Ancient teachings aid modern lifestyles

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Parents and children wear traditional robes to celebrate Spring Festival in Jinan, Shandong province.[Zhu Zheng / Xinhua]

Growing influence

Now, every one of the city's 405 villages has a Confucius Classroom. Shi Junzhen, a 60-year-old resident of Qianjia village, is proud of his daughter-in-law because of the efforts she made to help his wife when she was in the hospital in July.

"There are many good stories about filial piety in our village, partly because we are enlightened by Confucian teaching," he said.

Yang Hong, head of Shuyuan village, said the local Confucius Classroom also acts as a platform to narrow the distance between officials and residents.

"The villagers actively voice their opinions about village management and the officials listen to their opinions patiently. Our village has seen great changes in every aspect - for example, people are friendlier to their neighbors and the village is much cleaner," he said.

"Confucianism is always in Chinese people's blood, no matter how the social structure changes. What we want to do is to awaken beliefs that are buried in people's hearts. It's a long process, one that can only be done over generations and generations. We cannot push hard. We can only begin with concepts that are close to people's lives, such as guiding them to be filial, caring and friendly," Yan, from Shandong university, said.

Local sages

Yan said new ways need to be explored to build up a system that will produce a "self-sufficient" system of teaching in villages. "Cultivating new-style village sages who are respected by the villagers might be a good way," he said.

Zhao Jieping, a retired primary school teacher, is famous in Sandefan village because he took care of his mentally disabled younger sister for two decades. The villagers have selected the 67-year-old retired primary school teacher to assess the qualities of candidates for the roles of local sages.

"The villagers respect and trust Zhao, so his opinion will influence them substantially," said Zhang Jiang, the village head.

In the deep winter, the Confucius Classroom at Sandefan village was a little chilly, but several elderly men were writing Spring Festival couplets for villagers as China's most-popular annual holiday approached.

The influence of Confucius was evident in most of them, but most especially in the one that carried one of the best-known maxims of the ancient sage: "Great virtue can carry all things".

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