In September a "standard" image of the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius is to be unveiled in order to give him a single and recognizable international identity. The China Confucius Foundation (CCF) is behind the initiative.
The CCF unveiled a sculpture of Confucius on Tuesday in Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province to solicit suggestions on what the final version of the portrait might look like.
"A symbol of Chinese history and culture, Confucius is widely known around the world," said CCF general secretary Zhang Shuhua. "A standard portrait is needed so that different countries can have the same image of him."
The sculpture depicts Confucius as an old man with a long beard, broad mouth and big ears. He wears a robe and his hands are crossed on his chest.
The work is based on the painting of Confucius by Wu Daozi of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) and was created with advice from Confucian scholars, historians, artists and his descendants.
The portrait would set the new standard for the image of Confucius who has been represented in many different ways in statues presented to foreign countries, said Zhang.
Professor Hu Xijia, a member of the sculpture design group, said, "We want to show a Confucius who exists in people's minds as a kind, sagacious and respectful person." Hu's group started the work in January and he said they were open to helpful suggestions from anywhere in the world.
Relief sculptures and portraits will be produced to show the work. The final image is scheduled to be unveiled in September at the commemoration of the 2,557th anniversary of his birth.
He was the founder of Confucianism which advocates the building of a harmonious society through an individual's self-refinement in manners and taste. It was promulgated by Chinese rulers since the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-25) and spread into east and south Asia. Confucianism dominated Chinese society for centuries and spread to Europe in the late 16th century.
Born in 551 B.C., Confucius was a great thinker, philosopher, statesman and educator and it's estimated he has more than 3 million descendants with Qufu in Shandong Province being the most concentrated area of them, according to latest statistics.
There are 2.5 million descendants of Confucius on the Chinese mainland, 100,000 in the Republic of Korea and many in the United States, Malaysia and Singapore.
Regarding Confucius as an outstanding educator the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last year named an international award after him, the Confucius Literacy Prize, to honor individuals and institutions which have made a significant contribution to education.
And in an effort to promote the language and culture abroad China plans to set up 100 "Confucius Institutes" around the world to assist foreigners learn Chinese.
Scholars and followers from around the world commemorate the birth of Confucius at his hometown in Qufu annually to preserve his spirit of benevolence and honor.
Many scholars have argued that research on the contemporary value of his teachings would be helpful in building a harmonious society in China.
(China Daily June 14, 2006)