The dominant philosophy in China, Confucianism is based on the teaching of Confucius. He lived more than 1,000 years before the Song dynasty. His ideas, though, had a dramatic effect on the Song system of government.
A. Confucian Ideas
Confucius’s teachings focused on ethics, or proper behavior, for individuals and
governments. He said that people should conduct their lives according to two basic principles. These principles were ren, or concern for others, and li, or appropriate behavior. Confucius argued that society would function best if everyone followed ren and li.
Confucius thought that everyone had a proper role to play in society. Order was maintained when people knew their place and behaved appropriately. For example, Confucius said that young people should obey their elders and that subjects should obey their rulers.
B. Confucian Ideas
After his death, Confucius’s ideas were spread by his followers, but they were not widely accepted. In fact, the Qin dynasty officially suppressed Confucian ideas and teachings. By the time of the Han dynasty, Confucianism had again come into favor, and Confucianism became the official sate philosophy.
During the Period of Disunion, which followed the Han dynasty, Confucianism was overshadowed by Buddhism as the major tradition in China. Many Chinese people had turned to Buddhism for peace and comfort during those troubled times. In doing so, they largely turned away from Confucian ideas and outlooks.
Later, during the Sui and early Tang dynasties, Buddhism was very influential. Unlike Confucianism, which focused on ethical behavior (related to the rules of conduct or proper behavior), Buddhism stressed a more spiritual outlook that promised escape from suffering. As Buddhism became more popular in China, Confucianism lost some of its influence.
C. Neo - Confucianism
Late in the Tang dynasty, many Chinese historians and scholars again became interested in the