Celebrate Confucius’ Birthday- 庆祝孔子的生日

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Happy Confucius Day

On Confucius’ birthday (September 28), The Grand Ceremony Dedicated to Confucius (祭孔大典) is held annually as a way of paying respects to Confucius, China’s ‘First Teacher’. The event is mainly celebrated at Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, and in the Confucius Temple in Taipei, Taiwan.

Through a choreographed ceremony, the 60-minute long presentation starts with three drum rolls before a procession of musicians, dancers, and participants stop every five steps and pause before continuing to their designated spot. The gates then open at the temple, welcoming the spirit of Confucius. After three bows, food and drink are offered as sacrifice, and “The Song of Peace” is played with traditional Chinese instruments. Dancers perform the Ba Yi dance (八佾舞), a dance that started in the Zhou Dynasty as a way of paying respects to people of different social positions. Yi means ‘row’ and the number of dancers depends on who is being honoured. For example, eight rows of dancers participate when paying respect to an emperor, six rows for a duke, four rows for high-ranking government officials, and two rows for lower ranking officials. Eight rows are used for the Confucius Ceremony. Each dancer holds a short bamboo flute in the left hand, which symbolizes balance, and a long pheasant tail feather in the right hand as a sign of integrity.

After incense is offered and chanting takes place, another three bows are given. The sacrificial feast is removed to symbolize it has been eaten by Confucius’ spirit. The participants move from their appointed places to watch the pile of money and prayers burn. Finally, the gates of the temple are closed and the ceremony concludes with participants and observers feasting on a ‘wisdom cake’.

Take this opportunity to reflect on Confucian teachings. These include the importance of filial piety, dutifulness, honesty, sincerity, rightness, wisdom, and courage, and try to understand how all of these concepts come together in the attitude of humanity. As Confucius says in the Analects (8.13), “Be devoted to faithfulness and love learning; defend the good dao until death.”

Three Confucian Poems 孔诗三首诗

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Image: Classical Chinese Poetry. Retrieved July 2, 2017, from here.

In this article, Paul Carus provides a translated account of three poems recorded in the stone engraved inscriptions of the temple of Confucius at Qufu. Each poem expresses Confucius’s disappointment in life. After becoming a minister in the state of Lu, Confucius found that the duke and others in government did not possess the seriousness and responsibility necessary for their positions, and so he resigned. The following verses from the inscriptions have been published and edited by Confucian scholars.


After Confucius moved to Wei, an unjust governor sent his compliments and invited him to come back to Lu. Confucius refused the offer, convinced that if he did accept the invitation it would only end in disappointment. To express his feelings, Confucius wrote ‘The Song on the Mountain’:

“Would rise to the lofty peak,

Where cliffs and ravines debar.

So Dao though ever near

Is to the seeker far.

How wearisome to me

Those mazes which allow no exit.


I sigh and look around,

The summit in full view;

With woodlands it is crowned

And sandy patches too,

And there stretch all around

The highlands of Lian Fu.

Thickets of thorns prevent

Any ascent.


No axe is here

A path to clear;

The higher we are going,

The worse the briars are growing.

I chant and cry,

And while I sigh,

The tears are flowing and the nose is running.”


*Tai San is the name of the mountain situated between Lu and Wei.


On his way back to Lu from Wei, Confucius stopped in a valley and saw orchids growing on the wayside. He stopped and said, “Orchids should be royalty’s fragrance, but here they are mixed up with common herbs.” He then took his lute and composed a song for the orchids:

“So gently blow the valley breezes

With drizzling mist and rain,

And homeward bound a stranger tarries

With friends in a desert domain.

Blue heaven above! For all his worth,

Is there no place for him on earth?


Though all the countries did he roam

Yet he found no enduring home.

Worldlings are stupid and low,

They naught of sages know.

So swiftly years and days pass by,

And soon old age is drawing nigh.”

Confucius then went back to Lu.


When Confucius fell sick, the governor visited him. Dragging himself with a walking stick, he sang:

“Huge mountains wear away


The strongest beams decay.


And the sage like grass withers.


Confucius died seven days later.


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International Confucian Program in Qufu

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The 2017 Nishan Confucian Studies Summer Institute International Program provides an exciting opportunity for international teachers and students of Chinese history and culture to spend a month at an established Confucian Academy. Run by the Nishan Confucian Studies Summer Institute in Qufu, China, the program aims to help participants gain a clear understanding of the historical evolution of Chinese thought and culture through an in-depth examination of Chinese canonical and interpretative texts.

With the rise of China as major force in the world’s political and economic order, the program adopts an alternative approach to examining and analysing Chinese philosophical texts to appreciate their aesthetic and structural differences. By gaining a deeper understanding of Chinese natural cosmology, history, and philosophy, participants will view the emergence of a dynamic contemporary China in a different light.

The month long training program will be led by Professor Rodger T. Ames (Peking University) and Tian Chenshan (Beijing Foreign Studies University) as participants take part in interactive seminars, group discussions, cultural activities and events.

To apply for this unique opportunity and learn more about the program please follow the link.



Lessons in respect at China’s Confucius kindergartens

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The central government of China is slowly reintroducing Confucianism into China’s education system, particularly through supporting hundreds of private schools dedicated to Confucian teachings.

The teachings of Confucius demand respect for tradition and elders to ensure harmony in a rigidly hierarchical society. Parents are responding optimistically to the traditional education as the children of today’s society are considered too individualistic and selfish.

A new institution in Wuhan especially has been praised for offering young students a program that “counters the downsides of modern life”. The class of 30 students aged two to six chants “Our respect to you, Master Confucius. Thank you for the kindness of your teaching and your compassion”.


Not only do the students learn to recite the great Confucian classics, recreational activities such as Chinese chess for boys and tea ceremonies for girls are conducted.

From January 2016, The China Confucius Foundation had established around 300 institutions in China, compared with 223,700 ordinary kindergartens. A growth of 700 more institutes is anticipated.

Another Confucian organisation, Tongxueguan, opened its first weekend school in 2006 and now has more than 120 such establishments across the country.

According to the founder of Tongxueguan, Li Guangbin, “After economic prosperity, Chinese feel the need for a return to their roots. They also need spiritual elevation.”

Li continues, “The government needs the Confucian traditions to maintain stability, increase the happiness of people, so that they accept their lot without complaint.”

The complete article can be found here.

Chinese soft power set to overtake the world

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Soft power is a highly influential tool used by countries to persuade others that their culture and values are desirable. The concept is practiced by all countries in some approach, for example America with Hollywood films and South Korea with K-pop. Despite the success soft power can create, it is not coercive and is determined by its ability to appeal and attract others.

China’s Confucius Institutes worldwide are an increasing attempt to spread the cultural values and language among outsiders. However, the tight control of what can be said about human rights or the independence of Taiwan clash, particularly in Australia, with the ideal of freedom of speech and inquiry.

As most of the Western world sees China as somewhat “unfriendly”, China is devoting billions to try and refashion its image.

Chinese President Xi Jinping shares a specific strategy: “To give a good Chinese narrative and better communicate China’s messages to the world. To be portrayed as a civilised place featuring a rich history, with good government and developed economy, cultural prosperity and diversity and beautiful mountains and rivers.”

And by what means? Hollywood.

It is anticipated that by 2018 China will become the world’s biggest box office, overtaking America and doubling before its peak.

Wang Jianlin, the Rupert Murdoch of China, is somewhat responsible as he continues to acquire Hollywood, one piece at a time. So far he has bought Legendary Entertainment, Dick Clark Studios and AMC entertainment from the US, Odeon from Europe and Hoyts in Australia.

With the Oriental Movie Metropolis in Qingdao set to be operational next year and thirty big-budget films in the making, Hollywood producers are now considering the “China Factor” in any future profitability.

Harvard professor Joseph Nye and inventor of the term ‘soft power’ says “China’s soft power has fundamental flaws. ..soft power is usually more successful if it comes from the grass roots and is not a dictated program.”

Professor Nye also believes it will be some time yet before China overtakes America as the dominant global power, so in the meantime, get ready for more Chinese heroes at the movies.

The original article can be found here.


South China Sea: why aid will trump islands – The hidden good fortune for China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision

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As per the famous Confucian quote, ‘The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones’, the South China Sea ruling may not have gone China’s way, but it opens up a range of opportunities in the region the country can capitalize on, Dr. Rosita Dellios writes.

The Hague ruling against China’s claims in the South China Sea reminds me of the Daoist story of the farmer who lost his horse. The horse had run away, but when the farmer’s neighbours sought to commiserate over his misfortune, the farmer simply said ‘maybe’. He said the same thing the next day when the horse returned in the company of six wild horses and the neighbours congratulated him on his good fortune. He was right to remain circumspect. The next day his son went to ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke a leg. ‘What a misfortune’, the ever-solicitous neighbours said, to which the farmer answered ‘maybe’. Not long after, the village was visited by conscription officers who were rounding up able-bodied young men for the army. The farmer’s son was seen to be unfit. When the neighbours remarked how well the story ended, the farmer said ‘maybe’.

So, too, the ruling against China might seem like a misfortune for the PRC but it is not necessarily so. When the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in favour of the Philippines on 12 July, China naturally protested. But in reality plans were underway to negotiate with the ‘winner’ who, in turn, was keeping a low profile. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte refrained from triumphant rhetoric, seeking instead the path of diplomacy.

The dispute which triggered Manila’s international legal action against China in 2013 was over Scarborough Shoal, 124 nautical miles (229.7km) northwest of the Philippines. Despite the legal win, Filipino fishermen remain the losers as the China Coast Guard continues to deny them entry into the area. Here lies a human security issue that goes to the heart of China’s wider regional strategy: the importance of development via the One Belt, One Road Initiative. Little wonder then that smaller countries like the Philippines and Vietnam that have competing South China Sea claims are not crowing about the ruling. They need Chinese investment and inclusion in the Belt and Road transformation which will lift living standards and will have a far greater impact than reef-consolidation exercises. Vietnam has already been promised investment in education and health, “with an additional half billion [dollars] for infrastructure”.

China might have lost to the Philippines but it has had the good fortune of finding Taiwan on the same side of the argument. Beijing and Taipei share a view on South China Sea sovereignty. Indeed, it was the Republic of China which first drew the infamous map with the U-shaped line. The Republic of China (rather than the “Taiwan Authority of China”, as referred to in the ruling) still flies its flag on Taiping Island (Itu Aba), the biggest of the Spratly group in the South China Sea. That this was demoted to a non-island in the ruling, which designated land features to be mere rocks and reefs, further outraged Taiwan. It meant that it was not entitled to a 200 nautical mile (370.4km) exclusive economic zone.

South China Sea

Image credit: Flickr

Taiwan’s new president, Tsai Ing-wen, with whom Beijing was having difficulties, is now closer to China in her stance against the arbitral award, a fortunate turn of events for China. She is even sending a warship to Taiping Island to conduct its patrols sooner than had been planned.

This article was originally written by the author for The Asia & the Pacific Policy Society (APPS) Policy Forum. The original article can be found here.

Achieving Social Order, Harmony and Peace in the Workplace – The Confucian Way

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In today’s modern society, most people spend a significant portion of their day at their workplace. Companies invest millions of dollars into employee well-being programs and identifying ways to retain their most valuable assets.

Many studies have confirmed that a positive harmonious workplace directly correlates to productive work environment, increased revenue and the overall success of an organization.

According to the Confucian philosophy, the maintenance of social order, harmony and peace is created and maintained by adopting the five virtues  within the five cardinal relationships:

-Ruler to subject
-Father to son
-Husband and wife
-Elder brother to younger brother
-Friend to friend

If we viewed each company’s work environment as individual ‘societies’, would a modern Confucian approach be valuable by applying the 5 virtues to the ’employer to employee’ relationship – similar to the ‘ruler to subject’ relationship? How would one interpret the five virtues within this environment?

Employers can adopt Ren 仁 – ‘Benevolence and humaneness’ by upholding high standards of behavior through their everyday actions and treating their employees with respect by “not doing onto others as you would not wish done to yourself.” In return, employees would feel valued and empowered in their workplace.

It would be in an employer and employees’ best interests to adhere to Li 禮 – by following laws that have been created to govern workplaces such as workplace health and safety legislations and laws that protect employees from discrimination and sexual harassment. This will ensure that all employees can enjoy a safe and healthy work environment.

Yi can be upheld by employers identifying the need to (and also by encouraging all their employees to) always do good, and also to recognize what is right and wrong  and using moral intuition to make the right decisions and having the best moral interests of their company at heart. This is particularly relevant in situations where an employer or employee may be tempted engage in activities for their self interests such as receiving bribes.

Everyone makes mistakes, but it is only when employer reflects on them and correct themselves as part of adopting Chi 智 – moral wisdom that they and their employees can continue to build a stronger company in the future.

When all employers and employees in a ‘workplace society’ practice Xìn 信, by being integral, honest and faithful, this will ultimately contribute to a harmonious, productive peaceful work culture that leads to success.