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 origin Nepal, India China
Place of worship Monasteries, nunneries, pagodas and temples. Temple.
Practices Practices of the Threefold Training: Morality, Concentration, and Wisdom. Visit to temples to pay homage to Ti'en(God or Heaven), Confucius, and ancestors; To practice ('Jing zuo, ') or 'Quiet Sitting
Life after death Until one has attained Nirvana, he or she will be reborn into any of the 31 planes of existence over and over again, due to his/her karma. To be worshipped as ancestors.
Use of statues and pictures Common Permitted.
Principle This life is suffering, and the only way to escape from this suffering is to dispel one's cravings and ignorance by practising the Eightfold Path. Confucianism all about the brotherhood of humanity.
Belief The Buddha was the teacher to show us the four noble truths and the eightfold path (the path to nirvana or the way to enlightenment). Confucianism is both a religion and a philosophy of China, and of Asia as a whole. It stresses human conduct over belief in God.
Concept of God A God or gods have always been rejected wholly by Theravada Buddhists. Their only refuges are the three jewels: The Buddha, The Dhamma, and The Sangha. One God.
Founder Gautama Buddha (born as Prince Siddhartha) Kong Qiu (Confucius)
Clergy Monks and Nuns, who unitedly and exactly follow the teachings of the Buddha under the name 'Sangha'. Bureaucrats.
Belief of God Buddhism does not believe in a Creator God. One God. Ancestors also worshipped, though.
Goal of religion To attain enlightenment and be released from the cycle of rebirth and death, thus attaining Nirvana. To have a structured society.
Human Nature Ordinary human beings possess greed, anger, delusion, igorance, cravings, etc. and they were compared by the Buddha as 'the fools' and 'the blind'. (Ordinary human beings mean those who haven't walked or are not walking the Eightfold Path.) Humans should respect those who are superior to them.
Literal Meaning Buddhists mean those who follow the teachings of the Buddha Disciple of Confucius.
View of the Buddha Founder of Buddhism or the Four Noble Truths Buddha is followed by many Confucians.
Status of women No gender bias in Buddhism. In the Discourse related to householders, named 'Tein-gala-wada', certain duties and obligations were mentioned and applied to specific gender i.e. duties of a husband to a wife and vice versa, by the Buddha. Socially inferior to men.
Original Language(s) Original language is Magada, language used during the lifetime of the Buddha, which is the universal language (understood all over the universe) Mandarin or Cantonese
Scriptures Tripitaka - a vast volume of 3 main sections: the Discourses, the Discipline and the Absolute Doctrine - which appeared only after the death of the Buddha, thanks to the monks who collected all the teachings of the Buddha. Analects of Confucius and Mencius; I Ching; Doctrine of Mean, etc.
View of Oriental religions Knows that any other religions cannot lead to the nirvana, but never condemns them. Confucianists usually follow other Oriental religions too.
Views on other religion Buddhism does not condemn any of other religions . Sees no contraction in following more than one religion.
Followers Buddhists Confucianists
Time of origin 2,500 years ago, circa 563 B.C.E. (Before Common Era) Approx. 550 B.C.E.(Before Common Era)
Goal of Philosophy Buddhism is not a philosophy. It is the practical teachings of the Buddha and its goal is 'nirvana'. Social Harmony.
Geographical distribution and predominance Theradava Buddhist countries, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka are the places of predominance of Buddhism. The Noble Truths are presently best heard in Myanmar only. Asia.
Views on the afterlife Cycle of rebirth and death in 31 realms, as determined by karma. Good karma can lead one to be reborn into any of the 26 realms of happiness. Evil karma will lead one to be reborn into any of the four nether realms of suffering. To be worshipped by one's descendants and their families.
View of other Dharmic religions Believes absolutely that any other ideas and concepts rather than the Buddha's teachings will never be true or perfect in this world. Confucianists usually follow Buddhism, which is a Dharmic religion.
Promised Holy one. Meitreya Coming of the Superior Man or Perfect Gentleman.
Can atheists partake in this religion's practices? Yes. Yes.
Names of God Brahma, Avalokitesvara Ti'en, Shang Ti.
Use of statues, images Statues are commonly used as symbolic reminders while paying obeisance to the Buddha. Permitted.
Concept of Deity Instead of deities, Devas or celestial beings are accepted as those suffering in the samsara. Most believe in One God.
Holy days/Official Holidays Kasone Full Moon Day, Waso Full Moon Day, etc. Chinese New Year, Teacher Day, Ancestor Day.
Offshoot religions Some branches of Buddhism like Mahayana, in which the teachings of the Buddha have been amended over and over again. Cao Dai.
Views on other religions Buddhism sees no contradiction in following more than one religion. 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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