Confucius: Words of Wisdom

A Page from The Analects
A Page from The Analects

Confucius-1

Confucius-2

Confucius-2

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This is an interesting biography of Confucius that manages within a short compass (45 mins) to cover most of the salient features of his life story, including the legendary parts also.

The film is somewhat of a misnomer as there is not much about his sayings and teachings, but is mainly about his life story.

He was born around the same time as the Siddhartha Gautama, but in very different circumstances, being almost certainly born out of wedlock to a concubine.

He was apparently also quite ugly and ungainly and after his Father died when he was aged 3, his Mother had to leave the household and they lived a life of poverty.

His Mother however encouraged him in his studies, and he came to give a very similar teaching to the Buddha: it is not by birth than one is a Superior Person (read: Brahmana) it is by one’s style of life.

Another parallel is the teaching of the Golden Rule in its negative formulation: it is given in the Analects (XV.24) thus:

Zi gong (a disciple of Confucius) asked: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?” The Master replied: “How about ‘shu’ [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?”

Compare the Suttanipāta verse 705:

Knowing that as I am so are others and as are others so am I, harm none or have them harmed.

Confucius managed to gather a large group of disciples round himself, but he was never able to gain real influence in the Chinese Governmental system or make the reforms that he wanted, and he died an old man who had deemed that he had failed in his mission.

There is a mixture of styles in the film, with unspeaking actors playing the roles of the characters being narrated about, but the main story is told against a backdrop of beautiful paintings and etchings, some of which I have included on the left.

Although it only touches the surface of its subject, still it manages to convey something of the life and times of this great teacher, whose message is still alive and vibrant throughout Asia today.

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