Confucius—“Master Kung” (551–479 BCE), the Chinese thinker and social philosopher—originated teachings that have deeply influenced Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese thought and life over many centuries. His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, justice, and appropriateness in social relationships. In time these values gained prominence in China over other doctrines, such as Taoism and even Buddhism. His thoughts later developed into a system of philosophy known as Confucianism.
Today there remain many mysteries about the actual circumstances of his life, and the development of his influence has yet to be encapsulated for the general reader. But with Michael Nylan and Thomas Wilson’s Lives of Confucius, many mysteries are laid to rest about his historical life, and fascinating details emerge about how his mythic stature evolved over time, right up to the present day.