By Zhang Qian
BEIJING, Sept. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Confucius, China’s greatest philosopher, educator and thinker, was born some 2,500 years ago and his birthday will be celebrated next Tuesday, the 27th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar.
The thinking of Confucius (551-479 BC), or Confucianism, became the cornerstone of traditional Chinese society and endures today. During the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) it was the official state ideology.
Confucius emphasized personal and governmental morality, correct social relationships and forms, justice and sincerity. Virtuous actions and personal cultivation were essential. Confucius was practical, not spiritual. His teachings, which emphasized human education and improvement, contrasted with the legalist tradition of many rulers.
Within China, ceremonies are usually carried out at Confucian temples such as the one in Confucius’ hometown, Qufu in Shandong Province.
Burning incense and offering sacrifices are common, as are traditional ceremonies that demonstrate values that Confucius promoted, such as the six classical arts — rites, music, archery, riding, writing and arithmetic.
There were more than 2,000 Confucian temples in China during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), while only a small portion have been preserved. The temple in Qufu, as well as those in Beijing and Quzhou in Zhejiang Province, are among the biggest and best known, while some small temple buildings are now used as museums or schools.
The Shanghai Wenmiao (Confucian Temple) at 215 Wenmiao Road in Huangpu District was established in the 14th century and is still standing, though it has been renovated or rebuilt several times. From 1851 to 1855, it was occupied by the rebel Small Swords Society and was almost completely destroyed during the battle when government troops retook control of it. The government eventually decided to rebuild the temple at the present site.
The temple was damaged during the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976), but in 1995 it was designated for renovation by the local government.
Part of it is a very popular second-hand book market.
Confucius, whose actual name was Kong Qiu, grew up in poverty after his father, a magistrate and soldier, died when the boy was three years old. Confucius grew up in the Lu State at a time of political instability. At the age of 22, he started the first private school in China, teaching his philosophy of ideal personal conduct, benevolence, and justice by law.
Numerous scholars, including Confucius, sought opportunities as advisers to different states and kingdoms of the time.
Confucius was received with great respect by the rulers of the states he visited, and he even seems to have received occasional payments. He spent much of his time developing his ideas on the art of government, as well as continuing his teaching. He acquired a large following, and the solidification of the Confucian school probably occurred during these years.
He didn’t win his first position in the Lu State until he was 51, and soon gave it up when he was disappointed by the ruler and other officials who were immersed in nothing but pleasure.
Little is known about his final years, though his only son died about this time; his favorite disciple, Yen Hui, died in 484 BC; and in 480 BC, another disciple, Tzu-lu, was killed in battle.
Confucius felt all of these losses deeply, and his sadness and frustration must have been intensified by the realization that his political ideas had found no support among the rulers of his own state. Confucius died in 479 BC.
(Source: Shanghai Daily)