What Is Confucianism AP World History?

Confucianism is a philosophy that originated in ancient China and has greatly influenced Chinese culture and society. It is named after its founder, Confucius, who lived during the 5th century BCE.

Confucianism has been studied extensively in AP World History as it is considered one of the major philosophical and ethical systems of the world. Let’s take a closer look at what Confucianism entails.

Origins of Confucianism

Confucianism was founded by Confucius, who was a teacher, politician, and philosopher. He lived during a time of political instability in China and believed that the key to restoring order was through education and moral values. He emphasized the importance of respect for authority, filial piety (respect for one’s parents), and self-cultivation.

Core Beliefs of Confucianism

One of the core beliefs of Confucianism is the concept of ren, which can be translated as benevolence or humaneness. This refers to the idea that individuals should strive to be kind and compassionate towards others.

Another important concept in Confucianism is li, which refers to proper behavior or etiquette in social situations. Confucius believed that by practicing li, individuals could create a harmonious society.

The Five Relationships

Another important aspect of Confucianism is the idea of five key relationships: ruler-subject, father-son, older brother-younger brother, husband-wife, and friend-friend. These relationships are hierarchical and have specific roles and responsibilities attached to them. For example, rulers are expected to act justly towards their subjects while subjects are expected to be loyal to their ruler.

Influence on Chinese Society

Confucianism has had a profound influence on Chinese society throughout history. It has shaped social norms and values, education, and government systems.

Confucianism influenced the civil service examination system, which was used to select officials for the imperial government. This system emphasized Confucian values and knowledge, which ensured that those in power were well-educated and morally upright.


In conclusion, Confucianism is a philosophy that has had a significant impact on Chinese culture and society. Its emphasis on moral values, proper behavior, and respect for authority has helped shape Chinese social norms and values. As such, it is an important subject of study in AP World History as it provides insight into one of the major philosophical systems of the world.