Confucius was a Chinese philosopher who is one of the central figures in the history of Chinese thought. For more than two thousand years, Confucianism was the central ideology of the Chinese state until it was officially abandoned in the 20th century. His thought remains highly influential on modern Chinese beliefs and practices.
While many details of his biography are unclear, he was reportedly born in the middle of the 6th century BCE. Despite his lowly birth, Confucius is supposed to have risen to the position of Justice Minister in the state of Lu. During this period, he began to develop his beliefs into a systematic body of thought. After resigning his post, he then spent some years traveling throughout China and teaching his beliefs. He then returned home and began the process of transmitting his ideas to his students and writing them down in a series of books known as the "Five Classics."
Modern scholars do not believe that Confucius himself wrote any of the texts that are traditionally attributed to him. However, these texts most likely do reflect many of his particular teachings, though they were only codified and written down after his death. The primary tenets of Confucianism emphasize the cultivation of personal virtue, paying proper respect to one's elders and respecting social customs and rituals. Confucius taught that people should practice proper behavior towards the other members of their families and their communities, and that doing so would have positive results for society as a whole.
After the end of the Qin Dynasty, Confucianism became the official ideology of the Chinese state until the 20th century. A proper understanding of the Confucian texts was critical to success on the civil service examinations which Chinese officials had to take. While Confucianism was attacked by the Communists after their conquest of China, the ideas of Confucius still profoundly influence modern Chinese culture.