Ru jia – Ru literally means “scholar,” and thus Ru jia is a more apt description for the Western term “Confucianism” and can be translated as “School of the Learned.” Ru jia is a more accurate description of the Confucian tradition because, unlike what the name suggests, “Confucianism” draws from a tradition that precedes Kongzi. This tradition includes Kongzi as one of its followers, rather than as its founder.

Four Books & Five Classics (si shu wu jing) – The Five Classics are the Documents, Spring and Autumn Annals, Odes, Rites, and Changes. The Four Books are The Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Analects, and Mencius. Together, the Four Books and Five Classics make up what is commonly known as the “Confucian canon.”

Li – Confucianism emphasizes the importance of virtuous rule through benevolence and proper conduct. This proper conduct is called li, or ritual, and emphasizes purity, sincerity, and harmony. If people were all virtuous and conducted themselves properly, Heaven bestowed good fortune upon everyone.

Ren - Also sometimes transliterated as “jen”, the character itself is composed of the element meaning “man or person” and “two” and, along with li, is one of the central concepts in Confucianism. Ren refers to humanity, or human nature. Confucian thinkers had varying ideas about the state of human nature; Xunzi believed that everyone was innately evil, while Mencius and Zhu Xi believed that everyone was innately good.

Qi - One of the more recognizable words from Confucianism, qi refers to the vital psychophysical stuff, or pneuma, present in everyone. Zhu Xi believed that everything in the world was composed of qi and li (principle). Principle governs the universe and maintains order, but is moderated by qi. When people make immoral choices, it is because their qi obscures their perfect moral nature. As such, the goal of moral self-cultivation is to cultivate one's qi so that it is clear and balanced.

Kongzi – In the West, Kongzi is traditionally known as Confucius. Confucius, however, is a Latinized version of Kong-fu zi, or Master Kong.

Sage – Early canonical sources portray sages as nearly superhuman beings who understood the Way, devised foundation of human civilization, and wielded power over the cosmos. Later Confucians regarded sages as those who correctly understood and transmitted the Dao, or the Way. Some prominent Confucian thinkers believed that only a few men could ever become sages, while others believed that anyone could become a sage if they followed the Way correctly.