Very few people aren’t at least a little familiar with the writings of Confucius, and we’ve all heard the various pearls of wisdom that invariably start of with “Confucius says….”. Some people aren’t even aware that Confucius was a real person, and that he had quite an impact on the world that goes beyond fortune-cookie expressions.
Who Was Confucius?
Though known as a philosopher today, Confucius actually lived a busy life in politics. A complete Confucius biography would be too long to outline here considering all the things he did in his life.
In a nutshell, Confucius was born in 551 BC to a middle-class family in Lu state (which is now Shandong Province). Much of his life has been mixed with legend over the centuries, so there aren’t that many hard facts known about his younger years. He apparently had little official schooling and worked at a variety of odd jobs as a young adult.
He didn’t agree with local politics that were dominated by several noble families, and so he took on positions in the government to help make changes. It was during this part of his life that he began teaching and spreading his thoughts on ethics, philosophy and personal growth.
His ideas were more than just a collection of witty sayings. A complete ethical system of philosophy blossomed from his ideas that are still widely practiced around the world today as Confucianism.
Confucius believed in virtuous behavior that went beyond social norms, as well as personal development that included the pursuit of knowledge. Without diving too deeply into his idealogy, the basic premise of his ideas was that people should treat each other with respect and kindness, making Confucianism a variation of humanism in many ways.
He even spoke of a very early version of the Golden Rule, though many people attribute the idea to Christianity. One of his quotes is: “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself” and that sums up his general belief system very neatly.
The teachings of Confucius were so profound that they became the official state philosophy during the Han period.
The Analects of Confucius
After his death, all of his various thoughts and sayings were put together in a book known as “The Analects of Confucius”. Written by his followers, the book was developed and finally completed during the Han dynasty. As a text, it has become one of the most widely read books in China.
Though few Western people have read the entire text, Confucius quotes are generally very well known. It would be impossible to try and elaborate on which of his sayings are the most famous as they are so familiar to most people. A few notable examples from the Analects of Confucius are:
Confucius says, “Choose a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.”
Confucius says, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”
There is a great deal of wisdom to be found in the Analects of Confucius, particularly if you are looking for positive ideas that aren’t part of a major religion. Confucius quotes are used frequently today to convey a number of important thoughts, and we’d all be a little better off if we took his teachings to heart.