The Chinese claim that the town of Qufu in Shandong province welcomes more tourists than the burial vault of the Great Helmsman – Mao Tse-tung – in Beijing. But why is this town famous? Because that is where the Chinese thinker and philosopher Kung, more commonly referred to as K'ung-fu-tse i.e., the Master K'ung, and better known to Europeans as Confucius, was born around 551 B.C., on the day corresponding to our September 28.
The legend says that just before Confucius was born, the mysterious Chi Lin, i.e., unicorn, came to see his mother and predicted that her son would become a king without a throne. Which he did since an entire teaching – Confucianism, which is a sort of a religion without a church, bears his name.
He was born in a noble but impoverished family and lost his father early. He worked hard since childhood. He studied too, and not just on his own, studying ancient books and traditions. Gradually, he became known as a great expert in books and rites, and other lovers of knowledge were drawn to him – Confucius was just over twenty when he became famous as a teacher. His pupils would write down his conversations and thoughts, which went into the book Lun-yu, known in the English translation as CONFUCIUS: Discussions/Conversations, or the Analects.
What is the essence of Confucius’s teachings? The ideal of Confucianism is a harmonious society where everyone is in their proper place. Confucius is believed to be the author of the Golden Rule of ethics: do not treat others the way you would not be treated. Confucius said, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” “If you have an enemy, go to a river, sit down on the bank and watch,” Confucius advised, “Sooner or later the body of your enemy will float by.” One could quote Confucius’s wise thoughts forever. But he seems to have never said anything about a black cat in a dark room – Vayner brothers attributed the phrase to him in their film The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed.