Confucius lived and taught about 2,500 years ago. He now has more than 3 million descendants living across the world. But women and members of ethnic minorities have not been included in his family tree.
And that is exactly what the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee has set out to do.
The committee, based in Jinan, capital of the philosopher and educator's home province of Shandong, has asked all of them, irrespective of their citizenship, to contact it and prove their ancestry to help compile a comprehensive family tree.
This is also the first time that overseas citizens and those who converted to Islam will be included in the family tree. The philosopher's descendants who converted to Islam during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) live in compact communities in the eastern part of Northwest China's Qinghai Province.
The changes in the pedigree, especially the inclusion of women, are significant because Confucius considered women to be inferior to men, making it part of traditional Chinese belief. And in a role reversal, the names of their husbands will be written in smaller characters.
About 50,000 descendants of Confucius, or Kong Zi, live abroad, said 81-year-old, 77th-generation descendant Kong Deyong, who chairs the committee.
Known as the "First Family under Heaven", the Kong lineage spans 83 generations, and its family tree has been updated four times before; the first during the rule of Emperor Tianqi (1621-27) of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and then under Emperors Kangxi (1661-1722) and Qianlong (1735-96) of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and most recently in the 1930s.
The last update showed the family tree had 560,000 members. About 1.2 million Kongs have already applied and proved their ancestry this time, but the update will be expected to include at least 1.8 million descendants, Kong Deyong said.
The 21st century family tree update has been approved by 87-year-old Kung Te-cheng, the chairman's cousin living in Taiwan who inherited the millennium-old title of Yan Sheng Gong (Lord of the Saint Blood) and presided over the fourth book's compilation as well as family rituals. Emperor Renzong (1022-63) of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) bestowed that title on the head of the philosopher's 46th-generation descendants.
(China Daily February 6, 2007)