Confucius was born in 551 BC in the Zhou dynasty. His Chinese name is Kong Fu Zi. He was born in the state of Lu, on the east coast of China to a “shi” class family.

The shi were middle class people – they were not nobility but were more well off than the common people.

Because Confucius was a shi, he got to travel between different states and give advice to governors who were at war.

He thought that people should be promoted based on their talents and not on what family they were born into.


Confucius proved this idea worked by starting out life as a shepherd, before working in the government of his small town and eventually becoming a top advisor.

Confucius spent his time in government learning and travelling. He became known as one of the most knowledgeable men in the country and so families sent their sons to be taught by him.

Confucius became the first private teacher in China – before this, sons were taught by the government or their family.

The Temple of Confucius


Confucianism is the set of ideas that Confucius came up with after lots of studying and talking to different people.

It is not a religion, but it is a way of living, or a philosophy, to help people behave in a good way. Confucianism uses strict rules of how to behave to make people moral and responsible.

The main ideas of Confucianism are:

  • Respect your elders and your ruler
  • Be polite and gracious to others
  • Always be learning something new
  • Have good morals and ethics
  • Be loyal, honest and kind
  • Do everything in moderation

Confucianism did not become popular until many years after Confucius’s death.

In the Han Dynasty, people had to pass exams on Confucianism to work in government – this is because the philosophy taught that a strong, central government was important.

Confucianism is still practiced in China today.

The Tomb of Confucius

Personal Life

At 19 years old, Confucius married Qiguan and had a child named Kong Li. They later had two daughters together.

At 51 years old, Confucius left his job as advisor because the government leaders were not following his advice and teachings.

He spent years travelling through China, teaching Confucianism and gaining followers. His followers wrote a book on his ideas called The Analects of Confucius, in around 400 BC.

Confucius died in 479 BC, aged 71, of natural causes in his home state of Lu. He spent his final few years at home teaching about 75 followers.

His most well-known quote is the Golden Rule: “Do not do unto others what you would not want done to yourself.”


  • Confucius (Kong Fu Zi) was born to a shi family so had a good education.
  • Confucius worked in government so travelled and learnt a lot and was famous for his knowledge.
  • Confucianism is the philosophy that Confucius came up with to live life by.
  • A philosophy is a set of ideas or beliefs that people follow – it is not a religion.
  • Confucianism teaches good moral behaviour and to take responsibility.
  • Confucianism states that you should always be learning new things.
  • The Analects of Confucius is a book of Confucius’s ideas published in 400 BC.
  • The Golden Rule is Confucius’s most famous quote.


  • What was a “shi” family?
    Shi was the middle class – they were educated but not wealthy like nobility.
  • How did Confucius believe people should be promoted?
    People should be employed based on their talent and ability rather than what their social status was.
  • What does Confucianism teach?
    To respect others; be polite, loyal and moral; gain knowledge; and do things in moderation.
  • Why did people follow Confucius?
    Confucius was very knowledgeable, and people wanted to learn about Confucianism.
  • What does the Golden Rule mean?
    You should not do things to other people that you would not want them to do to you.