucius, Book VI.3)

"...a philanthropic person, desiring for himself a firm footing, is led on to give one to others; desiring for himself an enlightened perception of things, he is led on to help others to be similarly enlightened." (Analects of Confucius, Book VI.28)


Confucianism is a social ethic, a political ideology, and a scholarly tradition that began in China and spread to Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam.   

Confucius was one of the earliest philosophers attempting to address some of the issues of his times. He grew up under feudalism or city-states and simple agrarian societies that were transitioning to regionalized economies.  The role of aristocrats was changing; some were becoming mercenaries, tutors, and founders of schools.  

Confucius was born of old nobility in 551 BC, but after his father's death, he and his mother lived a life of poverty with common people.  His knowledge and talents enabled him to ascend socially to the position of Justice Minister in the government.  He resigned, however, when he could no longer work under a ruler  who demonstrated bad decision-making.   He began traveling looking for other employment and teaching what he knew.  He eventually founded a school whose curricula would build on the classics and prepare future rulers to become examples of the kind of individuals others would want to follow.  After his death, his followers reported, espoused, and applied his teachings and expanded school curricula based on Confucian thought and practice.  Confucius is credited with saving the Chinese classics.   For many years civil service exams in the government of China required knowledge of these classics.  Ancient Classics included Book of Documents (political vision), Book of Poetry (poetic vision), Book of Change (cosmic vision), Book of Rites (social vision), Spring and Autumn Annals (historical vision), and Book of Filial Piety (family vision). Other inspirational sources included 
The Great Learning (Ta Hsueh), Doctrine of the Great Harmony (Chung Yung), Mencius (Meng Tzu), and  Analects (Lun Yu).

The essence of this philosophy is that being born human is not enough; one must learn how to be fully human.   Self-realization requires a lifelong commitment and a holistic approach to the process.  Human relationships (ruler/subject, parent/child, husband/wife, elder/younger sibling, and friends) play a major role and help individuals rise above self-centeredness.   Wisdom, compassion, and courage are moral qualities of human beings that influence how one carries out these universal obligations.  Mutuality and reciprocity are also key concepts of Confucian thought. To be fully human one must transcend egoism, nepotism, parochialism, ethnocentrism, and chauvinistic nationalism.  More importantly, rulers cannot be effective unless they transcend and apply the moral order to their leadership.