What steps did early Chinese communities take to ensure good harvests?
During late Zhou times, wars raged across China. Economic and social changes were disrupting old ways of life. Two belief systems, Confucianism and Daoism, emerged at this time, Both put forward ideas on how to restore social order and maintain harmony with nature. They also shaped Chinese civilization for more than 2,500 years.
The philosopher-teacher Confucius was born in 551 B.C. The name Confucius is the Western form of the name Kong Fuzi, or Master Kong. According to tradition, he belonged to a noble but poor family. A brilliant scholar, he hoped to become an adviser to a local ruler.
For years, he wandered from court to court talking to rulers about how to govern. Unable to find a permanent government position, he turned to teaching. As his reputation for wisdom grew, he attracted many students.
Like two other influential thinkers who lived about the same time—Siddhartha Gautama in India and Socrates in Greece—Confucius never wrote down his ideas. After his death, his students collected his sayings in the Analects. The sayings offered advice for living a good and honorable life.
The Master said, if out of the three hundred Songs I had to take one phrase to cover all my teaching, I would say ‘Let there be no evil in your thoughts.’
The Master said, Yu, shall I teach you what knowledge is? When you know a thing, to recognize that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to recognize that you do not know it. That is knowledge.
A scholar and teacher, Confucius had an enormous cultural influence on early Chinese civilization.
Unlike the Buddha, Confucius took little interest in spiritual matters such as salvation. Instead, he developed a philosophy, or system of ideas, that was concerned with worldly goals, especially those of ensuring social order and good government. Confucius studied ancient texts to learn the rules of conduct that had guided the ancestors.
Confucius taught that harmony resulted when people accepted their place in society. He stressed five key relationships: ruler to subject, parent to child, husband to wife, elder brother to younger brother, and friend to friend. Confucius believed that, except for friendship, none of these relationships were equal. In traditional China, older people were superior to younger ones and men were superior to women.
According to Confucius, everyone had duties and responsibilities, depending on his or her position. Superiors should care for their inferiors and set a good example, while inferiors owed loyalty and obedience to their superiors. Correct behavior, Confucius believed, would bring order and stability.
Confucius put filial piety, or respect for parents, above all other duties, even loyalty to the state. Other Confucian values included honesty, hard work, and concern for others. “Do not do to others,” he declared, “what you do not wish yourself.”