Pratyusha Manthena, Dhathri Bobba, Ethan Judd: Young, 1st

The Origin of Confucianism


Confucianism was established by the religious leader, Confucius, around 500 B.C. Confucius tried to think of a way to make our stay on Earth more fruitful. Confucius believed in a very righteous society where everyone is in their place.


Confucius's main principles were two ideas of 'Wen' and 'Li', or basically, being honest, and having respect for all creatures. These philosophies were fundamental in the development of China, and many people there still follow these principles today. While it is technically considered a religion, some people regard Confucianism as a way of life, because some Confucianists don't believe in a God or afterlife.


Confucianism is an ethnic religion, as well as an autonomous religion. Confucianists don't have a hierarchy in their religion, and they do their religious activities in private, rather than going to holy places.


There is only one branch in Confucianism, the Neo-Confucianism branch, which was developed during the Song Dynasty. Neo-Confucianism borrows ideas from Buddhism and Daoism, in addition to traditional Confucianism beliefs.

World Religions: Confucianism

Spatial Distribution


Confucianism diffused through the voluntary conversion of others to the religion. Confucianists never conquered or created any empires, so the religion spread very slowly.

Holy Places

Confucianists don't have sacred places where they practice their religion, but they do have temples where they can go to study Confucius and read his texts. Confucianists also view their town and homes as important places, because it is in these places where Confucianists can honor their ancestors, and connect with family to help each other reach spiritual transformation.

Where Confucianism is Practiced

Confucianism is practiced almost exclusivley in East Asia. Some countries where it's practiced include China, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea.


Around the world, there are a total of about 6 million adherents to Confucianism, the majority in Asia. Some followers may borrow from other religions, such as Buddhism, in adition to their Confucianism.

Below is a geographical map of the distribution of Confucianism.

Unique Features

Key Figures and Important People

  • Confucius was the founder of the religion. He was born around 551 BCE and died in 469 BCE. He was a philosopher and spread his ideas throughout China.
  • Menacius was another traveling philosopher and sage. He was born in 372 BCE and died 289 BCE. He was one of many interpreter of Confucianism. He traveled all around China just like Confucius for 40 years and offered advice to rulers for reform.

Holy Texts

  • Holy Confucian Analects
    • A composition of twenty chapters of the later Spring and Autumn period
    • Most influentially text in East Asian intellectual history
    • A collection of maxims and short discussions between Confucius and his disciples
    • Includes Confucius’ values of humaneness, righteousness, and other societal issues.
  • Doctrine of the Mean
    • Created by Confucius’ grandson: Kong Ji
    • Small 23 book
    • Purpose: demonstrate the usefulness of a golden way to gain perfect virtue
  • Holy Mencius
    • Menacius’ interpretation of Confucianism
    • Followed by neo-Confucians
  • The Great Learning
    • Four books were selected to be the foundational introduction of Confucianism
    • The first of these four books
    • Gateway of learning
    • Expresses themes of Chinese philosophy and political thinking

Religious Symbols

Place of Worship

In the early times of the religion during pre-modern East Asia, there were many academies that were headed by Confucian scholars. They used to be all over China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan, but no they are not very common after the government stopped supporting it. Today, people go to Confucius Temples to worship their ancestors.
This is a Confucius temple in China.

Impact on Social and Family Structures

  • Women are least important in a Confucian society.
  • Women are to always obey their fathers as children, husbands as adults and as widows, they just obey their adult son. At no point in time should a woman be autonomous.
  • Homosexuality and abortion are also discouraged strongly.
  • "Five Relationships" described by Confucians as the complete range of human interaction include four that are hierarchical relationships such as ruler/subject, parent/child, husband/wife, elder sibling/younger sibling and only one that is not: friend/friend.
This video discusses the impact of Confucianism on China.

Impact on Cultural Beliefs and Expectations

    • Confucianism supports a social hierarchy where every person lives in harmony in their role.
    • Confucius believed that the society should be headed by a ruler with moral character which is exemplary. If this is so, then the community will be moral too.
    • Rituals are an important part of a Confucian's life. The most important ritual practice is the ancestor worship.

Essential Question- How do Confucius' principle teachings affect today's society in China?