Confucianism as an institution was not established until long after the death of its founder. During the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C.E., a diverse collection of writings circulated concerning his life and teachings, with little internal cohesion. It was not until the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.E. that a cohesive portrait of a "Confucian" tradition emerged.
Schisms and Sects
While there were differing interpretations of Confucianism and disagreements about its meaning, enduring sects with independent organizational structures never formed in the case of Confucianism.
Missions and Expansion
There were few regional differences in Confucianism, but specific interpretations changed periodically. Zhu Xi (1130-1200), known as the creator of "Neo-Confucianism," developed an interpretation that unified human nature with cosmic principles. Wang Yangming (1472-1529) introduced the idea of "true knowing" -- an intuitive awareness of moral principles attained through self-cultivation.
Exploration and Conquest
Han Feizi's philosophy was of profound importance to the Qin emperor who first unified China in 221 B.C.E. His "Confucianism," which emphasized strict regulations and obedience to authority, was appropriated by the imperial government. The first model of the Imperial Academy was established less than a century later. Here the classics were taught and students were evaluated for positions with the government.
Confucianism has been both lauded and condemned in the modern age. Confucianism, along with Taoism and Buddhism, has been blamed for China's inability to compete with the West during the 19th and 20th centuries. Confucianism has also been praised as the key to China's unique cultural heritage and strong social order.