China is not yet unified in the Spring and Autumn Period. The country-to-be is a patchwork of feudal kingdoms and states, constantly vying with each other for supremacy and terriorial advantage. The kingdom of Lu is typical. The ruler of Lu invites Kong Qiu into the court as a trusted adviser, and appoints him the court’s Minister of Rituals. In court, Kong Qiu demonstrates the effecacy of his ethics and his own tactical brillance by regaining Lu’s control over three cities lost in battle to the Qi kingdom three decades earlier. But Kong Qiu is outmaneuvereed by the ruler of Qi, who bribes the ruler of Lu to demote his minster and send him into exile. Kong Qiu sorrowfully leaves his family and begins a new life as a wandering teacher.
Kong Qiu and his disciples suffer great hardships as they wander in search of a new home. Ji-Sun Fei finds Kong Qiu and brings a gift from his dying father, a jade ring, symbolizing his unbrokjen link with his homeland Lu. Kong Qiu agrees to return to Lu, but only as a teacher, he will not involve himself in politics. He is true to his word, and he sees out his days working on his scrolls, editing poems and chronicling history.
The great sage and philosopher Confucius lived in the 6th century B.C., at a time when China was still a patchwork of feudal states vying with each other for supremacy. The Zhou Dynasty was tottering, incapable of unifying the various kingdoms, and there were incessant local wars over land and power. Confucius was born in the kingdom of Lu and rose to serve in its government. His skillfully engineered a peace with aggressive neighboring states and brought three dominant local clans under control. But his brilliance as a thinker and tactician was not enough to save him from being exiled by his political enemies, and he spent many years wandering and teaching a band of loyal disciples. His followers transcribed his lectures, collected as The Analects of Confucius, a volume which has been in print for well over 200 years.
The man we know as Confucius (a Latinized version of Kong Fuzi – “Venerable Master Kong”) was born Kong Qiu in 551 B.C., the son of a declining aristocrat in the kingdom of Lu. His early life was frugal. The world around him was collapsing, and he had radical, innovative ideas for reforming and stabilizing it. Enjoying the confidence of the ruler of Lu, he is promoted from Mayor of Zhongdu to Minister of Rituals in the court and begins to apply his principle of civility in everything from diplomatic relations with warlike neighboring kingdoms to domestic relations within the family. After a series of diplomatic triumphs he is promoted again to become Interior Minister. His ambitious plan to curb the power of Lu’s three dominant clans succeeds at first, and he is equally triumphant in outwitting the renegade general who leads an army against the Lu court. But the head of Qi clan seduces the ruler of Lu with gold, horses and women and persuades him to send Confucius into exile. Stripped of his official title, the sage sorrowfully leaves his wife and children behind and embarks on a new life as a wanderer. He is surprised and moved when members of his loyal retinue opt to join him in his travels.
Their life as wanderers is not easy. Confucius withstands both temptations and hardships, and is more than once forced to flee when another local war breaks out. Eventually, many years later, he is invited back to Lu, once again threatened by a political coup. But he agrees to return only as a teacher, refusing to involve himself in politics, and spends his declining years studying and collating the classics. History records that he died a disappointed man, but his work outlived the “Spring and Autumn Period” in which he lived and echoed through the dynasties to become the very bedrock of Chinese civilization. This film tells the story of the turbulent life and stirring times of the greatest sage and teacher ever known.