Confucius, a great ancient Chinese thinker, was again thrown into the spotlight on Wednesday when a range of memorial activities were held worldwide to commemorate the 2,556th anniversary of his birth.
Commemorative activities were organized simultaneously in six cities in the Republic of Korea, Japan, Singapore, the United States and Germany, with the auspices of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
As a key activity of China Qufu International Confucian Cultural Festival, a grand ceremony was held in Qufu, the legendary birthplace of Confucius, to mark the 2,556th anniversary of the birth of the great Chinese thinker, which fell on Wednesday, with the attendance of 2,556 Confucian followers from 24 countries and regions.
It is the first time for the UNESCO to participate in such an event. Mr. Yasuyuki Aoshima, director of the UNESCO Office in Beijing, said they were considering the establishment of a "Confucian Award" in a bid to promote Confucianism globally.
Andrea Holl, a professor of arts with the University of Melbourne, Australia, said the Confucianism maxims could help make people vigilant, and as a matter of fact, some valuable Confucian concepts have been integrated into mainstream world culture.
Born in 551 B.C., Confucius, a statesman and educator, founded the Confucian school of thinking, or Confucianism, which emphasizes a people-first ideal and advocates a personality with the virtues of loyalty, filial piety, integrity, and seeking "harmony while maintaining disparity" in culture and thinking.
Confucianism dominated Chinese society for a long time, and started to spread to Europe in late 16th century. Confucius was placed at the top of 10 key thinkers in the world by a guidebook of world celebrities published in the United States in 1984.
Confucianism, which was thrown out of fashion early last century, has regained popularity and has been given proper attention in present-day China. Its overseas influence has also been increasing.
In China nowadays, Sanzijing, or Three-Character Verses, the ABC's of Confucianism, has become a text that every child is supposed to recite. So far, 26 institutes have been set up for Confucian studies all over the world. California of the United States named Confucius's birthday anniversary in 2000 as "Confucian Day in California".
Mr. Yasuyuki Aoshima, director of the UNESCO Office Beijing, said Confucius stressed that a fine individual personality was closely related to a harmonious family, an orderly state and a peaceful world.
The acknowledgement that world peace is decided by individuals conforms within the Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO, which declares that "since the wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed," said a UNESCO Beijing Office official.
Chinese and foreign entrepreneurs have also been enlightened by Confucianism. It is a common practice that Japanese companies are following a corporate culture that combines Confucianism and western business concepts.
Shibusawa Eichil, a well-known Japanese entrepreneur, said the loyalty and forgiveness advocated in Confucianism play a part in his business success.
Liu Changle, chairman of the board of directors with Phoenix Satellite TV broadcast from Hong Kong, said the popularity of TV plays made by companies from the Republic of Korea (ROK), which served as a vanguard of the campaign "saving ROK by culture" after the Asian financial crisis, has fully proven that "Confucianism can be turned into productivity."
The characters in these TV plays did things according to Confucianism, claimed Liu.
While advocating the people-first work style, the Chinese government has put forward an idea of seeking harmony while keeping disparity in dealing with a multi-polar culture in the world in recent years.
While delivering a speech at Harvard University in December 2003, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao noted that the concept of seeking harmony while preserving disparity was good for the international community to solve contradictions.
Thomas A. Wilson, professor with Department of History at Hamilton University, said a growing number of his students were developing an interest in Confucianism.
Mr. Wilson believed the concept of "courtesy" from Confucianism might be a panacea to a contemporary world tormented by too many disputes and "rude" acts.
Kong Xiangjin, the 75th-generation grandson of Confucius, who is also head of Qufu City Bureau of Tourism, said history has proved that Confucianism has a strong vitality and great impact.
Confucianism has ready solutions to many problems that wreak havoc in the contemporary world, such as regional conflicts and a worsening ecology, said Tu Wei-Ming, a professor of Chinese history and philosophy at Harvard University.
"In this sense, Confucius not only belongs to China, but also to the whole world."
(Xinhua News Agency September 29, 2005)