Xinhua Insight: China sees renewed enthusiasm for Confucius
                 English.news.cn | 2013-12-07 19:43:47 | Editor: Luan

BEIJING, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese President's recent remarks on reviving the country's traditional culture have refocused attention on Confucius and sparked vibrant discussions about how the ancient sage can inspire modern China.

During his visit to Confucius' hometown of Qufu in east China's Shandong Province in late November, Xi Jinping said scholars should follow the rules of "making the past serve the present" and "keeping the essential while discarding the dross" when researching ethics passed on from the nation's forefathers.

Xi called for the promotion of morality across society and "a pursuit of a beautiful and lofty moral realm from generation to generation." He also stressed the importance of cultural prosperity while talking with experts at the Confucius Research Institute during his stay in Qufu.

His comments have helped draw a wider readership for the country's ancient philosophical classics, which have seen brisk sales in recent days, leading publishing houses to hastily print additional copies.

A bookseller with TMall, a large Chinese e-commerce platform, told Xinhua that some previously less-known works that interpret Confucian teachings have sold out, "but orders have continued to flood in."

Xi's positive remarks indicate there has been a "consensus" on the value of traditional Chinese culture, characterized by Confucianism, with a history of about 2,500 years, according to Yang Chaoming, head of the Confucius Research Institute.

Yang Yitang, another Confucian researcher in Shandong, believed that the leader's emphasis on traditional culture showcases the confidence and pride of the Chinese nation. "In the country's rich ancient culture, the 90-year-old Communist Party of China (CPC) has found its DNA and the nourishment to grow," he said.

Preaching moral righteousness, harmony and peace, in addition to hierarchy and order, Confucian doctrines were generally worshipped by ancient monarchs, but denounced a century ago by some intellectuals who blamed Confucian thought for China's decline at the time. The anti-Confucius sentiment later climaxed during the Cultural Revolution.

However, the official endorsement of the ancient thinker has become increasingly clear. In September, the State Council released a draft plan to move the present Teachers' Day, Sept 10, to what is believed to be the birthday of Confucius (551-479 BC) on Sept. 28.

In another sign, a communique issued following a key CPC meeting that concluded last month highlighted the need to build a socialist culture, enhance the country's cultural soft power and improve education in traditional culture.

The doctrines of the much-revered thinker have been spread worldwide with the establishment of more than 420 Confucius Institutes in over 100 countries to teach Chinese language and culture.

PRESENT-DAY USE

Experts believe Confucian wisdom can be used extensively to address China's modern issues, particularly in governance and morality.

David J. W. Liu, President of Taiwan-based Chinese Confucian Association, said one important inspiration Confucianism offers is its general idea that the ruler should implement benevolence and value probity in running the country while projecting a powerful image of the country in the international arena.

Confucius' emphasis on virtue and self-cultivation of rulers coincides with the CPC's efforts to fight corruption and improve work style, according to Zhang Yiwu, a professor of Chinese language and literature at Peking University.

Since the election of the new leadership, the CPC has launched a series of campaigns to eliminate bureaucracy, formalism and lavish spending of public funds.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the CPC said earlier this month that nearly 20,000 officials had been punished for breaches of a set of anti-bureaucracy rules announced one year ago.

"Confucius had great insight into the integrity of officials. He pointed out that only when the ruler's personal conduct is correct will his subordinates follow him," said Sun Huanzhu, citing The Analects of Confucius. Sun, an official with the food and drug administration in Shandong's Yishui County, described himself as a Confucius fan.

Expectations have also emerged that the ideas of Confucius, who championed harmonious interpersonal relationships, can help cure the moral deficiency accompanying China's three decades of turbo-charged economic growth.

In recent years, a spate of shocking cases, including sexual assaults and violent attacks against children, food and water contamination, and the fading appeal of Good Samaritanism in the country, have prompted calls to reflect on people's spiritual lives.

However, Professor Liu Dongchao from the National School of Administration warned that treating Confucianism as a panacea for moral problems is "naive."

"After all, Confucianism failed to uproot ethical problems in the feudal age, when it played a dominant role," he said.

China faces a bumpy road in revitalizing its traditional culture, Yang Yitang said. "Some classics that served as philosophical primers in ancient times can be headaches for our college Chinese language and literature graduates today."

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