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Early Confucianism

Doctrines  The Doctrines of Early Confucianism bore the clear mark of transmitting and transforming the old tradition. This tradition was believed to have been embodied in the Six Arts, the Books of Poetry, History, Changes, Rites, Music and The Annals of Spring and Autumn, which were taken as the basic textbooks by Confucius to educate his disciples and students. For Confucius the moral development of individuals and the prevalence of the Way in the world are the same in content and in essence, needing to be shaped and cultivated both in the inner world and in the outside world. Therefore, while programmes such as performing rites, playing music, reciting poems are of the great significance in helping individuals to progress to be gentlemen, it is more important to pursue moral cultivation since this was believed to bring peace and security to society and to the world.
Confucius pondered the meanings and values of the Way (Tao), the rituals/proprieties (li) and benevolence/humanity (jen) . The Way is the truth, representing the unity between the principle of Heaven and the principle of human beings. To learn the Way is to completely live with it and to wholeheartedly act by it. Rituals/proprieties show humans the proper approaches to the Way, by which one's character is transformed and the world made tranquil. Benevolence/humanity is a kind of virtue, or the highest virtue, which gives meaning and value to life and activities, and which exists in one's grasping the Way and observing the rituals/proprieties. Confucius took it as his mission to correct the chaos and disorder prevailing in his days and endeavoured to bring peace and harmony to the world. In order to attain this, he worked on the politics of virtue with the goal of establishing a virtuous government, ruled by virtue and for virtue.

History  'Confucius', is a Latinization of Kung Futzu, Master Kung(551-479 BCE), who was born in troubled times during the Spring and Autumn (770-481 BCE) period. Confucius regarded himself as a transmitter rather than a creator and a gentleman faithful ly devoted to learning the ancient classics. The life and teachings of Confucius were closely associated with the learning and propagation of the Way. He said of himself that he set his heart on the learning of the Way when fifteen years old and by thirty he had achieved success in this. Ten years later, he reached a higher step, when he was no longer confused by world affairs. By fifty, he believed that he had understood the Mandate of Heaven. After two decades, when he was seventy, he reached the peak of learning so that he could do everything following his own heart's desire without even slightly deviating from the rules of proprieties. That meant that at the end he had reached full maturity both in emotion, in judgement and in behaviour.
Compared with his accomplishment in learning and moral development, his career was not so successful. He could not carry out his political ideal in his own state (Lu) and had to leave for other states, in the hope that he would be heard, his politics be practised and his ideal be actualized somewhere else. For thirteen years, he and his disciples travelled from one state to another. In the end when he realized that there was no hope as such, he returned to his home state, devoting the rest of his life to teaching disciples and editing ancient classics, through which he expected that the disciples would carry on his will and bring his teachings to later generations. Traditionally he was credited to be the editor or writer of most of the important classics of Confucianism. However, the authentic materials which contain his doctrines is a collection of his sayings called the Analects, which was edited by his disciples or their students after his death.
His knowledge and virtue attracted many people, young or old, rich or poor, who became his followers. It is said that he had three thousand students, of whom seventy-two were well-known disciples. His disciples respected or revered him and compared his virtue to the sun and moon. Confucius died in the fourth month of the year 479 BCE. He was buried near his native town, and many of his disciples stayed there for three years mourning for him, where they planted trees in memory of him. It is believed that the second year after his death, the Duke of Lu took his house as the temple, where the duke made sacrifice to him. This was the beginning of the long history of the Confucius cult.
After the death of Confucius, his disciples carried on what they had learnt from the Master, either to participate in administrative activities or to establish schools, by which Confucianism flourished. After a period of about three hundred years' fluctuation, the followers of Confucius in the Han dynasty established themselves as representing the orthodoxy ideology in China.

Symbols The ancient classics were believed to have embodied the great Way of the ancient sages, and it was the mission of Confucians to propagate the Way by learning, transmitting and preserving these classics. In this sense, the books -- the Book of History, the Book of Poetry, the Book of Changes, the Book of Rites, and the Annals of Spring and Autumn -- were taken as the symbol of Confucianists, who were recognised by their tireless chanting of the text, playing music and performing rituals.

Adherents  It is not possible to determine the number of followers of the early Confucianist tradition.

Main Centre
  The main area in which Confucius lived and taught was the State of Lu, and the home town (Chu Fu) of the Master was known as the centre of Confucian activities. After the first sacrifices were made to Confucius by the Duke of Lu, the temple of Confucius was built and rebuilt and became the most sacred place for Confucians. However, there is no headquarters recognised by Confucianists.