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Understanding Confucianism

Confucius taught a way of life in which morality occupies a supreme position. Morality is shown to have no connexion whatsoever with self-interest. In fact the demands of morality on a man are categorical. If need be, he has to sacrifice even his life in doing what is right.

Confucius' view concerning the actual duties a man has was traditional. A man is born into certain relationships and as a result has certain duties. For instance, he has a duty of loyalty to his lord, a filial duty to his parents, a duty to help his friends, and a duty of common humanity towards his fellow beings. These duties are not of equal stringency. A man's duty to his lord and parents comes before his duty to his friends and fellow human beings.

It was Confucius' belief that if everyone lived up to his duties according to his station political order would prevail.

--from D. C. Lau's introduction to Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, Penguin Classics