In the steps of Confucius

Here is my route in China and current position.

I made my way to the city of Qufu (pronounced choo-foo), which was the birthplace and home of the philosopher Confucius (Kong Fuzi in Chinese).

Confucius (551 BCE – 479 BCE) was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher, whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese thought and life. His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. His emphasis on tradition and ethics attracted a growing number of pupils during his lifetime. The Analects of Confucius, a compilation of his teachings, was published after his death. For thousands of years a knowledge of Confucius was a prerequisite for political posts in China. 

Although Confucianism is often followed in a religious manner by the Chinese, arguments continue over whether it is a religion. Confucianism lacks an afterlife, its texts express complex and ambivalent views concerning deities, and it is relatively unconcerned with some spiritual matters often considered essential to religious thought, such as the nature of the soul.

77 generations of Confucius, over 2500 years have lived in the mansion in Qufu.

Here are some photos of the Confucius temple and mansion in Qufu

Here is where Confucius lectured to his disciples.

Praying at the main temple

The man himself 

Hanging wish cards.

houses

Some rock sculptures in the garden.

The ubiquitous souvenir vendors. They are very aggressive.

Some of my favorite Confucius quotes:

  • Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
  • It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.
  • The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
  • Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
  • What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.
  • Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.
  • Respect yourself and others will respect you.
  • He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.
  • Have no friends not equal to yourself.
  • A man who has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it, is committing another mistake.
  • The cautious seldom err.
  • It is only the wisest and the stupidest that cannot change.
  • To see what is right and not to do it, is want of courage.
  • I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
  • Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.
  • Things that are done, it is needless to speak about…things that are past, it is needless to blame.     
  • In his errors a man is true to type. Observe the errors and you will know the man.
  • When you see a good man, try to emulate his example, and when you see a bad man, search yourself for his faults.
  • A man should practice what he preaches, but a man should also preach what he practices.

Now all this got me thinking. What is religion anyway and what is its purpose? Was it originally created to worship gods of earth and weather to ensure good harvests? Has it evolved to general worship of deities and speculating about the afterlife? If so, what should its purpose be? Should it also give practical guidelines about how to live your life?
Christianity, the religion I am most familiar with, has elements of both, but seems weighted toward worship and concerns of the soul. There are some guidelines contained in the ten commandments (thou shall not steal, kill, or have an affair with your neighbors wife, etc.) These are all well and good, but focus on macro behavior rather than the dozens of ethical decisions we must make every day. Fort example, a store clerk give you back too much change, Do you keep it or do you give it back? What would Jesus do?

Buddhism and Islam have the same problem as I see it. They spend far too much time chanting and praying, and not enough time trying to be good, decent human beings trying to help others.

The appeal of Confucius is that we provided concrete, helpful guidelines for how to live a good life. He didn’t preach about thou shalt have no other gods before me. It was practical advice. Shouldn’t people be more concerned about how they behave here on earth and less concerned about what happens to them after they die?

Anyway, I am not an expert on this subject so I better stop before I get blasted. My brother Steve is far more knowledgeable on the subject. So is my cousin Ben Kilpela who has written a book on religion (www.msu.edu/~kilpela), I’m sure he will have a few words to say about this.

3 thoughts on “In the steps of Confucius

  1. Katrina May 26, 2008 / 1:20 pm

    Man who run in front of car get tired.

    Man who run behind car get exhausted.

  2. ira May 29, 2008 / 3:20 am

    If you drop a slice of buttered toast it will always land on the buttered side. If it doesn’t it means that you buttered the wrong side.

  3. DAD June 2, 2008 / 10:26 pm

    TOO DEEP FOR ME—–DAD

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