What Are Confucianism Beliefs?

What Are Confucianism Beliefs?

Unlike the other religions in our Beliefs series, Confucianism cannot be defined properly as a “religion”.

Confucianism is more of an ethical system of philosophy originating in China. Though Confucianism is practiced as a religion these days (in countries like  Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and even the US) it wasn’t meant to be a religion when it was developed.

Most followers of Confucianism follow some semblance of  traditional Chinese religion, which is a blend of old school Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism, and any number of localized traditions and ritual.

History of Confucianism

A Chinese writer named K’ung Fu Tzu spent thirteen years wandering China and giving advice to local politicians.

His wisdom led to people following him, writing down his teachings, and eventually deifying him. He died about 479 BCE at the age of 72. Interestingly enough, Confucius (as we call him in English) had just about the same life span during the same time of Gautama Buddha — only the Buddha died two years later to the day.

The writings of Confucius are mostly dictums on morals and ethics, as well as long passages on the proper use of political rule.

According to modern census takers, as many as 350 million people world wide follow some form of Confucianism. It gets a little confusing as Confucius’ teachings are often blended with that of Gautama Buddha into a quasi religious / political belief system.

Sayings of Confucius
We’ve all heard the jokey “Confucius say” jokes — and you may be familiar with some actual sayings of Confucius. Some of the most famous are “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves” and “Study the past if you plan to define the future”. While there are lots of false “Confucius sayings” out there, the only way to get access to the real deal is to pick up a copy of The Confucian Canon from any major book retailer. This includes four texts thought to have been written down by followers of Confucius after his great period of teaching.

Confucianism Beliefs

Confucianism holds six teachings central to its philosophy. These beliefs are —

  • Li: a system of ritual and etiquette
  • Hsiao: familial love
  • Yi: righteousness
  • Xin: honesty
  • Jen: benevolence (this is the highest Confucian value)
  • Chung: loyalty to the government

This post is part of a series of articles about Religious Beliefs. The other posts in this series are: