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World Religions Project: Confucianism

Confucius is the founder of Confucianism. The name Confucius is the Latin name for Kong Qiu-zi. Confucius was born in the village of Zou in the country of Lu in 551 BC. He was a poor descendant of a disposed noble family. As a child, he held fake temple rituals; as a young adult, quickly earned a reputation for fairness, politeness, and love of learning, and he was reputed to be quite tall. When he was 35 years old, Duke Zhao of Lu led his country to war, this was routed and fled to Qi.

While he was there, Duke Zhao would frequently go to him for advice, but after the counsel of one of his minister, Zhao was unable to give Confucius land and eventually stopped seeking advice. He eventually went back to Lu. At age 50, he was approached by the Baron of Qi to help defend against a rebellion, but he declined. Later on he became a city magistrate by the new Duke of Lu, and under his administration the city flourished; he got promoted several times, eventually becoming Grand Secretary of Justice, and at age 56, Chief Minister of Lu.

Neighboring countries were afraid that Lu was becoming too powerful, so they sent gifts and dancers to distract the Duke during a sacrifice holiday. As the Duke was abandoning his duties, Confucius resigned and left the country. Confucius spent the next five years wandering China with his disciples, finding that his presence at royal courts was rarely tolerated for long before nobles would begin plotting to drive him out or have him killed.

He was once arrested and jailed for five days, and at age 62 he was pursued, along with his disciples onto the countryside by a band of soldiers sent by jealous nobles, until he was able to send a messenger to the sympathetic king of a nearby country, who sent his own soldiers to rescue them. Once again, Confucius was to be given land, but he denied it upon counsel of another minister. After more wandering, he eventually returned t Lu at age 67.

Although they welcomed him there, he was not offered public office anymore, and he did not seek it. Instead he spent the rest of his years teaching and writing. He died at age 72. After his death Confucius’ followers spread this system of belief. It had a major impact on the Chinese culture. A symbol that is used or associated with the religion of Confucianism is the yin-yang. Yin-yang are  the two countervailing forces of the universe, each necessary for balance yet each constantly changing in power.

Yin refers to any thing that is negative, yang refers to anything that is positive. The irony is that these two things tell people everything they know, it is impossible for the both not to be in coexistence with each other. This is saying that life attracts opposites, such as: good and evil, light and darkness, and war and peace. It shows the two opposites, yin and yang, eternally pursuing each other in a harmonious way. It is true they are opposites, but there is no conflict, there is only balance.

This drawing symbolizes the way life should be lived. No one can hope for all pleasure and no pain, or all life and no death, or all happiness and no waiting, or all agreement and no disagreement. This means that no one’s life can be set to perfection, there is always room for adjustments. If harmonious interplay between yang and yin is the goal of one’s life then the question is how to achieve it? Confucianism answers the question by stressing tradition and stressing to be rational.

Related to the yin and the yang theory is the idea that all things are composed of the five elements: wood, metal, fire, water, and earth. Like yin and yang, these elements are continually influencing each other in the balance of nature. The number five had a great significance in the Chinese view of the universe. Each of the five elements was identified with one of the five primary colors, the five directions, the five principal grains, and the five planets.

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