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Wise Confucius (also known as “Confucius Says”) is an advice animal image macro series which features what at first glance appears to be sage piece of advice, with the second half of the image revealing it to merely be the set-up for a pun. The meme can often involve some kind of stereotypical Engrish speech pattern as well.
The series is named after the famous Chinese philosopher best known for his body of work Analects of Confucius and parodies his prolific writings of axioms and wise sayings like “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.” Written during the Spring and Autumn Period through the Warring States Period (ca. 475 BCE – 221 BCE), the Analects is the representative work of Confucianism and continues to have a tremendous influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today.
Parody jokes about Confucius’ idioms have been seen on several internet humor sites like JokeCenter and Unwind as early as in February 2001. The earliest known instance of “Confucius says…” image macro was posted on 4chan’s /v/ board on April 29th, 2010. The picture used for the macro is one of the first results provided by Google Image search.
A list of Confucius-related jokes was posted via Reddit on May 9th, 2008 and a serial comment thread was posted via Flickr on September 3rd, 2008. Confucius’ quotes have appeared in “famous quotes” threads as early as in 2008. The image macros have been since featured on communities like Tumblr and Reddit, as well as caption-generating websites such as Memegenerator and Quickmeme.
Google Insights shows that the search term “Wise Confucius” experienced its first spike in early 2010 and resurgence in July 2011:
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