What was unique about Confucius" ideas was his attempt to add a moral dimension to many accepted ideas, beliefs, and social categories. The major terms are as follows:
1. Shih: Gentleman
The Chinese word translated as gentleman, "Shih", was the term that applied to the lower class of the nobles, the warriors and officials. Confucius added a moral dimension to this term and only used it to apply to people who were worthy moral models.
2. Li: Ritual
The Chinese word for ritual, "Li" was a term used to describe the elaborate rituals and elaborate manners and customs of Chinese nobles. Confucius broadened this concept to incorporate moral propriety. Living up to demands of "Li" now meant doing more than simply following ceremonies by rote, but also doing them with proper reverence. "Li" can mean "proper conduct" in fullest sense.
3. Dao: the Way
Dao of Confucianism is a definition of "the way", differing from that of the Taoism. Confucius believed that a virtuous life would bring people into harmony with the "way" or rather, with the cosmic will of an impersonal heaven.
Confucius" main moral concepts can be divided into a few overarching categories:
1. "Ren" which is often translated as "benevolence" or "human kindness". It meant being conscientious and altruistic. Humanity or "Ren" is what ties one together with another. It is the practical consideration of one human being for another based on a concept of reciprocity. This concept was not an abstract concept removed from daily life, for "Ren" developed out of fulfilling one"s obligations to family and the community. This concept is best signified by what is called the silver rule of Confucianism: "Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you."
2. "Li", or the rites, were to act as the guidelines for proper conduct. They helped to guide someone who may be unsure of what would be the truly "benevolent" act in certain circumstances. They were described as the "code of formal behaviors for stabilizing and disciplining our ever-changing circumstances".
3. "De, or virtue, is the ultimate goal of Confucian thought. Confucius saw virtue as combining the features of "Li" and "Ren". Virtue for him was concrete and determined by action, not contemplation.