Chronological Highlights of Confucius’ Life: A Summary                  By You-Sheng Li


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551 BC            Confucius was born. Confucius’ father was a low ranking military officer.  Confucius’ parents had prayed to gods at a nearby hill to let them have a son, and so they named their son  after the hill they had prayed, hill. Confucius’s full name was 孔丘, khon chiu.


549 BC            Confucius’ father died. Confucius’ mother took Confucius and his brother to live with her own family inside the capital of State Lu.


537 BC            15 years old. The Chinese count the number of calendar years one has lived through as one’s age, which is usually one year older than the Western age that represents how long one has lived in terms of year. Confucius once said, “At fifteen, my heart set on learning.”


535 BC            Confucius’s mother died.


            Lord Ji invited all low ranking aristocrats, shi to a dinner. When Confucius came for the invitation, he was not allowed in as his status as a low ranking aristocrat was not recognized.


533 BC            Married to a girl who was native of State Song.


532 BC            Confucius’ son was born. The duke of State Lu, Zhao, sent a carp as a present. Confucius named his son after the carp, li.


Started to work as a manager for Lord Ji. Confucius managed granary and storage houses for Lord Ji.


531 BC            Confucius worked as a manager to manage horses, oxen, and other big animals.


522 BC            Confucius started the first private school in Chinese history, teaching writing, mathematics, poetry, archery, driving, and music. Schools had been run by the government before Confucius’s time.


            Duke Jing of State Qi visited State Lu, and he asked to meet with Confucius. Duke Jing asked Confucius why the remote state Qin was able to become a hegemony state, and Confucius offered some insights on this issue.


518 BC            Some notable lords of State Lu sent their sons to Confucius for education.


            Confucius travelled to the capital of China and met Lao Tzu there.


517 BC            Political crisis in State Lu, and the duke, Zhao, ran away on exile in State Qi. After the crisis, Confucius also left State Lu and came to State Qi, looking for a job opportunity there.


516 BC            Duke Jing of State Qi asked Confucius for ideas how to run the state. Confucius gave the famous political principle: “Let the ruler be a ruler, the minister be a minister, the father be a father, and the son be a son.” Duke Jing had the intention to offer Confucius an important position but his prime minister opposed to this appointment.


            Confucius spent three months listening to the ancient classic music, and he was so enthralled that he lost his taste for any delicious food.


515 BC            Returned to State Lu.


            A famous sage figure, Jiza, died, and Confucius went to his funeral.


513 BC            State Jin cast a huge metal vessel, ding with criminal codes and law inscribed on it. Confucius opposed to it, and said, “State Jin is about to perish, and it has lost its way.”


510 BC            Duke Zhao died on exile in State Qi, and his brother became the next duke of State Lu, Ding.


504 BC            Confucius dedicated to his private school, and the numbers of his students became more and more. Many students came from far away. 


            Yanghu, a powerful politician, urged Confucius to work for the government but Confucius did not give a clear reply.


502 BC            Gongshan rebelled and controlled a city and its surrounding area. He asked Confucius to be his minister. Confucius had the intention to accept the offer but his student, Zilu, stopped Confucius.


501 BC            Worked as the governor of the capital area of State Lu, and Confucius accomplished a good deal within one year. The capital area became orderly and became the model for the rest of State Lu.


500 BC            Appointed as the Security Minister but worked as the prime minister of State Lu. Confucius accompanied Duke Ding of State Lu to meet the duke of State Qi. Confucius acted bravely and properly on this formal occasion that State Qi returned several cities and towns to State Lu.


498 BC            As the acting prime minister of State Lu, Confucius planned to destroy the walls of three major cities in order to prevent the local power from rebelling against the state. But he succeeded only on two of the three but met invincible resistance from the third city.


497 BC            State Qi gave 80 beautiful girls to State Lu, and the duke and his ministers indulged in entertainment. They failed to hold a court meeting for three days in a roll.


            Confucius and his disciples left State Lu for their fourteen year travelling over many states in hope to put their political ideology, Confucianism, on practice. They entered their neighbouring state, State Wei, in 497 BC when Confucius was fifty five. They were welcomed by Duke Ling of State Wei and stayed there for several months. When they left State Wei on the way to State Chen in October, they were surrounded by hostile armed peasants for several days twice and they had no choice but returned to the capital of State Wei.


496 BC            The wife of Duke Ling of State Wei met with Confucius. Since this beautiful young wife had a licentious reputation, Confucius’ disciple Zilu was unhappy with this meeting. Confucius had to take an oath before his disciples saying, “If I have done something indecent, the Heavens will condemn me! The Heavens will condemn me!”



493 BC            Confucius and his disciples left State Wei, and visited States Cao and Song. The military leader of State Song said that he would try to harm them, Confucius and his disciples had to travel in disguise.


492 BC            Confucius and his disciples visited States Zheng and Chen. In the State Chen, the local people said, “He (Confucius) looked like a homeless dog!” Confucius replied, “Yes, I do, and I do like one.”


491 BC            Confucius and his disciples were in State Cai.


490 BC            Confucius and his disciples were in State Chu, which would become a major state in the Warring States Period from 476 to 221 BC. Confucius met and talked to a famous governor, Ye.


489 BC            During a violent conflict among three neighbouring states, Confucius and his disciples were surrounded by hostile soldiers for several days. The only food available to them was grass or weed.


488 BC            Confucius and his disciples were once again in State Wei.


485 BC            Confucius’ wife died.


484 BC            One of Confucius disciples led the army of State Lu to fight against an invasion by its neighbouring state, Qi, which was much larger than State Lu. State Lu won this war. This disciple said that it was Confucius who taught him the knowledge and skills to win this war. Confucius and his disciples were invited to come back to their native state, Lu. They were home again after 14 years travelling abroad.


483 BC            Confucius was still keen to work for the government but State Lu refused to hire him. Confucius once again dedicated to education and compiling ancient Chinese records.


            Confucius’ only son died.


482 BC            Confucius’ favourite disciple, Yanhui, died. Confucius felt very sad.


481 BC            In an inside tumult of the neighbouring state, Qi, the duke was killed by his minister. Confucius asked State Lu to send troops to condemn the violation of the rites, and his request was declined.


            Confucius stopped compiling ancient records.


480 BC            Confucius’ loyal disciple, Zilu, was killed in a violent conflict, and again Confucius felt very sad upon the death.


479 BC            Confucius fell sick in April and died soon after at the age of seventy three.


            Many of his disciples lived beside Confucius’ tomb for three years as the funeral of the time required. One disciple, Zigong, lived beside Confucius’ tomb for six years. More than a hundred families decided to live there forever, and formed the town, named after Confucius, Kongli, or the Confucius Neighbourhood.