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Confucianism is arguably the most influential local philosophy based on the teachings of Confucius – a Latinized name literally meaning Master Kung ( Kong fuzi 孔夫子 ) – in the history of China. Whilst this school of thought is named after the master, his teachings were not developed ex nihilo – they were, to a large extent, based on the ancient literature of his days and the exemplary conduct of ancient sagacious rulers, for instance, Emperor Yao, Emperor Shun, King Wen of Zhou, and Duke of Zhou. Therefore, it is documented in The Analects that Confucius considered himself a transmitter rather than an innovator (A 7.1; Lau tr. 1979: 86).

Confucianism is a broad concept. The term itself could be liable to confusion without a context, giving rise to the question “which”. There are at least two reasons. An immediate one is logically the temporal factor, for it is only to be expected to see evolution in a system of thought over a space of 2,500 years, not least after tumultuous times. Ames (2011) remarks that this philosophy “has been appropriated, commented upon, reinterpreted, and reauthorized by each of some eighty generations of Chinese scholars and intellectuals” who have contributed to this philosophy “as a continuous, living tradition” .
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Culture
EditorsSin-wai CHAN
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315453484
ISBN (Print)9781138211155
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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