How would someone describe Confucianism?
"Confuciansism" is more of a philosophy than a religion, although it is routinely categorized as a religion. Followers of Confucianism do not view Confucius as a deity, but rather as a model of how one should live one's life. Having said that, Confucius lived during a time of emporers who claimed to rule with the consent of God, or Tian, a Mandate from Heaven, and Confucius was respectful of Tian and incorporated it into his teachings. While he was not a proselytizer, he did speak as though he believed a divine being existed. Perhaps Confucius described himself best when he wrote,
"At 15 I took to learning, at 30 to standing firm, at 40 I ceased to doubt, at 50 I knew the will of Heaven, at 60 my ear understood, at 70 I did as I desired and broke no rule." [Analects 2.4]
Another indication of Confucius's belief in a divine being was in his statement regarding the Song Dynasty's Minister of War, Huang Tui, who sought the philosopher's death: "Tian vested me with moral power. What do I have to fear from Huan Tui?"
Confucius (Kong Fu-zi) was a philosopher, a teacher, and, it could be argued, a political activist who lived from 551-479 B.C. The "political activist" label stems from his lifelong but unrequited desire to see an entire kingdom governed according to his tenets. He was not, however, a revolutionary in any sense of the word. Confuciusism is about living a moral life in harmony with one's surroundings. It is about achieving what one might call today "peace of mind." Confucius dedicated his life to achieving a state of being in which he was totally at peace with himself and with the world around him. Given the political machinations common to the imperial court, and the violence and treachery such machinations invariably involved, Confucius was not able to achieve his vision during his lifetime. That his philosophy has survived the millenia since, however, speaks to the wisdom and power of his words.