Confucian rule was rule by historical examples. From the sage kings of mythical era through the ruling figures of ancient states down to more recent monarchs, statesmen, and philosophers, supposedly historical figures were held up as examples by which the sovereign should enact virtuous rule: they were none other than moral principle at work. Principle, which was universal, constant, and immanent in all things, was clearly manifest in historical events and persons. Historical examples fell into two groups--moral and hence worthy of emulation, and immoral and hence suitable only for avoidance. As flesh-and-blood variations on a theme, they provided accessible and invaluable lessons.
[JaHyun Kim Haboush, The Confucian Kingship in Korea, Columbia University Press (New York: 2001) p. 26]