Confucius was an ancient Chinese philosopher and sage born in 551 B.C, in present day Shandong Province, and died in 479 B.C. at the age of 72. Specifically, Confucius was born near the city of Qufu in what was then known as the State of Luo. While it is certain that Confucius, also known in China as Kong Qiu, was a native of Luo, his lineage is uncertain. After holding various positions of the state throughout his lifetime, Confucius attained the position of the Justice Minister in Luo at the age of 53. He became an important character in the social reform being led by the state until the unfortunate lack of resolve demonstrated by the Duke of Luo led Confucius to leave the state and his position in order to find a more suitable place for reform. Before his death Confucius returned to the State of Luo, and today his descendents continue to live in Qufu, over 2,500 years after his death, in the Kong family mansion that is located next to the Confucius temple. To this day descendents of Confucius continue to be buried in the family cemetery, located in the Confucius woods. Over two hundred thousand individuals rest inside the cemetery walls.
What is known about the life of Confucius is primarily found in the Shih chi, written by Ssu-ma Ch’ien around the beginning of the first century B.C. While the information in this biography is standard, historians now question its validity. Many of the stories concerning Confucius, perhaps even during his lifetime, had the tendency to be embellished. For this reason, Ssu-ma Ch’ien, while writing the biography, tended to include all information that could not be disproved. In this way, even if stories were incorrect, he would err on the side of caution, keeping tradition and not ridding the world of a story that could be valid. Due to no specific texts being directly attributed to Confucius, many writings are considered to have been written by his disciples. However, some speculate that Confucius wrote the Five Classics: Classic of Changes, Classic of Poetry, Classic of Rites, Classic of History, and Spring and Autumn Annals, after returning to the State of Luo at the age of 68. Confucius’s teachings were somewhat easily transmitted in his time because a large number of the individuals he taught went on to hold higher positions in various states and therefore pass on his political, social, religious, and ethical ideals.