Confucianism is not a religion. It is a system of ethics. It is, however, included in this website because not many people understand that its status. If it is left out, readers might think that I did not wish to include it. I am including it to let people know the basics of the system and that it is not a religion. Confucianism, as set forth by its founder Confucius, wants nothing to do with spirits or superstitions.

Confucianism teaches political and social harmony.

5 Relationships:

-King and Minister/Advisor

-Husband and Wife

-Father and Son (Mother and Daughter)

-Elder and Younger sibling

-Friend and Friend(s)



-Everybody can play a part in one or more of these relationships at one time. For instance a son can also be a friend and have an elder sibling, thereby fulfilling three roles at one time.

-Everyone fits in at least one role throughout his/her life.


-Everyone wants to be gentle and thus aspires to do so.

-This is done via two ideas:

  • Li- Ritual, rules, and regulations -> these teach people how to do things gently and what to do in certain situations.
  • Ren- Human-heartedness, conscientiousness, and altruism.

-Confucianists use Li to attain or produce Ren.

-Analogy for better understanding of above concepts:

  • Li as the musical score
  • 5 relationships as the different musical instruments
  • Ren as the music produced

-Mandate of Heaven and the right to revolt -> says that if a King or government official is not ruling fairly or justly, the people have a right to revolt and throw him out of office.

-One needs to be what one says one is (if someone says they are honest, then they need to be honest; if he says he will rule justly, then he needs to do so).

Important Figure(s):


  • Founder of Confucianism.
  • Wanted a set of ethics and guidelines that were not religiously based or required religious practices.
  • Great thinker of his time (551-479 B.C.E.)
  • “The Analects”, a series of chapters containing teachings that involve how to do good, rule justly, and treat others, is filled with his sayings. This was most likely compiled by his students after his death.
  • Wanted to regain peace and lead governments to ruling their people fairly.
  • Dreamed of an ideal society with virtuous, hardworking people ruled by incorruptible, wise, and benevolent rulers.




  • Student of Confucius (like Plato was of Socrates).
  • Wanted government by goodness
  • An idealized Confucian.
  • Wrote a book, “The Mencius”, which contains dialogues, anecdotes, and parables. It is much more reader friendly than Confucius’s “The Analects”.



Important Texts:

-“The Analects” by Confucius

-“The Mencius” by Mencius


-Li- Ritual, rules, and regulations

-Ren- Human-heartedness, conscientiousness, and altruism

-Yi- Righteousness

-Mandate of Heaven- The idea that the ruler has a divine right to rule (like the Pharaoh in Egypt)


Comments are closed.