Below you’ll find the miraculous birth story of Confucius, abridged from the version told by Sophia Fahs in her book From Long Ago and Many Lands (Boston: Beacon, 1948), pp. 193-197.
I changed some minor aspects of Fahs’s story. For example, Fahs calls Confucius’ mother the “wife” of Kung, his father — but it’s pretty clear that this young woman was a concubine at best, certainly not a wife of Kung, so I do not use the word wife. Also, I’m not very happy with this story because I don’t think Fahs used the best sources — some day I hope to do some more research and come up with a more accurate telling of the myths surrounding Confucius’s birth. But in the mean time, here’s a story that’s a little long but suitable for use in UU worship services…
The Miracle Birth of Confucius
Last week, we heard the miracle birth story of Buddha. Next week, we’ll hear the miracle birth story of Jesus. We love these stories for their deeper meaning — that each and every child is wonderful and miraculous. And now, here’s the story of the miracle birth of Confucius…
The man who became the father of Confucius lived in China very long ago, and was called Kung. Kung was living in China when Buddha was born in India.
When this story begins, Kung was an older man. As he thought back over the years of his life he knew he ought to feel contented. Yet his one most important wish had never come true. All his nine children were girls, and he wanted a son. But now old Kung was living with a woman who was beautiful and young.
This young woman, the woman who would become the mother of Confucius, also wished for a boy child. She believed that somehow a child is always a gift from heaven. She even climbed to the top of a high mountain to make her wish. Perhaps she felt nearer to heaven, the creator of all life, when she could stand and look up at the wide, blue sky above and then look down on the broad, green earth below.
She returned home and waited patiently week after week. Before long she could feel the baby moving inside her body, and she was happy.
One evening as she was sitting alone in her garden in the dimness of the moonlight, she had a surprising dream. She saw a beautiful little animal coming towards her. What kind of animal was it? The animal’s body shone in the moonlight. Its tail spread out like a fan and on its head was one turned-up horn. Could it really be a Unicorn?
She threw a small silk scarf over the animal’s one horn just to see if it were really there. Yes, the horn was there. The unicorn had in its mouth a long piece of jade. It came closer until she could reach out her hand and take the stone tablet from its mouth. Her hands trembled as she read the words that had been carved into the jade:
“A son of the Great Spirit is to be born. Someday he shall rule the land of Chou as a good and wise King.”
The young woman was frightened. She looked up to ask the Unicorn what the words might mean, but the strange animal was gone. The young woman was left alone in her garden in the moonlight. She awoke trembling with wonder at what she had seen.
Not many weeks after this the longed-for day came. It was evening. Kung and the young woman were waiting for the final moment when their child would be born. In the garden outside the little cottage some of their friends were also waiting and hoping, moment by moment, for the good news.
Then they, too, had a surprise. High above them they saw two great dragons curling their long snake like bodies in and out among the clouds. Their fiery eyes turned this way and that as if they were watching the people on the earth. Said one of the waiting friends:
“Surely these good dragons are keeping guard over the blessed mother and over the child about to be born.”
And beside the two long, fiery-eyed dragons, five old but wondrous men appeared in the sky, walking upon the clouds. Said one of the waiting friends:
“These five old men of the sky are the five immortals who never die. They have come down from the five planets to celebrate the birth of this great child.”
And beside the two long, fiery-eyed dragons, and beside the five old men from the five planets, there appeared also in the sky among the soft clouds five musicians with pipes and harps in their hands, playing wondrous music and singing as they played. The words came down from the sky like the clear ringing of a bell, saying, “A child is born, who shall be a great King, who shall make good laws and shall help people to do the right.”
And at that moment, the child was born.
This is the very old story of the birth of Confucius. Kung-fu-tze, the Chinese call him, meaning Kung the Master, or Kung the Teacher. We say Confucius for short.
But this Chinese boy child of long ago did not become a King. Instead he taught other men how to rule their people wisely. Confucius also taught that being able to rule oneself is more important than ruling others. So Confucius had wise words for everybody, big and little, rich and poor. Even after more than two thousand years millions of Chinese still honor Confucius and follow his teachings. All over the world he is regarded as one of the wisest and greatest teachers who has ever lived.