Founded by Kong Fu Zi (ca. 551‒ 479 BCE), known in the west as Confucius. Confucius concerned himself with how society should be governed, what constitutes an ideal ruler, and how people should behave by cultivating virtue. He stressed the importance of relationships, using the family as a model, where individuals obeyed their elders from one’s father and elder brothers up to the head of state. Rather than controlling people through harsh laws or coercion, Confucius stressed education as the vital tool in developing appropriate behavior that would result in an orderly, virtuous society. It is not known how many of Confucius’ ideas can be attributed to him, however Confucianism became the dominant state ideology, with some exceptions, for most of the later dynasties that ruled China up until the last century.
Meng Zi (Mencius) (371‒ 289 BCE) was the most famous follower of Confucius, who upheld the master’s ideals against the competing philosophies listed below. He emphasized benevolence and the important concept of filial piety, and is also known for the idea that people have a right to rebel against tyrannical rulers.