Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Confucius: Sage of the Ages

"If a person doesn't constantly ask himself, 'What is the right thing to do?' I really don't know what is to be done about him."
~ Confucius

Kong Qui, better known as Confucius in the West, was most importantly a philosopher. He was born in 551 BC during a time of political turmoil and corruption. His teachings were an effort to return morality and tradition to the Chinese culture during difficult times. To this day, his teachings are considered the most influential in Chinese history. 

The philosophy based on Confucius' teachings is called Confucianism. The Analects is a collection of his sayings and ideas, put together by his followers. It is from this collection that so much has been learn about Confucian philosophy.

"Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself"

Confucianism emphasizes the importance of being proper in one's actions, coming from a place of compassion. What is most valued is loyalty to family, honoring others, being caring and kind, and a respect for ritual demonstrated through politeness and good manners.

“Be considerate of your elders, open-hearted with friends, and treat the young ones tenderly.”

Statue of Confucius
Photo Credit: Steve Webel
Confucius believed that in order to have an orderly society, each person should be educated in moral behavior and know his/her responsibilities. These responsibilities are based on a person's social status. 

For example:
  • A subject has a responsibility to respect his ruler, and the ruler has a responsibility to act and rule with honor and justice
  • A son* has a responsibility to respect his father, and a father has a responsibility to be kind, honorable and fair
  • A wife has a responsibility to respect her husband, and the husband, in turn has responsibility to be kind, honorable and fair and ensure she has a proper home.
Confucius is still revered today, with temples and shrines dedicated to him. His philosophy has been one of the most influential in Chinese society to date. 

“The superior man is watchful of these things: his eyes, so that he may observe; his ears, that he may learn; his face, that it may reflect kindness always; his manners, that they might show respect for others; his words, that they may be true; his business dealings, that they may be fair; his doubts, that he may resolve them; his emotions, that he may control them; his money, that he may earn it honestly.”

We learned a bit about the life of Confucius with two different videos, according to what was more appropriate, and would retain each of the girls' interest better.

With Elle, 11 years old, we watched this video, which tells a bit about Confucius' life through animation.

With Pea, 15 years old, we watched the movie "Confucius" directed by Hu Mei. The quickly changing subtitles and political intrigue would have been difficult for Elle to follow, but Pea and I enjoyed it. It is considered a biographical fantasy adventure drama, and did weave Confucius' teachings within the story line in his role and dealings with others. 

*"But what about the daughters?" asked Elle. During Confucius' life, girls and women had little place in social affairs, but were groomed at being good wives. The family name did and continues to follow along the male line, placing attention and importance on the sons in the family. Up until recently, when a girl married she would then be considered a member of her new family, and had no place even in genealogical charts (family trees). Though recently girls and women have greater equality in China, boys and men have a higher social status, and for many having a son to carry on the family name is considered preferable. 


  1. We really enjoyed studying Confucius. I'll definitely check out the video. Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. I keep remembering the bit in your post about your kids running around saying "Confucius says ...." :)


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