Students of the Experimental Primary School of Qufu city, east China's Shandong Province, do one thing together every day before morning classes -- they read in chorus the Analects of Confucius (551-479 B.C.).
"Confucius is a great sage. Reading his instructions every day will benefit the kids for the whole of their lives," said the headmaster of the school.
Chinese feudal rulers enshrined Confucianism as the orthodox school of thought since the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD). It also spread far into east and south Asia far back in history, where the influence can still be felt today.
Efforts were made to banish it from the mainstream culture in China in the early and middle parts of the 20th century, as revolutionaries were eager to break away from the old and the past.
Its value has been recognized again and Confucian teachings have been readmitted as valuable cultural heritage. Dissemination of Confucian instructions has restarted in numerous schools, colleges and universities and statues of Confucius are found in more than 1,000 Chinese schools and colleges.
"Confucius has left us a wealth of valuable heritage. He greatly influenced the Chinese culture, the social structure and many other things," said Liu Haixia, an official of Qufu city supervising the preservation of the local temple, cemetery and family mansion of Confucius, put on the World Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1994.
Confucianism advocates benevolence and courtesy among people. It helped to shape the value of sacrificing one's personal interests for the good of others and the collective among Chinese people.
It was also credited with creating the social order in China's feudal times, which asked the young to respect the old and the female to obey the orders of the male. Popular remarks of Confucius include "a benevolent person is one who cares for others", "I would die to keep my integrity and benevolence", and "a benevolent person helps others to achieve aims he himself also aspires to".
"Confucian ideology is important to administrators of all countries in the world," said Zhang Zhuxiu, an official of the Shandong Provincial Government. "If an administration does not care for the interests of the masses, it is sure to be short-lived."
Despite the temporary setback, the spread of Confucian thought has revived fast in many parts of China. To policy makers and entrepreneurs alike, many instructions of Confucius are still applicable today. Government officials see certain Confucius instructions as guidelines for their work and important components of Chinese traditional culture the youngsters should inherit.
Confucius remarks, such as "if you wish to fulfill the task well, it's advisable to have handy tools first", and his emphasis on honesty are held as golden rules of business. Currently, numerous research groups and periodicals in the world focus on Confucius and Confucianism and more than 100 Internet websites have been opened to publicize Confucius and his teachings.
Every year, around 3 million people from across the world visit the temple, cemetery and family mansion of Confucius in Qufu, which remain well preserved. Kong Fanjin, a professor of Shandong University, said the increasing attention on Confucius and his thoughts had a basis.
"Benevolence among people and honesty are the prized values of the world today," Kong said.
In 1988, 75 Nobel Prize winners made a statement in Paris that if humankind were to survive in the 21st century, they must draw wisdom from Confucius.
"I can say that so far, we've learned only part of the essence of Confucius thought," said 79-year-old Kong Fanyin, a renowned Confucius researcher. "As time goes by, we will have more to learn from Confucius and his instructions."
People in Qufu have much to be thankful for to Confucius as tourism has become a thriving business and goods bearing the hallmark of Confucius sell well across the world. An alcohol that claims to be the homemade product of the Confucius family has become one of the best selling Chinese-made alcohol in the world.
(Xinhua News Agency June 8, 2004)