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©James Bennett Dream by SV Bosak

551-479 BC
Chinese teacher and philosopher, member of the Club of Dreamers (Dream by Susan V. Bosak).

Not strictly religious, his teachings were a practical approach to living.

There is little conclusive evidence about his life. Modern scholars base their accounts largely on the Analects, a collection of sayings and short dialogues apparently collected by his disciples.

He is believed to have been the son of a once noble family who had fled from the State of Song. His father was seventy and his mother only fifteen at his birth. His father died when he was three and he was brought up in poverty by his loving mother, educating himself.

Confucius married at 19, but divorced his wife four years after marriage so that he would have more time for study and the performance of his public duties.

In 501 BC he was appointed Governor of Chung-tu, then minister of works, and later minister of justice.

Living in times of trouble, he was convinced of his ability to restore order. At around age 50, seeing no way to improve the government, he gave up his political career and began a twelve year journey around China, seeking the "Way" and trying unsuccessfully to convince many different rulers of his political beliefs and to push them into a more harmonious and just coexistence.

When he was around 60, he returned home and spent the last years of his life teaching an increasing number of disciples, trying to share his experiences with them and transmit the old wisdom through a set of books called the Five Classics.

Confucius' thoughts have been changed into a vast and complete philosophical system known in the west as Confucianism.

Said Confucius:

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest."

"To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right."

"Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance."

"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence."

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

"Study the past, if you would divine the future."

Recommended Reading:

Confucius: The Golden Rule by Russell Freedman and Frederic Clement (illus). Arthur A. Levine Books, 2002. The author draws on stories, legends, and collected dialogues from The Analects of Confucius, written by his students, to reveal a man of deep perceptions as well as great humor.

Confucius: Philosopher and Teacher by Josh Wilker. Franklin Watts, 1999. A serviceable biography that includes quotations scattered throughout the text.

The Life and Times of Confucius by Kathleen Tracy. Mitchell Lane Publishers, 2004. A look at the life of a man many consider to be one of the world's greatest philosophers, though his work was only fully appreciated and recognized years after his death.

© SV Bosak, www.legacyproject.org

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