By Quinn, Nation, and Millett
Published here with authors’ permission
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The teachings of Confucius were very important for Chinese people. Confucius was not like Jesus Christ or Mohammed. He did not bring the words of God to the people. He was just a very great teacher, and most of his teaching was about how to live in this world.
His real name was K’ung Fu-tzu but he was called Confucius by foreigners because they could not easily say his Chinese name. He was born five hundred and fifty years before Christ. His family were important people but they were poor. He loved history and music and for most of his life he was a teacher, travelling from place to place in China. He had many followers and some of them wrote down his teachings so we can still read them today. After he died his teachings became more famous and many Chinese emperors followed them. They built temples to him and called him a god and made his birthday into a national holiday called Teachers’ Day.
For the Chinese, people were not the most important things in the world. They were only a part of the world around them. People had to learn to live in the world in their correct place. When they could do this, they could become happy and find peace. Confucius taught people to live in the world with each other. A leader and his people must learn to live with each other. A husband and wife, a father and son, an older sister and a younger sister, all must learn to live with each other. This was the way of Confucius. A husband must do the correct things. His wife must follow him. The leader of a country must be kind. His people must follow him and not fight against him. If every person does the correct thing, then there will be peace and happiness in the world. In the teachings of Confucius, the family was very important. Everybody in the family must know their correct place. Because of Confucius the family was a very important part of Chinese life and China became like a big family. The leader of a country was the father and his people were his children.
The teachings of Confucius were not new, but Confucius was the first person to bring all of these ideas together for people to learn and follow. For Confucius, people were not born bad. They were bad because they did not know how to live correctly in the world. The leader of a country was a very important person in the teachings of Confucius. If the leader of the country was a good person, the people in that country would also be good. When a leader was bad then the country would not be a happy place.
One of his followers once asked Confucius, ‘What does a country need?’ Confucius answered, ‘Enough food, a good army, and a good leader.’ The person then asked, ‘Which one is the most important?’ Confucius answered, ‘An army is not very important. All men must die, so food is not the most important. But if the leader of the country is not good, then everything will be bad.’
When Confucius died, he was over seventy years old. Although he died more than two thousand years ago, many people still try to follow his ideas.