Confucius: Genius of the Ancient World

Confucius: Genius of the Ancient World

Series 1



Historian Bettany Hughes concludes her philosophical ramble by exploring the innovative ideas of Confucius. At the heart of his teachings is the virtue of “ren”. Essentially this is “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, which, when combined with the practice of ancient rituals and traditions to shape behaviour (basically to encourage courtesy, compassion, benevolence and humanity), should bring harmony and balance to our chaotic lives. Or at least to the male world – he had no time for women, according to Bettany.

Although Mao’s Cultural Revolution attempted to destroy Confucius’s legacy, many of his principles – the value of education, heritage, virtue and ethics – survive in China today.


Bettany Hughes' series exploring the lives and teachings of influential ancient philosophers draws to a close with a profile of Confucius, who is credited as the first Chinese thinker to take a systematic philosophical approach to issues of social, political and ethical importance. Born during the chaotic Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history, Confucius believed that harmony could be promoted and achieved through the examples of sage rulers. He was also a innovative teacher, and tried to instill his principles of moral excellence in China's elite, but died without seeing his vision for his nation come to pass. However, his philosophies would eventually form the bedrock of Chinese culture, with many of his principles of tradition surviving to this day.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Bettany Hughes
Executive Producer Mike Smith
Series Producer Rob Cowling