Patheos Watermark

You are running a very outdated version of Internet Explorer. Patheos and most other websites will not display properly on this version. To better enjoy Patheos and your overall web experience, consider upgrading to the current version of Internet Explorer. Find more information HERE.



Confucius's ideas became well known only after his death. The 4th-century B.C.E. philosopher Mencius, 3rd-century B.C.E. thinkers Xunzi and Han Feizi, and many others joined the debate about Confucian thought, adding their own ideas about human nature and morality, and considering practical applications, particularly to political rule and government.


Confucius attributed his teachings to the Duke of Zhou, a heroic figure from his home state of Lu who was regarded as the founder of that state. He was also inspired by the rituals and institutions of the Zhou dynasty, founded several hundred years before his birth; by the classic literature of his time; and by legends of the early sage kings.


Confucius, whose Chinese name was Kong Qiu (K'ung Ch'iu), was born around 552 B.C.E. and died in 479 B.C.E. He traveled from state to state teaching the sons of the nobility, though he was not famous during his lifetime, and never achieved the high position he aspired to as an advisor to a great ruler.

Sacred Texts

Confucius left no writings, although the "Five Classics" of Chinese literature are traditionally attributed to him as writer or editor. The "Analects" is a collection of aphorisms put together by Confucius's students after his death. The "Liji," or "Record of Rites," also contains dialogs, discourses, anecdotes, and narratives about Confucius and his teachings.

Historical Perspectives

Some Western scholars have argued that "Confucianism" was manufactured or invented by Asian and Western scholars as an alternative to Western individualism. Scholars have also examined the little-known impact of Confucian studies on Western institutions, including civil service and the examination system.