Confucius’ thought is rich and profound, mainly consists of the theories of benevolence？仁，,
Great Harmony？大同，, rites (礼) and the doctrine of the mean？中庸，, covering various fields
of social sciences, such as philosophy, sociology, ethics, education and political science. 1.
Confucius’ thought of Benevolence
Benevolence is the nucleus and the foundation of Confucius’ thought. It contains various connotations. The first and the general connotation of benevolence is “to love the people”. “To
love the people” embodies the spirit of humanitarianism that reflects human nature. According to Confucius, “to love the people” means to love all people, no matter what kind of social status they maintain.
The connotation of benevolence can be understood from three aspects: family, government and one’s self-cultivation.
Filial piety and fraternal duty are the moral norms to which Confucius attached great importance. They take an important position in Confucius’ theory of benevolence. To love the people, one should, first of all, love his parents, brothers, and sisters, and his family members. If one does not love his parents, it is absolutely impossible for him to love other people.
“Benevolent government” is an extension of Confucius’ ides of benevolence. It is Confucius’ social and political ideal he pursued all his life. When talking of how the ruler should govern his country, he said, “In ruling a state of one thousand war-chariots, the ruler should attend strictly
to business, punctually observe his promises, economize in expenditure(花费), show affection to
his subjects, and use labor of peasant only in the slack(萧条的) season of the year. (道千乘之国！
敬事而信！节用而爱人！使民以时)” What Confucius said is of great realistic significance today.
According to Confucius, to love the people one must be benevolent. To be benevolent, one must pay attention to self-cultivation, and overcome selfishness. He said, “If you yourself desire establishment, then help others to get establishment; if you yourself want success, then help others to attain success.？己欲立而立人！己欲达而达人，” And “ Never do to others what you
wouldn’t like them to do to you.？己所不欲！勿施于人，”
2. Confucius’ thought of Great Harmony
“Great harmony” is the highest realm of Confucius’ social ideal. It is the blueprint of his idealized society. He described, “In the ideal society of Great Harmony, the world belongs to the
public. The virtuous and competent are selected. Faithfulness is fostered and good neighborliness is cultivated. People do not only love their own parents or care for their own children. The aged will have their homes, the middle-aged will find their use and the youngsters are well-bred. All solitary persons such as widows and widowers, the deformed and diseased, adults without children or children without parents, have a place to live in and are taken good care of. All men have their positions; all women each have their home. It is hateful to lay goods aside wastefully and unnecessary to hide for oneself. It is also hateful to make no efforts of one’s own and unnecessary to make efforts for oneself. Consequently, conspiracies are prevented, theft and robbery are stopped, and there is no need to shut the outdoor of a house. This is the society of Great Harmony. ？大道之行也！天下为公。选贤与能！讲信修睦。故人不独亲其亲！不独子
Though Confucius’ society of great harmony is a kind of utopia, his good wish makes people strongly desire it. His wish embodies the fundamental interests of the common people and their expectation. So his idea of great harmony will encourage later generations to fight for the realization of an ideal society, and help promote social development.
3. Confucius’ thought of Rites(礼)
Rites were systems and standards of the patriarchal(父权制的) hierarchical society. What
was emphasized by Rites was the order of the noble and humble positions and the order of the aged and the young. From Confucius ethical point of view, Rites were considered to be standards of human conduct which embodied the outward restrictions of society to human beings. Confucius regarded them as the most important elements in social and political life.
4. The doctrine of the Mean
The doctrine of the Mean belongs to the philosophical category indicating the limit, rang and sphere of things. It opposes “going beyond” and “falling short”, but puts stress on “moderation”. In general, the doctrine of the mean stresses on doing things moderately and properly. It suggests that when confronted with two extremes, one should take the middle course. Confucius said, “To go too far is as bad as not to go far enough.？过犹不及，”
The doctrine of the mean is characteristic of flexibility. That is to say, the doctrine of the mean should be used in a flexible way. Conditions are always changing, in a certain condition, a deed or word may be considered proper, but may not in another condition. So under different conditions people need to adjust their ways of doing things.
5. Confucius’ thought on education
Confucius’ educational aim is to train and cultivate people who have both ability and moral integrity, and will practice benevolent government. These people can make the country and society peaceful and prosperous. So he took the philosophy of “Benevolence” as the basis of his
educational thought, and attached importance to moral education.
Confucius’ instructing contents had a wide coverage, including: morality, knowledge, physical culture, art and aesthetics(美学), rites and music, diplomacy, medicine and health care,
politics and economy, military affairs and law, etc. He took moral education as the core of his instruction and the instructions of other contents were all round it.
With regard of the objects of education, Confucius put forward the principle of “In
instruction there is no separation into categories.” He opened up a new path in education. He considered that all those could be instructed should enjoy equal chances of being instructed. If anyone could, regardless of his wealth, rank, bring Confucius a little present, he could be enrolled.
In his long educational practice, Confucius accumulated a wealth of teaching experiences, summed up a whole set of effective teaching principles and methods which are the most important part in Confucius’ thought. First, the combination of learning and practice; second, the combination of learning, thinking and doing; third, the attitude of seeking truth from facts; fourth, he initiated the elicitation method of teaching; fifth, he instructed his disciples in accordance with their aptitude.
His examples and teaching have cast great impact on the development of human society, having not only a far-reaching historical significance, but also an important and realistic significance. In 1988, the Nobel Prize winners made the assertion in Paris that if mankind is to
survive it must go back 25 centuries in time to tap the wisdom of Confucius.