Confucianism, a majoy system of thought in China, developed from the teachings of Confucius and his disciples. Confucianism is concerned with principles for good conduct, practical wisdom, and proper social relationships. Confucianism has influenced Chinese attitudes towards life, set patterns for living and defined standards and social values, while providing the background for Chinese political theories and institutions. After spreading out from China, Confucianism has found its popularity in Korea, Japan and many other south east Asian countries.
The principles of Confucianism are contained in nine ancient Chinese works handed down by Confucius and his followers, who lived in an age of philosophical activity. The writings are divided into two groups: the Five Classics and the Four Books. The keynote of Confucian is ethics is Ren, variously translated as “love” ,”benevolence”, “humanity”, and “human-heartedness”. Ren is a supreme virtue representing human qualities at their best. In human relations, Ren is manifested in Zhong, or faithfulness to oneself and others, and Shu or altruism, best expressed in the Confucian golden rule—“Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself”. Other important Confucian virtues include righteousness, propriety, integrity and filial piety. One who possesses all these virtues becomes a Junzi.(perfect gentlemen).
Mencius continued the ethical teachings of Confucius, stressing the innate goodness of human nature. He believed, however, that human goodness could become depraved through one’s own destructive efforts or through contact with external evil factors. The challenge facing those seeking moral cultivation is therefore to preserve or at least to restore the goodness that is one’s birthright. In political thought, Mencius is sometimes considered one of the early advocates of democracy, for he advanced the idea of the people’s supremacy in the state.
In the opposition to Mencius, Xunzi contended that every person is born with an intrinsic evil nature ,but that it can be reformed through moral education . He believed that human desire should be guided and restrained by the rules of propriety and that character should be molded by an orderly observance of rites and by the practice of music. This code serves as powerful influence on character by properly directing emotions and by providing inner harmony .Xunzi was the main exponent of ritualism in Confucianism.