Confucius, to whom most of the sayings in the Analects are ascribed, was a descendant of an influential family of the state of Lu in the present-day eastern Chinese province of Shandong. His family name was Kong. His personal name was Qiu and he was also known as Zhong Ni. Later he was known as Kong Fuzi, meaning Master Kong, out of respect. At the time of his birth, his family was already in reduced circumstances, but he could boast of a long line of illustrious ancestors, dating to before the Zhou Dynasty (1122-221 b.c.e.). Because of Confucius’s fame, his family history is perhaps the most complete and extensive genealogy in the world.
Orphaned at an early age, Confucius went to work while still in his teens. He held a number of minor posts in the government and in the employ of the nobility. His service record and his self-cultivation soon won for him wide recognition. Students gathered around him for instruction in ethics, literature, and the art of government service. He was particularly respected for his knowledge of ancient rituals. Among his followers were men of diverse interests and temperaments. Myth and legend grew around the historical Confucius over the centuries, and the story of the ancient sage’s life has become anything but monotonous. Confucius is said to have had to put up with one student who was too stingy to let his master borrow his umbrella; consequently, Confucius was drenched in the...
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