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If you find yourself often wondering, "What is Confucianism?" you should first know that this religion is a way of life for many of the people that practice it. Confucianism encourages its followers, above all, to live good, virtuous, ethical lives.

Confucianism teaches its followers to constantly strive for perfect virtue and character improvement. It also encourages the cultivation of a love for humanity and harmony within the family because Confucius believed that these things would ultimately affect the overall social and political climate.

K’ung Fu Tze (Confucius in English) lived from 551 to 479 B.C. during the Chou dynasty in China and was the founder of what eventually became known as Confucianism.

It has been said that Confucius did not intend to found a new religion initially. He actually spent most of his life traveling through China offering advice to its rulers. It was not until after Confucius’ death that the values and moral code he promoted were adopted by Chinese society. In 210 B.C. Confucian principles were actually incorporated into Chinese law in order to maintain order in the country.

It is often said that Confucian teachings can be summed up by the term Ren (or Jen), which represents the highest Confucian virtue. Ren is the source of all virtues which help maintain social order like benevolence, consideration for others, empathy, charity, respectfulness, diligence and loving kindness.

Li is a term used to describe another important Confucian ideal. Li means social propriety and in Confucianism this is the outward ideal expression of the ”superior man”, while Ren is the inner ideal expression. With a combination of Li and Ren a Confucian can reach their goal of becoming a ”superior” or ”princely” type of man.

In addition to Li and Ren, Confucianism stresses the importance of cultivating a good relationship with family. Confucius also believed that the ruler of a country should strive to be a father to his people, caring and providing for them, in order to gain their respect.

Though Confucianism doesn’t have a priesthood or a sacred doctrine that explains the afterlife, the teachings of Confucius have had a lasting effect on society and Confucianism remains an important cultural influence in China to this day.