Confucius was born in or around 551 BC in or near the city of Qufu, in what is modern day Shandong, into a poor but noble warrior family. His father, Kong He, died when he was only three years old and he was brought up by his mother, Yan Zheng. Some accounts state that Confucius was the result of an illegitimate union between the two. Confucius married a young girl, Qi Guan, at nineteen. His first child, Kong Li, was born a year later.
Confucius’s heritage linked him to a growing intermediate social class called shi, situated between the nobility and common class. This class largely comprised individuals seeking employment based on skill and natural talents. Confucius is believed to have worked as a shepherd, book-keeper, and clerk.
At the age of fifty-three, Confucius became a justice minister in Lu. He resigned this position after a series of scandals involving the Duke of Lu. Thereafter he traveled through the small kingdoms that made up northeast and central China. During these travels he visited the courts of these kingdoms and explained his core political beliefs.
According to the Zuo Zhan, Confucius returned from these travels at the age of sixty-eight. The Analects depict his teachings as they were transmitted to seventy-two or seventy-seven disciples, although some scholars call this number into question, believing it to be fewer.