Confucianism is not a religion in the strict sense. It is more a system of doctrine and philosophy first developed by a man named K'ung-fu-tzu, whose name in the Latinized form is Confucious. This man, who lived from 551-479 BCE, was concerned with ethical and moral principles. There are no specific rituals and practices -believers in Taoism, Buddhism often follow Confucian principles. Over the many years since Confucious's death, his teachings have become ingrained, many believe, into the Chinese character. While he failed at a political career, he succeeded as a teacher and ethicist.
Confucius was born in 551 BCE in the State of Lu. His family's fortunes declined when his father died when Confucious was 15, but that did not stop him from dedicating his life to study and learning. He wished to apply his ideas to politics and was briefly succeesful, but had a major disagreement with authorities and was forced to leave. He travelled throughout China for over 10 years. At the age of 68 he was finally welcomed back to his home state, treated as a scholar but was given no political power. He died at the age of 73.
By the accounts written by his followers, Confucious was kind, modest and courteous. He believed education should be open to all, male and female, rich and poor. He believed in tolerance and honesty and the importance of being a member of a community with its web of relationships. According to Richard Holloway in his book "A Little History of Religion" Confucious believed in a form of "The Golden Rule"-"Do to others as you would like them to do to you." Everyone should treat others with understanding, sympathy and patience. Confucious was interested in life on Earth, with the here and now. But he was concerned about the afterlife in one sense-a reverance for ancestors. The bonds of society extended even beyond the grave. This reverance for those who lived before us and who are still bonded by affection and blood is still of great importance in Chinese culture.
Confucianism was further developed by scholars such as Mencius and Xun Zi. The "Analects" are the most revered texts in the Confucian tradition Over the years, Confucian thought was influenced by Buddhism and Taoism. Its influence over politics has waxed and waned over the years. The 1949 communist victory in China led to the weakening of some Confucian traditions. Be that as it may, there are still followers of Confucianism and its influence can still be seen in modern China.