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BIOGRAPHY - A Model to All Mankind - Confucius

BIOGRAPHY - A Model to All Mankind - Confucius

Confucius is one of the greatest men in the history of the world. He was born more than two thousand five hundred years ago (551-479 B.C.) in the State of Lu (now the Province of Shan Dong). A descendent of a great nobleman of the State of Shang, he lost his father at the age of three and was reared by his mother in a state of impoverished simplicity. As he grew up, he was put in charge of the granary and the cattle and sheep of a certain Baron.
Never tired of learning and teaching throughout his life, Confucius has long been recognized in China as "the Greatest Sage and Foremost Teacher with outstanding Achievements." He believed in "education for all", meaning there should be no class distinctions or other discriminations. Hence, he had up to three thousand disciples. From the Analects, we can see that he tried to help his disciples solve problems concerning daily life and human relationships. Though commonplace and practical, easy to understand and carry out, his teachings contributed to the cultivation of the individual, the regulation of the family, the order of the state, and the peace of the world.
Confucius was born in a most critical period known as the "period of the spring and autumn annals", when the imperial dynasty of Zhou was in decline, the rituals and music began to degenerate, and the country was in a state of moral chaos from the feudal princes down to the people. He attempted to revive the culture of the Zhou House to its heyday. Once he was made the Chief Minister of his native State of Lu, in three months he was able to put the country in order, but unfortunately, he was forced to quit. For fourteen years he wandered over various states to see whether his political ideas could be realized. After repeated failures he finally returned to his native state, having perused nearly all the official documents of ancient times, he took pains to compile, edit, or comment on the Book of History, the Book of Odes, the Book of Rites, the Book of Music, the Book of Changes, and the Spring and Autumn Annals. These are the Six Classics which were handed down to later generations. In addition, his philosophy is also optimized in the Analects, the Canon of Filial Piety, the Great Learning, and the Control Harmony (or the Doctrine of the Mean).
After the death of Confucius, his disciples and followers were scattered in different states, serving the feudal lords in one way or another and almost invariably preaching their teacher's doctrines. During the period of the Warning State, Mencius went further to elaborate Confucius' political and ethical philosophy and laid down the foundation of Confucianism in particular and that of Chinese culture in general. In more than two thousand years from the Western Han Dynasty to the present day, it is the Confucian scholars or followers who have been able to re-establish the new order out of chaos in China, as can be seen throughout Chinese history. To honor Confucius, the federal government of the Republic of China has, since its establishment, officially proclaimed his birthday, September the 28th, as Teacher's Day.
Broad yet profound, Confucianism has not only been the cornerstone of Chinese culture for more than two thousand five hundred years, but also has had far-reaching effects abroad. It has influenced neighboring countries such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam and others. It has also inspired the eighteenth-century French Enlightenment as a result of modern democratic thought in the West. In the present world of moral decay, Confucianism, which emphasizes the way of right rather than the way of might, might be one of the best remedies to our present world disorder. Thus, Confucius has been recognized in China as the Greatest Exemplar of Teachers of All Ages, and serves as a model to all mankind.

A Biographic Sketch of Confucius,
The Four Lesser Saints And Twelve Wise Men

In addition to Confucius, there are also the "Four Sages" and the "Ten Philosophers".
The "Ten Philosophers" are ten disciples based on the chapter "Disciples who traveled with me between Chen and Ts'ai", from the Analects of Confucius. They are Yeen Hui, Min Sun, Jan Ken, CHong Kun, Tsai Yu, Tzu Kung, Jan Chil, Jih Lu, and Tze Hsia. Later, Yo You and Zhu Xi were added, and the "Ten Philosophers" became the "Twelve Philosophers".

The Four Lesser Saints


Yen Hui (also known as Yen Tsu-yuan or Yen Yuan) was one of Confucius students. He was born in the kingdom of Lu during the Spring and Autumn Period of Zhou Dynasty. Being a bright and earnest person, he learned much from studying only one thing. Yen Hui was renowned because he did not take his anger out at others, nor did he ever commit the same mistake twice.



Confucius placed him at the top of those who were honored for their virtuous personalities. Yen's life was austere and simple. He lived in narrow, dirty alleys and was always lacking in food and drink. Others would have been in distress under such pressure, but he remained steadfast, satisfied with a simple and virtuous life. His hair turned gray at the age of twenty-nine from overwork and malnutrition. It is said he died at thirty-two, but he has always been remembered by the following generations as the Fu Sage.


Tseng Sen (also known as Tseng Tsu-Yu) was the son of Tseng Che and one of Confucius' students. He was born into a poor family in Nan Wu Town during the Spring and Autumn Period of the Zhou Dynasty and was admired for his obedient nature. He made a living from manual labor.


Although he was not a highly talented person, Tseng Sen was able to understand Confucius' philosophy. He passed down Confucius' doctrines of loyalty and reciprocity to Tsu Ssu, and wrote "Tseng Tsu", a book of 18 chapters. He is honored as the Tsung Sage.

Kung Chi (better known as Tsu Ssu), was the grandson of Confucius and a disciple of Tseng Sen. He wrote the "Golden Mean", the most representative work on Confucianism. His epigrams for discussing the human mind were regarded as the principles of the New Confucianists of the Sung and Ming Dynasties. His theory of the Mean has been an important aspect of Chinese philosophy.
The "Golden Mean", along with "the Great Learning", "The Confucian Analects", and "Mencius" constitute the philosophy of his sage ancestor. Kung Chi had several hundred students, including Mun Ko (Mencius). He died at the age of 62 and was revered as the Shu Sage.

Mun Ko (better known as Mencius) was the offspring of Mun Sun, a nobleman in the kingdom of Lu. He came from Zou County of Shan Dong Province during the Warring States Period. When Mun Ko's father died at an early age, he took his mother's advice and studied under Kung Chi (Tsu Ssu). "Mencius", a 7-chapter book of Mencius' teachings and deeds recorded by his students is still studied to this day. Mencius placed more emphasis on righteousness and justice than on utilitarianism, and believed that all men are born well. The saying said: "It is possible for anyone to become as great as the Emperors Yao and Shun", which is vital to Chinese philosophy. Later generations honored him as the Yan Sage which puts him next only to Confucius in greatness.




Twelve Wise Men

Min Sun (also known as Min Tsu-chien) was one of Confucius' students from the kingdom of Lu in the Spring and Autumn Period of the Zhou Dynasty. Confucius considered him a virtuous person due to his obedient nature. During childhood, Min suffered under the mistreatment of his stepmother. She would line his clothes with weeds in the winter, while she lined her own sons' clothes with warm cotton. One day, while taking his father out in a carriage, Min almost succumbed to the cold. When his father learned what had happened, he went back to cast his wife out of the house. However, Tsu-chien said, "If mother leaves, there will be three of your sons who go cold, but if she stays, then only one will suffer." Min's stepmother was touched by his kindness and never mistreated him again.

Jan Keng (also known as Jan Po-niu) was born in the kingdom of Lu during the Spring and Autumn Period of the Zhou Dynasty. His teacher Confucius considered him a virtuous person. When he was taken ill, Confucius came to call on him. Through the window, Confucius took Jan's hand and sighed, "Death is part of our destiny, but why is it that this man suffers from such an illness? Why is it?"

Jan Yan (also known as Jan Chong-kung) was born in the kingdom of Lu during the
Spring and Autumn Period of the Zhou Dynasty. His teacher, Confucius, considered him a virtuous person. Although Chong-kung's father was not known for his good deeds, Chong-kung himself was often praised for his sincerity. Confucius once said, "Chong-kung's father can be compared to a multi-colored ox, but the calf is pure red and healthy. The calf is much in demand as a sacrifice for national worship. The people could refuse to sacrifice it, and still, the gods of the mountains and rivers would not let go." Confucius also praised Chong-kung by saying, "He is capable of being a ruler."

Tsai Yu (also known as Tsi Tsu-wo) was one of Confucius' students. He was born in the kingdom of Lu. Confucius considered him to be good at speech. Tsai Yu once asked Confucius, "If somebody informs a benevolent person that a man has fallen into a well, should that person descend into the well to save him?" Confucius replied, "Not necessarily. Anyone might believe what another says and run to help, but he will not be trapped. He may be tricked by someone's logic, but that does not mean he will be fooled into doing something stupid himself."

Tuan Mu Ssu (better known as Tsu Kung) was Confucius' student. He was born in the kingdom of Wei during the Spring and Autumn Period, 31 years after Confucius' birth. Confucius considered him an oratory person, which turned out to be quite accurate as Tsu Kung later a successful businessman and was the richest among Confucius' 72 outstanding students. He also served as an official in the kingdoms of Lu and Wei.
After Confucius' death, he was the only student who stayed by his grave and mourned for 6 years. The other students left after a three-year mourning period. Tsu Kung later died in the kingdom of Ch'i.

Jan Chil (also known as Jan Tsu-yu or Jan Yu) was born in the kingdom of Lu, 29 years after the birth of his teacher, Confucius. He was modest, reserved and talented. Confucius considered him to be keen at politics. Jan Chil served as a general of Chi Kang-tsu.

(7) CHong YU
Chong Yu (also known as Tsu Lu or Chi Lu), Confucius' student, was born in the kingdom of Lu. Confucius considered him to be good at politics. As an obedient son, Tsu Lu often carried rice home from miles away for his parents. When anyone pointed out his faults, he was appreciative and always took their advice. Tsu Lu served as an official in the kingdom of Wei.

Yen Yen (better known as Tsu-yu) came from the kingdom of Wu during the Spring and Autumn Period of the Zhou Dynasty. He was 45 years younger than Confucius, his teacher. Tsu-yu had a vast knowledge of rites and literature, and Confucius considered him to be good in literature. When Tsu-yu was serving as an official in the kingdom Lu, Confucius asked him, "Was there ever a good man in your government"? Tsu-yu replied, "Yes, his name was Chan Tai Mieh Ming, a man of righteousness and justice. He never took a short-cut while walking. If not on business, he never stepped into my private rooms". Tsu-Yu's was buried at the foot of Lu Mountain in Chang Sho Country, Chiangsu Province. He was the originator of literature in the kingdom of Wu.

Po Shan (also known as Tsu-chia) was born during the Spring and Autumn Period in the kingdom of Wei, 44 years after the birth of Confucius. He was excellent in literature and loved to study poetry. Confucius considered him to be good in literature.
He served as an official in Chu Fu of the Kingdom Lu where he taught people about humanity. "Your knowledge must be vast and profound, and your goal must be consistent. All aspects of a matter must be made clear through inquiry. Consider first the light and simple aspects, then the more difficult and complicated ones. Then you will find humanity."
He later lectured in His Ho.

Chuan Sun Shih (also known as called Chuan Sun Tsuchang) was born in the kingdom of Chen during the Spring and Autumn Period, 48 years after the birth of Confucius. He surpassed the other in appearance, manners, talent, and capability, but he could not reach the ideal of humanity. Once he asked Confucius how to attain humanity.
Confucius said, "Anyone who possesses the fine virtues of politeness, tolerance and generosity, honesty, diligence and benevolence can be regarded as a person of humanity. Politeness will save one from insults by others; tolerance and generosity will evoke the love of others; honesty brings trust from people; diligence foretells success; and benevolence encourages others to follow your instructions.

(11) YU JUO
Yu Juo (also known as Yu-Tsu-yu) was born in the kingdom of Lu, 12 years after Confucius. When Confucius died, Tsu-yu was treated by some of Confucius' students as the greatest sage because of the similarity in appearance. Lord Ai of Lu once asked him "What should be done if there is famine and not enough money in the government?" Yu Juo replied, "Why don't you impose ten percent taxation?" Lord Ai said, "Twenty percent taxation is hardly enough, how can I change it to ten percent?" Yu Juo explained, "Cutting taxes and limiting your expenses allow people to raise their standard of living. Afterward, you will no longer need to worry about famine and shortage.

(12) Zhu Xi
Zhu Xi (also known as or Yuan-hui) was born in Wu Yuan in the Song Dynasty. Being an extremely smart person, he took a government position at the age of twenty. He was later falsely accused by Shen Chi-tsu, an inspection official, and lost his position.