Confucius (551-479 BC), Chinese philosopher, one of the most influential figures in the history of China. According to tradition, Confucius was born in the state of Lu (present-day Shandong [Shantung] Province) of the noble K’ung clan. In 527 BC he began his career as a teacher, usually traveling about and instructing the disciples that gathered around him. Confucius served as magistrate of Chung-tu and minister of crime of the state of Lu. However, he soon left office to once again travel and teach. In 484 BC he retired to Lu, where he lived until his death.
Living at a time when intrigue and vice were rampant, Confucius believed that people must revive the principles of the ancient sages. He therefore lectured to his pupils on the classics and taught the value of the power of example. Confucius did not write down the principles of his philosophy. The Analects, a work compiled by some of his disciples, is considered the most reliable source of information about his life and teachings.
The teachings of Confucius were practical and ethical, rather than religious. He held that proper outward acts based on the five virtues of kindness, uprightness, decorum, wisdom, and faithfulness constitute the whole of human duty. His view of government was paternalistic, and he enjoined all individuals to observe carefully their duties toward the state. In subsequent centuries his teachings, known as Confucianism, exerted a powerful influence on the Chinese nation.