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Philosophy: What is Confucianism? Essay

Confucianism is an ethical, philosophical, and political ideology that is common in Asian communities. It is based on the teachings of Confucius who is rated among the greatest Chinese philosophers. After its founding, the system was embraced as an ethical and political system to govern people’s lives. However, as it spread to other regions, it turned into a moral, metaphysical, and cosmological system of beliefs and teachings.

In certain societies, Confucianism is embraced as a religion and a way of life. The system was first adopted by the Han dynasty after the collapse of the Qin dynasty. Confucius did not intend to start a movement through his teachings and philosophy. However, the system was developed in his honor because of the great impact he had on people’s lives and the political system of China. The Chinese develop the majority of their beliefs, traditions, morals, and ethical codes on Confucianism.

Confucius’ impact in the fields of philosophy and politics is one of the major reasons why his teachings were adopted into an ethical and philosophical system. Confucianism has several beliefs and principles that form its fabric as a moral, religious, political, and philosophical system.

The central doctrines include relationships, ethics, the rectification of names, gods, and tian. Confucianism promotes the concept of ethics through its five core values that include Ren (humanness), Hsin (sincerity and fidelity), Chih (wisdom), Li (correct behavior and propriety), and Yi (honesty and righteousness).

Ren includes values such as sympathy, politeness, and kindness. These ideals are expressed through one’s language and actions. According to Confucius, everyone should be humane, merciful, and loving. Li involves the practice of good mannerisms when dealing with different people. It is important for individuals to act appropriately and speak respectfully. Zhi is a value that requires individuals to embrace wisdom and knowledge for proper living.

It endows people with values such as honesty and sincerity. Rectification of names refers to the proper use of language in order to create and maintain order in society. Things and people should be referred to according to their proper names in order to create harmony in communication. Confucianism emphasizes the importance of relationships. Confucius taught that the most important relationships in society are those between married people, parents and children, rules and their subjects, friends, and brothers.

Each individual has a special role to play depending on the type of relationship involved. A core tenet of Confucianism is filial piety, which is expressed through rituals such as ancestor worship and veneration. In addition, it is expressed through respect for parents and superiors. Children are required to honor their parents because of the sacrifices they make to take care of them. On the other hand, parents are required to love and respect their children.

Filial piety is also expressed through the worship of ancestors in shrines and graveyards. Ancestor worship is a sign of respect for parents after they die. Confucianism has several teachings that encourage individuals to become superior persons (junzi). The junzi is the ideal personality that everyone should aim for. It is characterized by ideals such as simplicity, knowledge, wisdom, honesty, humanness, and respect.

Confucianism also teaches that the most appropriate people to govern any society are those who have learned how to govern themselves. Superior individuals are self-governing people who possess high moral standards. Therefthe ore, they are fit to govern others because of their admirable moral values. The virtues above are the core tenets of Confucianism that teach individuals how to behave and relate with other people.

What do you think Confucius was?

Confucius was an educator whose teachings had great impact on the lives of many people in China. One of the most important aspects of Confucianism is emphasis on the importance of education. Confucius believed and taught that education and study are important factors in the creation a good life. He was against the idea that intuition is more important in the attainment of knowledge than proper study.

According to him, long and careful study is the main way through which an individual can attain knowledge. He believed that effective learning involves searching for a good teacher and imitating their words and actions. He recommended older people for the roles of teachers because of their experience with life situations. Confucius taught that the role of the elders is to teach the youth and the role of the youth is to learn from the elders.

Confucius emphasized the importance of various arts such as music, archery, calligraphy, language, and speech. Morality was an important component of Confucius’ teachings that were aimed at forming superior persons (junzi). Confucius taught that it was possible for an individual to acquire virtues through study. He helped many students to solve problems and acquire knowledge in various fields. Throughout his life, he taught more than 3, 000 students using teaching and learning methods that he had created.

Confucius taught through his words and actions and he is considered as the first professional teacher in China who taught people how to develop noble morals in order to improve their lives. The importance of education in China was developed from ancient philosophers such as Confucius. In order to attain harmony in society, Confucius taught that it is important for people to get an appropriate education.

According to him, all humans have equal potential and should desist from immoral conduct by embracing good morals that are furnished by education. In his teachings, Confucius disregarded social class and made education available to all students despite their differing backgrounds. He used ancient anecdotes to instill various ethical and social norms of the Chinese people in his students’ lives. He borrowed many concepts from the Chinese traditions.

Confucius used the term junzi to refer to a person who possessed high moral standards and who served as a role model to other people. In The Analects, he used the term to define the traits of an ideal person that everyone in society should strive toward. Confucius’ teachings aimed to make people better persons by instilling in them virtues and morals that would create harmony in society. Another teaching that shows Confucius as an educator is his insistence on the proper use of language.

Proper language is important in society because it helps to create order, understand the will of Heaven, develop character, and understand other people. Four prominent teachings of Confucianism include culture, loyalty, conduct, and truthfulness. The main components of culture include music, poetry, and conduct. Moral duties such as filial piety and respect for elders are also important tenets. Confucius played important roles in several fields that include politics, education, and literature.

However, his impact as an educator was the greatest. In politics, he taught that only people who govern themselves through the attainment of values can govern others. He believed that leadership was a reserve of the junzi. Confucius’ impact as an educator was evident from the adoption of his teachings into a moral, political, and social system that was monumental in the civilization of China. Confucius was a philosopher, politician, and a great teacher who played an important role in creating the moral and ethical fiber of the Chinese society.

Briefly describe the Han dynasty.

According to historical records, the Han dynasty was formed after the death of Qin Shihuangdi who was the leader of the Qin dynasty. The dynasty’s rule occurred in two different periods, namely the Western Han and the Eastern Han. The boundaries of the empire were determined by emperor of the Qin dynasty and their impact is still felt today because they are the boundaries of present-day China.

The Han dynasty lasted between 206BC and 220 AD and was founded by a rebel leader known as Liu Bang. Its domination was interrupted by the Xi dynasty between the years 9 AD and 23 AD. This interruption was responsible for the aforementioned Eastern and Western Han periods. Historians argue that the period of the dynasty’s existence marked an important period in the history of China, mainly because of its impact and innumerable achievements in different fields.

The positive impact of the dynasty is evident in contemporary China. Many Chinese people consider themselves as descendants of the Han people. The Han’s social class was defined by a certain hierarchy that held the emperor as the head of the dynasty, followed by the kings, and other nobles below them. The dynasty had twenty ranks that divided members into different social classes. Each rank had different legal privileges that were accorded to nobles only.

Pension and territorial rule are examples of these privileges. Members of high ranks enjoyed more privileges than members of lower ranks. The family unit comprised approximately five nuclear family members who lived in one household. This tradition was abolished in later dynasties. The Han dynasty embraced the teachings of Confucianism. One of the core tenets of Confucianism is the role that each family member plays.

For instance, during the marriage ceremonies of daughters, the opinions of the fathers were considered more important than those of the mothers. Marriages were both monogamous and polygamous. Polygamous marriages were mainly practiced by nobles who were wealthy enough to support several wives and concubines. The Han dynasty is considered as the most important dynasty in the Chinese history because of its numerous achievements.

Among the developments that occurred during the rule of the dynasty, the most monumental was the development of paper. The paper was made from hemp fibers. The development of paper was a major step in civilization because it introduced a reliable way of storing records. The dynasty’s government structure accorded a lot of power to the emperor. He was the highest judge and also appointed people to serve in different positions in his government.

The emperor appointed his relatives to govern the small kingdoms that comprised the dynasty. The Han dynasty collapsed during the tenure of Emperor Xian. The dynasty disintegrated into regional regimes that were later reunified by Cao Cao. However, the unified dynasty collapsed after a while due to intensified conflicts. The legacy of the Han dynasty is invaluable to the Chinese people.

Briefly describe the Qin dynasty

In the history of China, the Qin dynasty was the first state that centralized power. It lasted from 211 to 207 BC. During the initial years after its founding, the dynasty had great impact on the civilization of China. The most important feature was its impact on the dynasties that were established after its fall. The empire was ruled by two emperors only before its fall that emanated from an uprising. The origin of the Qin dynasty is traced back to the Warring States period that lasted from 476 BC to 221 BC.

The dynasty developed rapidly during this period. The first emperor, Yingzheng, created the empire by conquering several states that had weak military presence. After conquering the states, Yingzheng unified them and founded the Qin dynasty. The dynasty’s unity brought the chaos of the wars to an end. The initial years of Yingzheng’s rule were characterized by rapid developments, economic growth, and peace.

However, the last years of his rule were characterized by oppression, corruption, and cruelty. After founding the Qin dynasty, the emperor implemented several economic, cultural, military, and political reforms that aided in unifying the states. Politically, he assumed the role of the emperor and controlled all the affairs of the dynasty. He restructured local counties and elected new people to govern them.

Economically, he created new units of measure and introduced a currency that was used throughout the empire. Moreover, he improved agriculture by constructing dams and canals that increased production. One of the greatest achievements of the emperor was the construction of the Great Wall of China. Yingzheng used tyranny as a strategy to control people and exploit them. He commissioned the burning of books that he thought could free the minds of his people and prompt them to oppose his rule.

During his second year as emperor, he killed scholars who attempted to compromise his rule by discussing and criticizing his egotism. In China, the aforementioned incidents are important historical events that have great significance. Despite his oppressive rule, Yingzheng built numerous palaces, roads, irrigation projects, and the Terra-Cotta Warriors and Horses. He accomplished these feats by imposing heavy taxes, introducing hard labor and mandatory military service, and harsh laws.

The collapse of the dynasty began after the death of Yingzheng, which occurred during a trip to acquire magical powers from Taoist magicians. The dynasty’s chief eunuch and prime minister devised a plan that they thought would allow them to rule the dynasty. They believed that if they appointed the son as the emperor, they would manipulate and lead him to their ways in order to control the dynasty indirectly.

Like his father, Qin Er Shi killed many top government officials and continued the massive projects his father had started. He raised taxes and enlarged the army to suit his political purposes. His cruelty resulted in revolts and uprisings that led to the emergence of small territories that had their own kings.

Constant fights between the chief eunuch and the prime minister contributed towards the increased turmoil that was experienced in the dynasty. Attempts by the emperor’s nephew to declare himself king were unfruitful. The move increased uprisings that resulted in the dynasty’s disintegration.

Briefly describe the Zhou dynasty and the Zhou political ideology

The Zhou dynasty was the longest-lasting dynasty that ruled China for a thousand years from 1046 BCE to 256 BCE. It was founded after the disintegration of the Shang Dynasty and collapsed after the city of Changzhou was taken over by military men belonging to the state of Qin. The dynasty is famous for the proliferation of China’s greatest intellectuals during its period. The last years of its existence saw the emergence of great historical figures such as Mozi, Confucius, and Mencius.

These intellectuals lived during one of Zhou dynasty’s period that was known as the Eastern Zhou period. The ideas and teachings of these intellectuals played a key role in evolving and developing the civilization of the Chinese people. The capital of the dynasty was located in two different regions during two different times. This explains the existence of Western Zhou and Eastern Zhou periods.

According to historians, the Eastern Zhou period was more significant than the Eastern Zhou period because of the developments in art and education that occurred. It lasted from 770 BC to 221 BC. The Zhou people replaced the Shang Dynasty and formed a government in which land was owned by the elite class. On the other hand, the Western Zhou was similar to the Shang in that the rulers came from a noble lineage.

The poor were not allowed to mingle with the nobles. The philosophers of the time developed the concept of divine leadership through their belief that leaders were specially chosen by the gods to govern and their dethronement meant that the gods had rejected them. The Eastern Zhou experienced a period of decreased reliance on royal authority. Despite this, kings ruled for more than five hundred years before the collapse of the system.

The Spring and Autumn Period was a significant period in the growth of the dynasty because it was during that period that the greatest reforms and developments occurred. This period had three sub-periods, namely the age of regional cultures, the age of reforms, and the age of encroachments. During this period, the kings only possessed insignificant power and controlled small regions. The second phase was referred to as the Warring States Period.

Han, Zhao, and Wei were recognized as independent states and had their won kings. They later collapsed due to continued conflicts. The period marked an important stage in the development of Chinese philosophy. Numerous schools of thoughts emerged, but only a few survived. The ones that survived included Legalism, Confucianism, Mohism, Agriculturalism, Taoism, Diplomatists, Logicians, Naturalists, and the Militarists. The Zhou political ideology was referred to as fengjian, which was a decentralized form of government.

It was similar to European feudalism even though many differences were evident. The Zhou system of governance was unique compared to other systems that existed at the time in other places. Farming was a major economic activity and was controlled by the government. Farming lands were owned by the elite class but tilled by the people of the lower social classes. To develop agriculture, the government constructed dams and canals.

Art was diverse because of the versatility of the numerous states that made up the dynasty. Confucian and Legalist philosophers developed the majority of the concepts that the government followed. Members of the dynasty belonged to four major professions in the fields of education, business, agriculture, and art. The occupations played different roles under the fengjian system.

This Essay on Philosophy: What is Confucianism? was written and submitted by user Aubree Hester to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Aubree Hester studied at Texas Christian University, USA, with average GPA 3.8 out of 4.0.

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Hester, A. (2020, March 23). Philosophy: What is Confucianism? [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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Hester, Aubree. "Philosophy: What is Confucianism?" IvyPanda, 23 Mar. 2020,

1. Aubree Hester. "Philosophy: What is Confucianism?" IvyPanda (blog), March 23, 2020.


Hester, Aubree. "Philosophy: What is Confucianism?" IvyPanda (blog), March 23, 2020.


Hester, Aubree. 2020. "Philosophy: What is Confucianism?" IvyPanda (blog), March 23, 2020.


Hester, A. (2020) 'Philosophy: What is Confucianism?'. IvyPanda, 23 March.

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