In the late Spring and Autumn Period, serious crises caused by social conflicts undermined the authority of traditional culture,and intellectuals standing for the interest of different classes at that time wrote books and established theories in succession to put forwards solutions for the social problems, forming the prosperous situation in which a large number of schools of thought contended. Confucianism was one of those schools of thought.
Confucius (BC551 – BC479)
Confucius, a thinker and educator of that time, established Confucianism. Through a long period of academic research and educational practice, he presented and improved step by step a system of thought centered on the concept “benevolence;” and later, Confucius’ disciples and subsequent scholars further developed this system of thought, thus forming the influential Confucianism.
“Benevolence” is at the core of Confucian thought, and its meanings include almost all the virtues. Confucius said, “The benevolent love people”— that is, people should love each other, share the benefits that they desire with others, and should not impose what they do not desire on others. “Benevolence” is also manifested in other aspects, for example, to “restrain oneself to restore propriety” — in other words, to suppress one’s selfish desires. “Propriety” is a general term for the decrees, institutions and code of conduct at that time, and the combination of rituals (form) and righteousness (contents).As the code of conduct, “propriety” has a strong effect of edification,and requires people to strengthen cultivation and restrain their own behaviors so that they could meet the requirement of “benevolence.”
Mencius and Xunzi were representative Confucians of the Warring States Period. Mencius developed Confucius’ view of “benevolence,” and was famous for promoting the “people-oriented” theory of “benevolent governance” —the essence of “benevolent governance” is essentially a deep sympathy and love for the people. In comparison, Xunzi laid more emphasis on the regulating role of political and law systems when he advocated the education of propriety and morality.
儒家思想在历史上绵延了 2,000 多年，对中国、东亚乃至全世界都产生过深远的影响。它所主张的“礼、义、廉、耻、仁、爱、忠、孝”和“温、良、恭、俭、让”（温和、善良、恭敬、节俭、忍让）等价值观，一直是指导绝大部分中国人日常行为的基本意识规范。可以说，中华民族尊老爱幼、礼貌友善、温和谦让、认真刻苦等传统美德和精神气质，在很大程度上是受儒家思想的影响而逐渐形成的。儒家思想也是秦汉以来形成的包括今天中国、日本、韩国、朝鲜、越南等国家和地区在内的东亚文化的精神核心。另外，它传入欧洲，与意大利文艺
复兴以来所形成的新思想相互结合，成为 17、18 世纪欧洲启蒙思想的重要渊源.
Confucianism lasted for more than 2,000 years, exerting profound influence over China, East Asia and even the whole world. The values it advocates, including “propriety,righteousness, probity, the sense of shame, benevolence, love, loyalty and filial piety” and “moderation,kindness, respect, frugality and tolerance,” have been the basic ethics
guiding most Chinese people’s daily behaviors all the time; so to speak,the traditional virtues and ethos of the Chinese nation, such as respect for elders, love for the young, politeness, friendliness, moderation,modesty, graveness and assiduity, are to a large extent the result of the gradual influence of Confucianism. Confucianism is also the spiritual core of the East Asian cultural circle that has been formed since the Qin and Han dynasties, including today’s China, Japan, South Korea,North Korea and Vietnam. Moreover, it was spread into Europe and combined with the new ideas formed there since the Renaissance, and became an important source of the enlightening thoughts in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.