The story of Confucianism does not begin with Confucius. Nor was Confucius the founder of Confucianism in the sense that the Buddha was the founder of Buddhism and Jesus Christ the founder of Christianity. Rather, Confucius considered himself a transmitter who consciously tried to reanimate the old in order to attain the new.
He proposed revitalizing the meaning of the past by advocating a ritualized life. Confucius’s love of antiquity was motivated by his strong desire to understand why certain life forms and institutions, such as reverence for ancestors, human-centred religious practices, and mourning ceremonies, had survived for centuries. His journey into the past was a search for roots, which he perceived as grounded in humanity’s deepest needs for belonging and communicating.
He had faith in the cumulative power of culture. The fact that traditional ways had lost vitality did not, for him, diminish their potential for regeneration in the future. In fact, Confucius’s sense of history was so strong that he saw himself as a conservationist responsible for the continuity of the cultural values and the social norms that had worked so well for the idealized civilization of the Western Zhou dynasty.