Confucius & Confucianism: The Essentials

Confucius & Confucianism: The Essentials

Confucius & Confucianism: The Essentials

Confucius & Confucianism: The Essentials


This comprehensive introduction explores the life and teachings of Confucius, and development of Confucian thought, from ancient times to the present today.
  • Demonstrates the wisdom and enduring relevance of Confucius's teachings - drawing parallels between our 21st century society and that of China 2,500 years ago, where government corruption, along with social, economic, and technical changes, led thinkers to examine human nature and society
  • Draws on the latest research and incorporates interpretations of Confucius and his works by Chinese and Western scholars throughout the centuries
  • Explores how Confucius's followers expanded and reinterpreted his ideas after his death, and how this process has continued throughout Chinese history
  • Seamlessly links Confucius with our modern age, revealing how his teachings have become the basis of East Asian culture and influenced the West


Confucius was born over 2,500 years ago. Why would we want to know what he said? How could someone from that long ago be of any importance to us now?

Confucius faced many of the same problems we do: governments telling lies; an enthusiasm for military adventures; great social, economic, and technological changes; a society that seemed to be losing any respect for education and for moral behavior; growing sleaziness and ignorance. Confucius offers solutions to these problems. You will find that what he has to say applies to our dilemmas and to us today.

Confucius said that we can become responsible, adult people who behave properly. If we can do that, we can change the world we live in. Unlike many people today, when Confucius talks about morals and virtues, he does not do it to accuse others or to force his thinking on anyone. Confucius tells us that we should become educated, not to get a job, but to become better people. He, and his followers, talk about cultivating the self, just as one grows a garden. Do that properly and you change your family, neighborhood, and country.

Readers who are just beginning in this area should be aware that every section of this text is debated and that the issues are far more complex than a text of this sort can convey. They should bear in mind that this is an introductory text. References to arguments about issues and terms are in the endnotes, along with suggestions for further reading, and I would encourage readers to follow up with them.

This book is based on the work of hundreds of scholars. The study of Chinese philosophy in the West has, in the last 20 years, become increasingly sophisticated and exciting. Scholars in the area must also bear in mind that this book is an introduction and that many complex ideas have often had to be conflated or relegated to endnotes.

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