It is remarkable when someone can live so long ago and still have an incredible effect on the world today, like Confucius, one of the greatest teachers in Chinese history. His humanist theories deeply influenced his students, and they passed on his ideologies until they became the basis of ideas that reflected the social needs of the culture.
His legacy was passed down throughout history, and his wisdom still has the power to inspire us in this day and age.
Read on to find ten of his quotes that may become your personal motto.
The Life of Confucius
Confucius was a descendant of the royal house of Shang, the dynasty that ruled China from about 1122 B.C.E. to 221 B.C.E. His family moved to a small state of Lu, which is in the northeastern province of Shantung today.
According to the Records of the Historian by Ssu-ma Ch’ien (145 B.C.E. to 86 B.C.E), Confucius’s father had divorced his wife because she had given him only daughters and one disfigured son. He then married a fifteen-year-old girl who bore Confucius.
In his book of teachings, the Analects, Confucius describes how his youth was poor, and he forced to learn different skills. Even though his family’s fortunes were diminishing, he belonged to the aristocratic class known as the shih, which mostly served as court officials, scholars, and teachers. Confucius’s first job was the keeper of the Lu granary, and later became supervisor of the fields.
In 518 B.C.E., Confucius met the famous teacher Lao Tzu, who criticized him for his stiffness and arrogance. For several years after Confucius’s return to Lu, he did not accept any governmental position. Instead, he spent his time studying and teaching his growing number of students about ritual, music, history, and poetry.
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He grew up to become a famous philosopher. He became a mentor to many people, his name in Chinese in ‘Kongzi’, which directly translates into English as ‘Kong’ meaning Confucious and ‘Zi’ meaning teacher, a direct reference to his professional life.
According to Kaizuka et al., ‘The Teachings of Confucius are mainly concerned with politics, personal cultivation and social morality’ due to the times he lived in. He even advocated the right of private property and wealth as well as being highly concerned with the ‘cultivation of personal character with interpersonal relations and ethics’.
Confucius became a truly important figure in not only Chinese history but also history across the globe as Cranmer-Byng says ‘A man’s greatness must always be measured, in the first place, by the consensus of opinion in his own country; the judgment of foreigners can only be allowed to have a secondary value.‘ Many of his sayings still resonate with modern society to this day.
Below is a selection of beautiful quotes Confucius has said, many of which you may recognize! I can definitely relate to many of them and accurately recall my parents repeating versions of them to me as a child, can you?
10 Life-Changing Confucius Quotes
- Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
- If you hate a person, then you’re defeated by them.
- It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
- If they spit at you behind your back, it means you’re ahead of them.
- What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.
- I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.
- Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.
- To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.
- It is more shameful to distrust our friends than to be deceived by them.
- The superior man acts before he speaks and afterward speaks according to his action. (2)
The fact that even to this day we can learn from Confucius and actually apply many of his quotes to our lives allows us to understand the impact he had on his country and the world when he was alive. I will leave you with one final, resonating quote that you can take forward into the rest of your day, month or even year; ‘Confucious says he who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior’.
(1) Confucius Biography http://www.notablebiographies.com/Co-Da/Confucius.html Accessed: October 27, 2016
(2) Brainy Quotes. Confucius Quotes. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/confucius_3.html Accessed: October 26, 2016.
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