The New Student's Reference Work/Confucius

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Confu′cius (kon-fū′shē-us), the great Chinese sage, was born in the state of Lu, in 551 B. C. His father, an old soldier, died when Confucius was three years old, leaving him and his mother very poor. For a while he had charge of the public stores and the public herds. At 22 he began his career as a teacher. In 501 a new ruler made him governor of the town of Chung-tu, where he brought about a striking reformation in the manners and morals of the people. Soon after, he became a minister of state and the most powerful man in Lu. For three years he was as successful in ruling and reforming the people as he had been when only a town-governor. Under his rule dishonesty was unknown; loyalty and good faith were the characteristics of men. Confucius was now the idol of the people. But soon a breach was made between him and his ruler, and for 12 years, with a company of disciples, he traveled through other Chinese states, teaching as he went. Sometimes the company were welcomed by high princes; at others they had not enough to eat, and even were in danger of their lives. A new ruler summoned the sage back to Lu, where he died the eleventh day of the fourth month, 479 B. C. Confucius thought his life a failure, but he was hardly dead when a temple was built in his honor, and to-day every market-town has its Confucius temple, and twice a year the emperor does honor to the greatest and wisest of Chinese philosophers. Of no ancient person do we know more than we do of Confucius. Not only what he taught, but just how he looked and acted at court, while talking to his disciples, at his table or in his bed has been handed down to us. Confucius was a great moral teacher and his supreme teaching was his negative golden rule: “What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others.” He never pretended to be anything more than a man, but he knew the right way for each man to live and to be right himself, and for the ruler so to rule as to make men happy and good. China is his monument.