Named for at 6th century B.C. Chinese teacher and thinker, K'ung Fu-tzu, whose Latinized name is Confucius, Confucianism is one of the three religions that form the traditional heritage of China (together with Taoism and Buddhism). The Confucian canon rests of a collection of "classic" writings including The Book of Changes (I Ching); the Book of Odes (Shih Ching); the Book of History (Shu Ching) the Book of Rites (Li Chi), the Book of Music (Yueh Ching) and the Spring and Autumn Annals (Ch'un-ch'iu).

Literally speaking, it is difficult to classify Confucianism as either religion or philosophy. Rather it is a collection of principles, precepts, axioms and adages to guide practitioners toward the "middle way" (tao) of living. Unlike its close relative, Taoism, Confucianism stressed the ways in which people can live together harmoniously and develop a just and orderly society. The "higher good" comes not from the privileges of birth but of the practice of moderate, beneficial and generous behavior, and of service to others. Attainment comes through education and formal behavior. Confucianism does not favor military furor, but clerical patience. There were no priests nor temples. The only "sin" was a breach of the rule of piety towards one's parents, one's superior, one's homeland, one's chief of state, one's son or daughter. Nevertheless, under the Han Dynasty (first century BC), Confucianism was given the role of a state religion, becoming the official ideology of China, and thus it remained until 1911.

Some six million people call themselves Confucianists today, and they are nearly all found in China.