There are several similarities between the Chinese philosophy of Confucianism and the religion of Buddhism. However, there are some important differences as well. This chart compares the two belief systems and their practices.

Comparison chart

Buddhism versus Confucianism comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartBuddhismConfucianism
Place of worship Buddhist monasteries, temples, shrines. Temple.
Place of origin Indian subcontinent China
Practices Meditation, the Eightfold Path; right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration Visit to temples to pay homage to Ti'en(God or Heaven), Confucius, and ancestors; To practice ('Jing zuo, ') or 'Quiet Sitting
Use of statues and pictures Common. Statues are used as meditation objects, and revered as they reflect the qualities of the Buddha. Permitted.
Goal of religion To attain enlightenment and be released from the cycle of rebirth and death, thus attaining Nirvana. To have a structured society.
Founder The Buddha (born as Prince Siddhartha) Kong Qiu (Confucius)
Life after death Rebirth is one of the central beliefs of Buddhism. We are in an endless cycle of birth, death and re-birth, which can only be broken by attaining nirvana. Attaining nirvana is the only way to escape suffering permanently. To be worshipped as ancestors.
Belief of God The idea of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator is rejected by Buddhists. The Buddha himself refuted the theistic argument that the universe was created by a self-conscious, personal God. One God. Ancestors also worshipped, though.
Scriptures Tripitaka - a vast canon composed of 3 sections: the Discourses, the Discipline and the Commentaries, and some early scriptures, such as the Gandhara texts. Analects of Confucius and Mencius; I Ching; Doctrine of Mean, etc.
Literal Meaning Buddhists are those who follow the teachings of the Buddha. Disciple of Confucius.
Clergy The Buddhist Sangha, composed of bhikkhus (male monks) and bhikkhunis (female nuns). The sangha is supported by lay Buddhists. Bureaucrats.
Human Nature Ignorance, as all sentient beings. In the Buddhist texts, it is seen that when Gautama, after his awakening, was asked whether he was a normal human being, he replied, "No". Humans should respect those who are superior to them.
Followers Buddhists Confucianists
Original Language(s) Pali(Theravada tradition) and Sanskrit(Mahayana and Vajrayana tradition) Mandarin or Cantonese
View of the Buddha The highest teacher and the founder of Buddhism, the all-transcending sage. Buddha is followed by many Confucians.
Status of women No distinctions between men and women. Women are equal to men, and men are equal to women in the Sangha. The Buddha gave Men and Women equal rights and a major part in the Sangha. Socially inferior to men.
Principle This life is suffering, and the only way to escape from this suffering is to dispel one's cravings and ignorance by realizing the Four Noble Truths and practicing the Eightfold Path. Confucianism all about the brotherhood of humanity.
Goal of Philosophy To eliminate mental suffering. Social Harmony.
Geographical distribution and predominance (Majority or strong influence) Mainly in Thailand, Cambodia, Sri lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Japan, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Other small minorities exist in other countries. Asia.
Holy days/Official Holidays Vesak day in which the birth, the awakening, and the parinirvana of the Buddha is celebrated. Chinese New Year, Teacher Day, Ancestor Day.
Concept of Deity n/a. According to some interpretations, there are beings in heaven realms but they are also bound by "samsara". They may have less suffering but have not yet achieved salvation (nibbana) Most believe in One God.
View of other Dharmic religions Since the word Dharma means doctrine, law, way, teaching, or discipline, other Dharmas are rejected. Confucianists usually follow Buddhism, which is a Dharmic religion.
Time of origin 2,500 years ago, circa 563 B.C.E. (Before Common Era) Approx. 550 B.C.E.(Before Common Era)
Can atheists partake in this religion's practices? Yes. Yes.
Views on Other Religions Being a practical philosophy, Buddhism is neutral against other religions. Confucianists see no contradiction in following more than one religion.


Further Reading

For further reading, there are several books available on on Buddhism and Confucianism.

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