Some of the essential beliefs of Confucianism are that people must maintain a sense of doing what is right, serve their superiors diligently and loyally, display benevolence towards others and that an ideal ruler should influence others by moral example. Confucianism holds to a humanistic outlook in which the secular is sacred. People are expected to perform and adhere to specific rules and rituals based on societal hierarchy in their interactions with each other.
Considered a philosophical and ethical system more than a religion, Confucianism places an emphasis on family and ethics rather than on salvation through a transcendent divine being. Humans are seen as being improvable, teachable and perfectible through self-cultivation and their communal and personal endeavors. The promotion of the virtues encompassed by the Wuchang, or Five Virtues, characterize Confucian ethics. These virtues are Ren (humaneness), Yi (righteousness or justice), Li (proper rite), Zhi (knowledge) and Xin (integrity). Confucianism views with contempt any person who fails to uphold the cardinal moral imperatives of Ren or Yi.
The classical Confucian teachings were key to the orthodox state ideologies of Chinese dynasties, particularly the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD), when they received state support and were taught in upper-class society. Countries that were influenced by Confucian thought include China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.