Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (Kǒng Fūzǐ, or K’ung-fu-tzu, lit. “Master Kong”, 551–478 BC). Confucianism originated as an “ethical-sociopolitical teaching” during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han Dynasty. Following the abandonment of Legalism in China after the Qin Dynasty, Confucianism became the official state ideology of China, until it was replaced by the “Three Principles of the People” ideology with the establishment of theRepublic of China, and then Maoist Communism after the ROC was replaced by the People’s Republic of China in Mainland China.
The core of Confucianism is humanism, the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation. Confucianism focuses on the cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics, the most basic of which are ren, yi, and li. Ren is an obligation of altruism and humaneness for other individuals within a community, yi is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good, and li is a system of norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act within a community.Confucianism holds that one should give up one’s life, if necessary, either passively or actively, for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values of ren andyi. Although Confucius the man may have been a believer in Chinese folk religion, Confucianism as an ideology is humanistic and non-theistic, and does not involve a belief in the supernatural or in a personal god.
Cultures and countries strongly influenced by Confucianism include mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people, such as Singapore. Although Confucian ideas prevail in these areas, few people outside of academia identify themselves as Confucian, and instead see Confucian ethics as a complementary guideline for other ideologies and beliefs, including democracy, Marxism, capitalism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.