The Confucian is the most influential school of thought in ancient China. It is true to say that Confucianism is a school of philosophy rather than a religion. Confucianism originally referred to the master of ceremonies of the funeral and funeral rites, which was founded by Confucius in the spring and autumn period to maintain Rites of Zhou as the core of the ideological system. Later, it gradually developed as a system of thought centered on enlightenment. It is both a teaching and a set of ritual practices. Confucians experience the sacred as existing in this world as part of everyday life, most importantly in family and social relations. It focuses on an awareness of Tian (Heaven), and on respect for the gods or spirits through appropriate ritual and sacrifice.

Literary Heritages of Confucianism

Confucianism has left us a rich literary heritage knows as the Four Books and Five Classics: The Great Learning, The Mean, Analects, and Mencius; Book of Change, Book of History, Book of Odes, Book of Rites and Spring and Autumn Annals. For six centuries these four texts became the elementary requirements of Chinese education in the feudal society and served as the basis of the civil service examination by which scholars were selected for official posts at various levels of the government.

The ethical principle of Confucianism is its discovery of the ultimate in the moral character of human relationships in which Confucius offered the solution for the ills and evils of his day. Confucius’ central doctrine is that of the virtue of Ren. Ren is translated variously as goodness, benevolence, humanity, and human-heartedness. In short, Ren means affection and love.

Essence of Confucianism

Confucius is regarded as the “Great and Revered Teacher”, a teacher for all generations. From the dawn of civilization to the Revolution of 1911, he has so deeply influenced the daily life and thought of the Chinese people that he is respected as the moulder of the Chinese mind and character. His thoughts and teaching are taken as the symbol of traditional Chinese culture.

What is our national spirit and national character? It can be summed up in eight words: loyalty and piety, affection and love, faithfulness and righteousness, peace and harmony, as pointed out by Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

Influence of Confucianism

Confucianism, a philosophy rather than a religion, was a series of codes for China’s population to abide by. It was hoped that by following such a conduct of benevolence the population would harmoniously live together under the traditional Chinese system, a feudal system of altruistic despotism. The populace were expected to obey their seniors (hierarchical paternalism), to be selfless and strive for the common good. Temperance was placed as a primary virtue. The emperor and those in positions of power were also expected to follow the Confucian Principles of Government, thereby lessening the Emperor’s claim to his divine right. Confucius suggested that the governors should “rule the people with love and train people to learn good manners”. Confucious dreamed that by so doing, the country would be as strong as his ideal, the Western Zhou Dynasty when “all orders were issued by the emperor”.

Top Three Confucius Temples in China

Confucius Temple in Qufu, Shandong

The Temple of Confucius in Qufu, Shandong Province, is the largest and most renowned temple of Confucius in East Asia. Since 1994, the Temple of Confucius has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu”. The two other parts of the site are the nearby Kong Family Mansion, where the main-line descendants of Confucius lived, and the Cemetery of Confucius a few kilometers to the north, where Confucius and many of his descendants have been buried. Those three sites are collectively known in Qufu as The Three Confucian”.

Confucius Temple in Beijing

Beijing Temple of Confucius is the second-largest Confucian temple in China, after the one in Confucius’s hometown of Qufu. The temple in Beijing was built in 1302, and imperial officials used it to pay their formal respects to Confucius until 1911. The compound was enlarged twice, once during the Ming dynasty and again during the Qing; it now occupies roughly 20,000 square meters (220,000 sq ft). From 1981 until 2005, the Temple of Confucius also housed part of the art collection of the Capital Museum.

Fuzimiao in Nanjing, Jiangsu

Nanjing Fuzimiao or Fuzimiao, is located in southern Nanjing City on banks of the Qinhuai River. Within the area are cultural attractions, arts, shopping, and entertainment. Nanjing Confucius temple is the hub of ancient Chinese culture and the place where Jinling history and humanity meet. It was not only the cultural and educational center of Nanjing during the Ming and Qing dynasties, but also the cultural and educational complex that was the crown of the southeast provinces. It is now an important part of the Qinhuai scenic belt of Confucius temple.