Racing ahead, China resurrects its past





HONG KONG -- As China races into its capitalist future, it is also rediscovering its philosophical and religious past...

Chinese leaders...are enthusiastically supporting a revival of the ancient philosophical traditions of Confucianism and Taoism. Late last month, for example, the government sponsored a six-day forum dedicated to the interpretation and promotion of Tao Te Ching (or Dai De Jing, "The Book of the Way and Its Virtue"), the foundational text of Taoism, both as a school of thought and a religion, written 2,500 years ago by Lao Zi [Lao Tzu].

The forum, hosted simultaneously in Hong Kong and Xian, capital of Shaanxi province, reportedly cost US$1 million to stage and received widespread coverage in the state media...

In their quest to find a moral center, the leadership is also allowing room for religious imports such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, but the ancient Chinese traditions are clearly the main selling points...

A return to ancient wisdom, leaders hope, will create a more moral society with a heightened sense of the importance of relationships -- especially the hierarchical relationships of Confucianism that command obedience.

In September 2005, the government brought Confucius back from the dead with a lavish birthday party for [K'ung-fu-tzu or] Master Kong, who lived from 551-479 BC and was vilified by Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution for his "feudal mentality". More than 3,000 people, including international guests, attended the celebration in the sage's birthplace, the city of Qufu in Shandong province...

Not long ago, it was risky to mention Confucius unless it was to denounce him; now there are Confucian schools sprouting up all over the country. Indeed, a professor [Yu Dan] at Beijing Normal University has become a media celebrity through a series of lectures she delivered on the Analects of Confucius, the bible of Confucianism, in appearances on China Central Television (CCTV) last year.

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