Confucius (traditionally 28 September 551 BC – 479 BC) was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Periods. His philosophy emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. These values gained prominence in China over other doctrines, such as Legalism or Taoism during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220). Confucius’ thoughts have been developed into a system of philosophy known as Confucianism.

When we seen men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.

Drawing from earlier teachings, among which was the I-Ching, Confucius established a set of moral principles by which a state could be governed. This system answered the needs of his time, for China was in a warring state period of disunity. Later Chinese dynasties would draw heavily from his heritage and establish one of the most well-ordered empires in the history of mankind.

A fundamental thread of Confucius’ precepts was that the government of man and of a state we identical. Thus, a ruler could only govern a country in so far as he could govern himself, and vice versa. Self-knowledge was naturally an integral part of this teaching, alerting the ruler to both his own human nature and that of his subjects.

The Forbidden City in Beijing stands as an architectural testament to the order and hierarchy of Confucius’ percepts, as expressed by the Ming Dynasty of the 16th century. A unique conglomeration of hierarchical buildings, as well as intimate and public spaces, form a miniature world from which the emperor governed his empire.