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usually claimed to be doing so for the eventual good and reunification
of China. They and their commanding generals probably thought they
held the key to making China orderly again, but inevitably there were
also people who believed that the key to reunification and recovering
the past glories of the early Zhou lay not in fighting, but in a moral
or philosophical regeneration. Confucius was one of many who
thought of ways to reform China. Because his particular school of
thought prevailed over all the others and was made China's official
state ideology in the second century B.C., he is well known world-
wide. During the Eastern Zhou, China was so full of philosophers
and thinkers who thought they knew how to right all of China's
wrongs that the Chinese have called long segments of the Eastern
Zhou the “Hundred Schools” period. This general period lasted from
the sixth through fourth centuries B.C.
Confucius was confident he had the correct answer. There is nothing
mysterious or mythical about Confucius; he was born in the state of
Lu, in what is now the province of Shandong, around 551 B.C. to a
minor aristocratic family. As a child he was precocious and bookish,
and like many of his contemporaries he began to idealize the past as
the world around himwas crumbling. He imagined that the early days
of the Western Zhou were the lost golden age and should be recovered.
As a young man he was so confident that he knew the secret of the
early Zhou's success that he began seeking employment with any
government that would listen to him and apply his ideas. Confucius
eventually had a midlife crisis and abandoned his search for
government employment, but he did not forsake his ideals. Instead,
he began gathering pupils who listened to his ideas and explored their
implications with him. Confucius's hope was that a few of his star
pupils might eventually obtain government jobs and apply his ideas
for the good of China. He remained an idealist throughout his life.
Like many idealists, Confucius was frustrated with the world
around him. He wanted to change the world, to bridge the gap
between what is and what ought to be. Current society was not as
it should be, and in his imagination early Zhou society was largely
perfect. Certain qualities in the early Zhou had been lost, and the
entire thrust of his teachings was toward their recovery. He spoke
mainly of two things: li and ren.
Li means “ritual” or “ceremony” and, in a broader or more extended
sense, “propriety.” Confucius believed that careful attention to the
ceremony or ritual of major life events (such as marriages and funerals)
was enormously important. If the conventions and functions of these
rituals were performed attentively and properly, he argued, their
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