Essential Questions

What problems did China face during the time of Confucius and how did he try to solve them?

What are the main beliefs of Confucianism?


Confucius (or Kongzi) was a Chinese philosopher who lived in the 6th century BCE and whose thoughts, expressed in the philosophy of Confucianism, have influenced Chinese culture right up to the present day. Confucius has become a larger-than-life figure and it is difficult to separate reality from myth. He is considered the first teacher and his teachings are usually expressed in short phrases which are open to various interpretations. Chief among his philosophical ideas is the importance of a virtuous life, filial piety, and ancestor worship. He also emphasized it is the necessity for benevolent and frugal rulers, the importance of inner moral harmony and its direct connection with harmony in the physical world and that rulers and teachers are important role models for wider society.

Discussion Questions

  • How was Confucius?

  • What problems did Confucius see in the world? What were his solutions?


Activity 1: Primary Source- The Analects of Confucius

First, scan the document and identify any words you do not know or are uncomfortable with. Then, define them in the right-hand column titled "Vocab." If you know all the words, pick the least comfortable ones; do not leave it blank. Then carefully read the background and primary source excerpts. Last, answer the text-dependent questions and highlight any textual evidence with the correct color.

Primary Source-The Analects

The main principle of Confucius's teachings is ren, which describes that people should behave in a loving, selfless, and moral way. One of the main teachings of Confucius was the Five Key Relationships. Confucius believed that if people followed these guidelines and respected the social order it would create a peaceful and orderly society. It is based on filial piety, or unending respect and devotion to children, especially sons, to their parents and family. To Confucius respecting ones' parents was more important than getting an education.

A good person leads by the proper moral example by allowing li and yi to dictate actions.

  • Li describes the actions that are right because of the needs of society.

  • Yi describes the actions that are inherently right, good, and moral.

Discussion Questions

  • What are the Five Key Relationships?

  • How does Confucius define a good government?

Activity 2: How would you describe Confucius and his teachings?

Using the information from this lesson, answer the questions in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activities

Activity: Oh Confucius, What Do You Mean?

Confucius, the founder of the philosophy known as Confucianism, was known for the statements he made concerning the nature of life and how one should live it. Read over each of Confucius‘ statements below. After reading each one, translate it to what it might mean today!

Then in the space provided, try to think of three of the most important principles about how to live a good life. What is important you? What do you value? Then, put them in words that Confucius would say!

Confucius Quotes.pdf