Chinese philosopher (551-479 BC). It created a philosophical system followed by more than five million people today.
Considered one of the most important Chinese philosophers, Confucius was born in what is today the Xantung province in northeastern China. His father died when he was only three years old, so he and his mother even had some difficulties. He was a professor and studied history and archeology and even visited Lao Tzu while working at the court archives in Honan Province. Although influenced by Lao Tzu and Taoism, Kung Fu Tzu decided to follow an alternative path. Its philosophy is not so concerned with the afterlife, as Hindu or Taoist, for example, but more concerned with harmonious relations between people, family members or even society.
Following a career as a court philosopher, Kung urged Chinese rulers to "rule by inner virtue" to earn the respect of their subjects and set an example for people to follow. The Chinese sage did not approve of tyranny and believed that the state exists for the benefit of the people, not the other way around. As a writer, Kung compiled poems, stories, and legends and put them together in a series of books that still survive today as classics of Chinese literature. These include the Book of Poems, the Book of History, the Book of Labels, and the Book of Mutations (the I Ching).
After his death, his writings continued to be read and influenced many people. It was eventually discovered by Europeans, who published their works under the Latinized name of Confucius.
Confucianism is today a religion practiced by five million people, most of them in Asia. It ranks sixth among the most followed faiths in the world, although it is more an ethical system than a religion. The principles of Confucianism include, among others, respect for family and society, faithfulness to leaders and deference to superiors, moral and social justice, and supreme virtue of altruism and benevolence.