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The “Good man” of (Confucius 551-479): Practice moral values first then, study

“Young people should prove to be good sons in the family, polite and respectful in society, prudent and loyal, liking the company of good men.  After learning and applying these moral values, you feel you have energy to acquiring knowledge, then study and read.”

Thus, practice actions in applying moral values before contemplating studying for acquiring knowledge and skills. This is the educational method of Confucius, found in the first chapter of his manuscript “Discussions“, which is the only book historian are sure to be written by Confucius, among many attributed to him.

The next precept of Kongfuzi (Master Kong), renamed Confucius by the Jesuits in China, is:

“A man of quality eats moderately, requires no comfort in his house, is diligent in business, equitable in his opinions, cultivate doing what is right, and seek the company of wise people.  These qualities demonstrate that the man loves to study“.

The expression “Plenitude of humanity” is even more frequent in his book than the word “junzi” or man of goodness, which is a consequence for becoming a qualified good man.  The good man is necessarily above the elite class of the aristocratic members and feudal lords:  He has mastered determination by virtue, merit, and competence.

Zilu, one of the favorite disciples of Confucius asked: “Master, what would be your priority if you became monarch?”  Confucius replied:

“First of all, I will work on the correct usage of the terminology in the language.  If terminology is not widely correctly understood and uniform, discourse will be disorderly, orders are wrongly misinterpreted, and consequently, most orders stop being executed as intended.  If the forms and rituals are not conveniently stabilized then, social relationship are distorted and customs and rituals neglected, justice is not adequately rendered, and the kingdom is weakened.  Any new law must be enunciated in the clearest of terms and never proclaimed without thorough discussions, lest tyranny shows its ugly head”

During and before Confucius period, China was experiencing one of its tumultuous and bloody medieval ages:  the Emperor of the oriental Zhu dynasty was a figure-head, and provinces were governed by powerful princes with armies.  Confucius was born in the least powerful of provinces, Lu.

The structure of society was highly hierarchical: The scholars transferred from a prince to another nobleman,  simply to live in the entourage of the nobility and teaching the offspring of the noble classes.  The most known books for teaching are: “Canon of poems“, “Book of mutations or Yijing” “Memoirs  on rites”, “Etiquette and rituals”, and “Canon of history or Shujing.

Confucius’ father remarry a second time at the age of 64; he already had 9 daughters.  The new-born boy has a large protuberance on his head and thus, is named Qiu, better known as Confucius.

At around that period, Pythagoras is founding a secret cult based on the magic of numbers; Buddha is preaching his message in India, and Darius, the all-powerful monarch of Persia, has conquered most of the Mediterranean Sea countries, including Egypt.

At the age of 26, Confucius is minister of public works in the province of Lu.  He meets Lao-tse (Taoist religion admonishes not to disturb the equilibrium in nature) who told him: “A brilliant man risks his life by pinpointing the faults in princes.  A learned man is exposed to danger as he divulges the weaknesses of mankind”

Eventually, Confucius becomes prime minister and wages successful military campaigns.  At the age of 50, Confucius is out of favor because he didn’t approve of the prince changing the law without discussions and inputs from counselors   Confucius  spends 10 years of errand with a few of his disciples, suffering hunger and isolation.

Once, he was lost in a city, his disciples were searching for him, and a guy told them: “He must be the one looking like a monarch with a large forehead and behaving like a dog who lost his master.”  Confucius told his disciple: “Looking like a monarch could be controversial; but the description of a dog searching for his master is absolutely correct.

Confucius wrote: “Respect and work on yourself.  How can you govern and guide your family and community if you neglect working on your limitations, weaknesses, and potentials?

At the age of 72, Confucius had compiled “Book of documents” and “Annals of Springs and Autumns”

China successive political regimes adopted Confucius teachings as guiding rod, except during China Cultural Revolution of the 1970’s that didn’t last long.

Note:  This biography was inspired from the French book “Lighthouses” by Jacques Attali, in which he investigates the teachings and hard life of 24 characters from all regions, religions, and spanning history from antiquity to modern age.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2020
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