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Confucius Confucius lived from 551-479 B.C. He was a philosopher, political thinker and educator whose ideas have greatly influenced not only Chinese culture but world civilization. Confucius lived during the “Spring” and “Autumn” period of Chinese history, when east central China was divided into over a dozen small warring states. The great disorder and suffering he saw influenced his political ideas, which emphasized order, hierarchy and the rule of a benevolent sovereign. Confucius came from the State of Lu; his birthplace was today's Qufu county, Shandong province. His ancestors had been aristocrats of the State of Song, but the family had long since fallen on hard times. Confucius was a philosopher who developed a great “reverence” for Ji Dan (Duke of Zhou) of the Western Zhou dynasty, which reighned from the 11th c. to 771 BCE. He also sought to apply the political structures of that distant time to the State of Lu. However, the great social turmoil of the Spring and Autumn period, and the sharpening struggles within the ruling class, made this impossible, and he became very dissatisfied. In an effort to spread his political ideas, he traveled extensively to other states only to be repeatedly rebuffed. He died at the age of 73, having failed to ever suceed with his society. Scholars down the ages have always maintained that "benevolence" is the core of Confucian teaching. "Benevolence" found its expression through the performance of li, a term usually translated as rites, but which actually encompassed a great deal more: not just rituals but the social and political structure, the etiquette of behavior between human beings. Confucius observed the functioning of the patriarchal, hierarchical society of his times and concluded that "virtuous rule" consisted of applying strict control over the populace.

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