With splendid features, Chinese Culture is one of the world's oldest cultures, which can trace back to thousands of years ago. The area in which the Chinese Culture is dominant covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between provinces, cities, and even towns as well. Important components of Chinese Culture include philosophy, religion, Chinese characters and language, visual arts (such as painting, calligraphy, sculpture, crafts...), ceramics, architecture, music, literature, cuisine, tea and medicine system, martial arts.
Chinese literature has a long past. The earliest classic work in Chinese, "I Ching" or "Book of Changes" dates back to around 1000 BC. A flourishing of philosophy during the Warring States period (770-221 BC) produced such noteworthy works as "Confucius's Analects", the most important book in Confucianism, and Lao Zi's "Tao Te Ching", the most important book in Taoism.
In Chinese history, most social values are derived from Confucianism and Taoism. Confucianism was the official philosophy throughout most of Imperial China's history, and mastery of Confucian texts was the primary criterion for entry into the imperial bureaucracy. Since the Sui Dynasty (581–618 AD), ordinary people can get into government as scholar-bureaucrats, become the "top" social class by passing Imperial examinations.
Confucius (551 – 479 BC) is a great thinker, educator, sage and founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought, Confucianism. He was born in a poor but aristocratic family of Kong in the Lu State (in Shandong Province now) under Zhou dynasty and was given the name Qiu. His father died soon after his birth, leaving his upbringing to his mother. He held a minor government post as a taxes collector before he reached the age of 20. Then he became a teacher in his early twenties, and proved to be his calling in life. His mind and heart sought out to teach new things to restore order throughout his state. In later years, he advanced to become minister of justice in his home state. But he held these positions only for short periods because of conflicts with his superiors.
He spent many years wandering from state to state, attempting to implement his political and social reforms. He devoted the last five years of this life to writing and editing what have become Confucian classics. Throughout his life, he was best known as a teacher. When he died at the age of 72, he had taught a total of 3000 disciples who carried on his teaching. Confucianism, the philosophical system founded on the teaching of Confucius, dominated Chinese social and political life for most of Chinese history and largely influenced the cultures of Korea, Japan and some other countries.
Confucius himself had a moral and political teaching: to love others; to honor one’s parents; to do what is right instead of what is of advantage; to practice “mutually beneficial (reciprocity)”; to rule by moral example instead of by force and violence; and so forth.
Two doctrines of Confucius are particularly important. The First is Benevolence (Ren 仁). Confucius considered benevolence as something people cultivate within themselves before it can affect their relations with others. The best way to approach benevolence is putting the self in the position of the other person can then treating the other accordingly. One Confucius’ saying best expresses this idea:”Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.” Confucius also though that sons owed absolute obedience to their fathers, wives to their husbands, and subjects to their kings. Benevolence is the highest virtue according to the Confucian way of life. If this principle could be put into practice, then mankind would achieve peace and harmony.
Ritual Propriety (Li 礼, Proper Rite) is the second doctrine. Confucius emphasized right behavior in one’s relations; man should act in accordance with propriety. Thus one behaves ritualistically with the other. Such behavior is called Ritual Propriety （礼); it refers to social and aesthetic norms that guide people in their social relations. Sage or superior people, those who have mastered the li, are the models of behavior from which the mass of people learn. Ideally, the ruler should himself be such a model and should appoint only those who are models of virtue to positions of prominence.
Confucian ethics are described as humanistic. This ethical philosophy can be practiced by all the members of a society. Confucian ethics is characterized by the promotion of virtues, encompassed by the Five Constants, or the Wu Chang (五常), extrapolated by Confucian scholars during the Han Dynasty. The Five Constants are: Ren (仁, benevolence, humaneness), Yi (义, righteousness or justice), Li (礼, proper rite), Zhi (智, knowledge), Xin (信, integrity). These are accompanied by the classical Si Zi (四字), that singles out four virtues, one of which is included among the Five Constants: Zhong (忠, loyalty), Xiao (孝, filial piety), Jie (节, contingency), Yi (义, righteousness).
The teachings of Confucius are contained in the Analects, a collection of his sayings as remembered by his students. They were further developed by philosophers such as Mencius and Xun Zi.
Confucius was not a religious thinker like Buddha, Christ or Mohammed, but a social reformer. He edited, compiled or wrote the Five Classics and the Four Books which contain the morals and philosophy that the Chinese people have followed consistently for the past 2500 years.