Founder: K'ung Fu Tzu
K'ung Fu Tzu (commonly pronounced
Confucius in English) was born in 551 B.C. in the state of Lu (modern day
Shantung Province). He lived during the Chou dynasty, and era known for its
moral laxity. Later in life, he wandered through many states of China, giving
advice to their rulers. He accumulated a small band of students during this
time. The last years of his life were spent back in Lu, where he devoted himself
His writings deal primarily with individual
morality and ethics, and the proper exercise of political power by the rulers.
Confucianism is primarily an ethical system to which
rituals at important times during one's lifetime have been added.
Confucian ethical teachings include the
Li: includes ritual, propriety,
Hsiao: love within the family: love
of parents for their children and of children for their parents
Xin: honesty and trustworthiness
Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards
others; the highest Confucian virtue
Chung: loyalty to the state, etc.
In China, and some other areas in Asia, the
social ethics and moral teachings of Confucius are blended with the Taoist
communion with nature and Buddhist concepts of the
afterlife, to form a set of complementary, peacefully co-existent and ecumenical
Since the time of the Han dynasty (206
A.D.) four life passages have been recognized and regulated by Confucian
Birth: The T'ai-shen (spirit of the
fetus) protects the expectant woman and deals harshly with anyone who
harasses the mother to be. A special procedure is followed when the placenta
is disposed of. The mother is given a special diet and is allowed rest for a
month after delivery. The mother's family of origin supplies all the items
required by the baby on the first, fourth and twelfth monthly anniversary of
Reaching maturity: This life passage
is no longer being celebrated, except in traditional families. It takes the
form of a group meal in which the young adult is served chicken.
Marriage: This is performed in six
Proposal: the couple exchange
the eight characters: the year, month, day and hour of each of their
births. If any unpropitious event occurs within the bride-to-be's family
during the next three days, then the woman is believed to have rejected
Engagement: after the wedding
day is chosen, the bride announces the wedding with invitations and a
gift of cookies made in the shape of the moon.
Dowry: This is carried to the
groom's home in a solemn procession. The bride-price is then sent to the
bride by the groom's parents. Gifts by the groom to the bride, equal in
value to the dowry, are sent to her.
Procession: The groom visits the
bride's home and brings her back to his place, with much fanfare.
Marriage and Reception: The
couple recite their vows, toast each other with wine, and then take
center stage at a banquet.
Morning after: The bride serves
breakfast to the groom's parents, who then reciprocate.
Death: At death, the relatives cry
out aloud to inform the neighbors. The family starts mourning and puts on
clothes made of a course material. The corpse is washed and placed in a
coffin. Mourners bring incense and money to offset the cost of the funeral.
Food and significant objects of the deceased are placed into the coffin. A
Buddhist or Taoist priest performs the burial ritual. Friends and family
follow the coffin to the cemetery, along with a willow branch which
symbolizes the soul of the person who has died. The latter is carried back
to the family altar where it is used to "install" the spirit of
the deceased. Liturgies are performed on the 7th, 9th, 49th day after the
burial and on the first and third anniversaries of the death.
Since Confucianism is an ethical system, it offers no
form of redemption, forgiveness, no heavenly hope, or a final judgment to
those practicing its system.