A tradition of Chinese origin said to have been known in Japan since the 5th century. Confucianism has religious aspects but is mainly a philosophical, ethical, and political teaching. In Japan it assumed particular importance during the 6th to 9th centuries and from the Edo period (1600-1868) through the early Shōwa period (1926-1989). Confucius (Kong Qiu) was a teacher and philosopher of the Zhou dynasty (1027-256 BC) in China. He believed that the ideal social order should be achieved not by the enforcement of law but by the moral example of those in authority. The source of each individual's morality lay in filial piety. In Japan, Confucian ideas played particular importance in the Meiji government's efforts to establish a national identity in the form of State Shinto. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)
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