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15 Interesting Facts about Confucianism That Might Surprise You

Confucianism is a way of life. It’s an ancient Chinese belief system that has stood the test of time thanks to its valuable teachings rooted in rationality and humanity. This system focuses on the significance of personal ethics and morality. 

With all that said, why are most people still scratching their heads when you mention the word “Confucianism”? Whether or not your beliefs align with it, learning about the thriving religions and ethical practices around us is always a brilliant idea. Otherwise, you’ll be left in the dark and clueless in a world that has become so culturally interconnected.

So, are you ready to learn some interesting facts about Confucianism? Don’t go anywhere and prepare to have your perspective challenged by one of the most influential religious philosophies in Chinese history

PS. You might also like these Facts About China.

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Interesting Facts About Confucianism

1. There Are About 6.1 Million Followers of Confucianism Worldwide

This number represents a mere 0.09% of the world’s population, with most followers from China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. Regardless of how small this seems, the Confucianist way of life remains heavily revered in Chinese society. 

In 2019, 162 countries and regions had a total of 550 Confucius Institutes and 1,172 Confucius Classrooms. Interestingly, while Confucianism originated in China, South Korea is now considered the most Confucian society on earth. 

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Photo by zhang kaiyv from Pexels 

2. Confucianism Has 5 Core Values

Within Confucianism, there are five constant values known as wu chang

  • Benevolence or Ren 
  • Righteousness or Yi
  • Propriety or Li
  • Wisdom or Zhi
  • Fidelity or Xin
man-showing-kindness-to-others

Photo by RDNE Stock project from Pexels 

3. Confucius Was Not Concerned With the Afterlife

Confucius did not really touch on the subject of life after death, eternal life, gods, or a spiritual realm. His philosophies focus on everyday life, insisting that our lives, no matter how short, should be fulfilling and make us happy. He believed that people should be concerned with their societal role rather than what comes after death. 

Read Next: Check Out These Fascinating Facts About Dreaming

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4. Confucianism Has No Gods

Confucian gods do not exist compared to most religions. Adding to the fact that it’s so human-centric, the debate of religion vs. philosophy comes up quite often when discussing Confucianism. However, with the temples and rituals in them, it is a system that behaves like a religion. 

How you see Confucianism is up to personal perspective, it could be both a religion and a philosophy, or it’s either one of them. 

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5. Feminists’ Ideals Do Not Align With Confucianism 

More often than not, Confucianism is linked with oppressing women. This raises much concern amongst feminists and even neutral individuals due to the strict conditions placed on women. The controversy is based on a criticism that suggests the religion is against females and that Confucius himself may have had sexist views. 

What are the reasons for the Confucianism-Feminism conflict? Oppressive acts such as concubinage, widow suicide, and foot bondage are associated with Confucianism. Furthermore, this system created a patriarchal society, subjugating women to their husbands and fathers. 

Women were also prohibited from inheriting property, carrying the family name, or participating in society. 

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6. Confucian Benevolence Is Akin to Christian Love 

If you study religions closely, you’ll notice some similarities between many of them. And one surprising parallel that stands out is Confucian benevolence and Christian love. Both teachings advocate for human love: caring for each other and treating everyone equally and with kindness. 

Read Next: Psychological Facts About Your First Love

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7. Some Aren’t Sure If Confucius Wrote the Five Classics of Confucianism

It’s widely believed that most of what was written about Confucianism was not from the namesake himself but by his disciples. That’s because Confucius was a big proponent of harmony, meaning it was easy for joining members to add to his philosophical ideas. 

The Confucius school is about self-cultivation, learning, understanding, and improving. So it makes sense that followers did not treat his philosophy as some divine intervention. 

To take things even further, some scholars have theorized that Confucius may have never even existed. The Confucian confusion is real, especially considering that the earliest biographical account we have only resurfaced 400 years after his death. 

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Photo by Feng Zou from Pexels 

8. A Chinese Philosopher Named Confucius Brought About Confucianism

Inspired by his name, Confucianism is the brainchild of a philosopher and politician who lived from 551 to 478 BC. He did not create it from scratch per se, but he did take outdated ideas and revive them, thus creating the ethical system of Confucianism. 

Confucius’ real name was Kong Qiu, a man who came from humble beginnings. He was born into a poor but noble family (his aristocratic ancestry had become impoverished by the time of his birth) in the State of Lu. Raised by a single parent, his mother, Master Kong, worked numerous odd jobs before he became a philosopher and teacher. 

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Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

9. Humanism Is the Core of Confucianism

Most religions or belief systems center around the mysteries of existence, such as the afterlife, deities, and the universe’s origin. That’s where Confucianism is unique in that it gravitates around everyday life and how to reflect on real human issues. Humanism is a philosophical stance that promotes individual and social growth and potential. 

Confucius wanted all humans to achieve a state of wisdom, and he believed that this would be possible through benevolence.

Read Next: Facts About Human Behaviour

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10. Confucius Has Some of the Most Famous Quotes

Ever read a highly intellectual quote that makes you think about life for a second — to see “by Confucius” at the end? You’re likely to have come across a few of his quotes. And to make things more fun, here are just some of his many insightful quotes: 

  • “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
  • “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
  • “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
  • “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
  • “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”
  • “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

Honestly, so many more could have been added, but that goes to show that this man knew what he was talking about. 

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Photo by 李李 from Pexels 

11. Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism Are Often Seen As Complementary Beliefs

These three religions are viewed as co-existing belief systems that borrow from each other ever so often. Thanks to all the striking similarities, it’s easy to see why this could be true. While there are resemblances, it’s still important to distinguish between Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, as many non-followers confuse the three teachings with each other. 

As suggested throughout this post, Confucianism emphasizes moral values and societal rules. At the same time, Taoism focuses on simplicity, happiness, and living harmoniously with nature. On the other hand, Buddhism illuminates the suffering of human life and how we can reach enlightenment or nirvana through meditation, good behavior, and spiritual labor. 

Read Next: Interesting Facts About Buddhism

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12. Confucianism Is Not a Proselytizing Religion

A proselytizing religion is one that seeks to convert others into joining their belief systems. Confucianism opposes this notion and does not have a priesthood or monastic order. Instead, it’s more of a worldview, a moral system aimed at politics and social organization. 

In a nutshell, Confucianism is not trying to convince you to follow a god or deity; instead, it wants you to be a better person and elevate society as a whole. Thus you can say that it’s a human-centered religion. 

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Photo by Bird Liang on Unsplash

13. Confucianism Was Once Mainstream in China 

Before the 1900s, around the time of modernization and cultural revolution in the 60s and 70s, Confucianism was quite big. It was so mainstream that emperor Wu Di (reigned 141–87 B.C.E.) made it the official state ideology during the Han Dynasty. There were even Confucius schools, making it one of the most influential philosophies in its country. 

Unfortunately, these ideologies were no longer valued by those seeking to break from more traditional beliefs. Chinese cultural reformers rejected Confucianism, felt it was outdated, and could no longer aid in their cause for a revolution. 

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14. Confucian Philosophy Has Many Branches 

After Confucius’ death, his philosophy was branched into eight sects due to various interpretations. This would be similar to Catholicism or Mormonism in Christianity, where different groups have alternative interpretations. These eight sects include:

  • Song Confucianism
  • Mencius
  • Xunzi
  • Ming Confucianism
  • Modern Confucianism
  • Qing Confucianism
  • Dong Zhongshu
  • Korean Confucianism
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15. The Face of Confucianism, Confucius, Might Have Looked Completely Different from the Statues and Images We Have Today

That’s because Confucius had no surviving painting, picture, or sculpture at the time of his death. This means that whatever image or illustration you see here, on the internet, in biography books, and so on is likely inaccurate. 

This adds some merit to the many theories regarding whether Confucious even existed in the first place! 

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