He was born into a soldier family in the Lu state (located in the south of what is now Shandong Province) in what is known as the Spring and Autumn Period a period in Chinas history in which the people were ruled under a feudal system (also known as the Warring States period). Kings of the Zhou Dynasty had only nominal power, the real power was held by twelve wealthy feudal princes who fought amongst themselves as they sought to consolidate their own power.
Not much is known about the life of Confucius. The year of his birth and death are not really known. What has been pieced together is that his father was Shulianghe, ruler of a small fiefdom, who fought in at least a couple of battles during this warlike time. His mother, Yan Zhengzai, was Shulianghes concubine, not wife. When he died, his mother took the three year old boy and fled. The two then lived in poverty compared with their former life.
Despite their poverty, Confucius was able to become a scholar. His mother died when he was seventeen, from a brief illness. Confucius would marry three years later, at age twenty, to a young woman from the Qiguan family of the Song state.
Although the marriage
was a happy one, Confucius abandoned his bride and set out to discover
himself and form a new philosophy. He wished to bring peace to China by
reviving the perfect virtue of Huaxia (Chinese civilization).
Confucius philosophy, now called Confucianism, was centered around morality in both personal and government relationships, the correctness of social relationships, as well as justice and sincerity. His philosophy vied with that of other doctrines such as Legalism and Taoism until it took hold among the ruling class. Confucianism, and its rituals, was a philosophy that ruled China for over 1500 years.
In the 1600s, Italian Jesuit and Oriental scholar Matteo Ricci introduced the knowledge Confucius and Confucianism to Europe (and indeed, was the one who Latinized his name to "Confucius.")
may be read today in the Analects of Confucius, a collection of aphorisms
which were compiled many years after his death.