Drizzle in a small city in east China's Shandong Province on Friday didn't dampen the enthusiasm of about 3,500 pilgrims, who advanced in a queue more than 300 meters long to commemorate the 2,558th birthday of Confucius.
Heading the queue in the philosopher's hometown of Qufu were Luo Haocai, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and Li Jianguo, Chinese Communist Party chief of Shandong. Their presence suggested that the scale of this year's ceremony was larger than ever.
Attendants also included Edmund Ho Hau Wah, chief executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region; Kong Deyong, 77th-generation descendant of Confucius; and Yu Dan, who sparked controversy with her televised lecture series about the Analects of Confucius.
Kong Qidi, an 11-year-old boy with the Qufu Shiyan Primary School and 74th-generation descendant of Confucius, lit the fire in a bronze urn that symbolizes Chinese culture handed down through generations.
More than 1,500 students flanking the path were chanting snippets of the Analects of Confucius.
Acting Governor of Shandong Jiang Daming read the elegiac address in the Confucian temple and attendants bowed to the statue of the philosopher.
Among the attendants was Nelly Mota from Dominica, whose son is learning Chinese. "Confucian thought is very important to mankind," she said, noting that in her country, some students start learning Confucian philosophy at the age of 14.
"Confucius' philosophy can help people all over the world live in love and harmony," she said.
"Confucius is famous in France," said Patricia Deon, a government official in Paris. "The kindness and filial piety he advocated not only regulate our behavior in daily life, but teach us how to get along with others," she said.
Lei Yusong, vice head of the Chinese Culture Promotion Society in the United States, said he had been taught Confucian philosophy since childhood. "I am still teaching my kids the philosophy," he said. "It has a special significance for young people in modern society."
"The philosophy of Confucius has gone beyond time and national borders - it is recognized as a treasure of the world and symbol of eastern culture," said Jiang Daming. "By rejuvenating the thought of the ancient philosopher, we hope to enhance the cultural recognition of Chinese people living in China and abroad and boost harmony around the world."
Memorial ceremonies were also held in northeast China's Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces as well as in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Sichuan Province in south and southwest China.
Confucius, born in 551 BC, was a great philosopher whose thought held sway as orthodox ideology in China for more than 2,000 years.
(Xinhua News Agency September 29, 2007)