Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sep. 28: The Birthday of Confucius

A 1687 Latin translation of Confucius

It's the birthday of classics writer and Chinese philosopher Confucius, 2,567 years young today. (See below)

I don't usually mention birthdays in these stories--they're straightforward Calendar entries--but (a) I couldn't find any events with classics tie-ins (except some I've already mentioned, like Pompey and William the Conqueror) and (b) few people in history have had the effect on culture--ancient and modern--that Confucius has had.

Why do east Asians call themselves family name first, then personal? Confucius. He ordered things from higher to lower, and the family comes before the individual.

Why do east Asians have so many words for family? They can distinguish mother's oldest sister's husband from dad's youngest brother--people we just call "uncle." The same reason: order, hierarchy.

If you accept that the populations of China, Japan, and South Korea were all influenced by Confucian thought (never mind the millions more in the Chinese diaspora), then well over a fifth of the people alive today live in cultures directly affected by his thinking.


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