Confucianism is an ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (孔夫子 551–479 BC). Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements during the Han Dynasty. Following the abandonment of Legalism in China after the Qin Dynasty, Confucianism became the official state ideology of the Han. The disintegration of the Han in the second century C.E. opened the way for the spiritual and otherworldly doctrines of Buddhism and Daoism to dominate intellectual life and to become the ruling doctrines during the Tang dynasty.
In the late Tang, Confucianism absorbed many of these challenging aspects and was reformulated Neo-Confucianism. This reinvigorated form was adopted as the basis of the imperial exams and the core philosophy of the scholar official class in the Song dynasty. Neo-Confucianism developed a sometimes rigid orthodoxy over the following centuries. In popular practice, however, the three doctrines of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism were often melded together. The abolition of the examination system in 1905 marked the end of official Confucianism. The New Culture intellectuals of the early twentieth century blamed Confucianism for China's weaknesses.
They searched for imported doctrines to replace it, such as the "Three Principles of the People" with the establishment of the Republic of China, and then Communism under the People's Republic of China. In the late twentieth century, Confucianism was credited with the rise of the East Asian economy and revived both in the People's Republic and abroad.
The core of Confucianism is humanism, or what the philosopher Herbert Fingarette calls "the secular as sacred." The focus of spiritual concern is this world and the family, not the gods and not the afterlife. Confucianism broadly speaking does not exalt faithfulness to divine will or higher law.
This stance rests on the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor especially self-cultivation and self-creation. Confucian thought focuses on the cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics, the most basic of which are ren, yi, and li. Ren is an obligation of altruism and humaneness for other individuals within a community, yi is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good, and li is a system of norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act within a community. Confucianism holds that one should give up one's life, if necessary, either passively or actively, for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values of ren and yi.
Cultures and countries strongly influenced by Confucianism include mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people, such as Singapore. Although Confucian ideas prevail in these areas, few people identify themselves as Confucian, and instead see Confucian ethics as a complementary guideline for other ideologies and beliefs, including democracy, Marxism, Capitalism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.