Philosopher, Teacher, Reformer.
To many people, Confucius is no more than the setup to a one-line joke. Such as, Confucius says, "War does not determine who's right. War determines who's left." Or, Confucius says, "Man with one chopstick go hungry." Few have actually heard or read any of his teachings. Yet the truth and importance of his words resonate today when they are heard, because Confucius" teachings developed in reaction to the times in which he lived - and our times are very much like his. That's why Confucianism is still significant.
Confucius was a philosopher not a religious leader. Nor did he claim any special divine status (nor was any divine status claimed for him). He was a relatively ordinary person; his family was from the lesser aristocracy that had fallen on extremely hard times when he was born in 551 B.C. in the province of Lu. He was born into the family of K"ung and was given the name Ch"iu; in later life he was called "Master Kung"; K"ung Fu-tzu, from which the Latin form, Confucius, is derived. He began a startlingly successful early political career as a young man, rising quickly in the administrative ranks, but fell out of favor fast. He turned to teaching instead, where he received much praise for his natural talent for brilliant teaching. His students recorded these teachings and this is what comes down to us as the Analects.
Since he lived in a war-torn society, Confucius was largely concerned with improving government and society. He was convinced that the problem with government and society was a lack of virtue. The qualities Confucius considered virtuous are: sincerity and a willingness to learn, minimal desire for material things, and loyalty. Other factors important in being virtuous included self-cultivation, extensive knowledge of rituals and poetry, humility, and a good grasp on how to conduct oneself when dealing with other people.