Confucian religion in Indonesia- 印尼孔教

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At the beginning of March, a historic meeting between Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo took place where the monarch’s visit was viewed as an opportunity to present Indonesia as a forward-looking and religiously tolerant nation.

President Jokowi invited leaders of the country’s major religious organizations to meet King Salman. In the 30-minute gathering, Jokowi stated that “in this meeting are representatives of Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism…This is very important for inter-religion relationships in Indonesia and is a very valuable asset for the Indonesian nation and state in contributing to peace.”

These visits are part of Indonesia’s public diplomacy efforts to promote the country as democratic, multicultural and multi-religious, despite problems of freedom of religion and belief following reports of discriminatory state legislation, physical violence, and stigmatisation of minorities.

For many ethnic Chinese, in addition to terrorism and the status of minorities, another issue that has received less attention internationally has been the recognition of “Confucian religion” (Kongjiao, 孔教) as an official religion in Indonesia.

Ambiguous Status

According to Yang (2005), Chinese traders were active in the lands that now constitute Indonesia as early as the third century BC. As with most migration movements, the introduction of foreign cultures, beliefs, and values was adopted differently throughout the archipelago. In this regard, rather than becoming a well-organised community religion or social movement, anti-Chinese attitudes in some regions meant that Confucianism remained a loose individual belief and practice until the mid-1900s.

Boen_bio,_SurabayaPhoto: Wikimedia Commons. Confucian Temple in Surabaya, Indonesia.

While formally recognised as one of Indonesia’s six official religions by the 1960s, inconsistency in applying religious law has resulted in many Confucians self-identifying as Buddhists. For example, the de-recognition of Confucianism in 1979 meant that Confucians became part of the ‘others’ category on official reports or had to register as Buddhists or Christians. In the 2000s, the national census also did not permit respondents to choose Confucianism as their religion, making the status of Confucianism in Indonesia unclear.

Changing Times

By 2006, Confucianism was again officially recognised as a religion by the Ministry of Religion, when it was announced that discrimination on matters of citizenship, nationality, religious rituals and marriage would cease. Even though many under-50 Indonesian Chinese were unable to speak Chinese, Confucianism retained a strong presence in communities by being passed down through clan structures and family ethics.

Increasing bilateral ties with China also improved the status of Confucianism. Politically, Chinese Indonesians have gained greater representation and participation in Indonesian institutions as Chinese Indonesians are seen as playing a potential cultural and commercial ‘bridging’ role in the relationship (Setijadi, 2016). The introduction of the Confucius Institute in Indonesia was understood as a landmark in the Sino-Indonesian educational cooperation, promoting the exchange in education and culture between the two countries.

As well as reinforcing China’s cultural influence and Indonesia’s role as an open and inclusive state, Confucianism in Indonesia demonstrates the challenges of spreading and adapting Confucian thought to different legal, social, and cultural contexts.

In that case, while King Salman’s visit was focused on Islamic terrorism, the inclusion of Confucianism in meetings and events highlights that times are slowly changing as Confucian thought becomes more accepted internationally.

king-Salman-intrfaith-meet-Indonesia-1Photo: Caravan Daily, 2013. Interfaith Meeting in Jakarta.

Confucianism and Mental Health

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As a distinct and important philosophical thought in Chinese culture, Confucianism remains at the core of China’s traditions and beliefs. From a mental health perspective, traditional thought provides a unique understanding on the nature of human beings, allowing psychotherapists and mental health practitioners to utilize cultural traditions in developing a person’s sense of Self, and healing emotional problems.

Previous studies in Confucian culture have mainly focused on Confucianism in organisational harmony and job performance. For instance, Prof. Patrick Low and Sik-Liong Ang (2013) highlighted how a Confucian emphasis on loyalty, responsibility, and individual moral cultivation could lead to harmonious relationships and successful business management. Hu, Liao, and Xu (2012) also investigated 426 company employees and found that Confucian thinking positively correlated with organizational harmony and employee performance. However, far less attention has been paid to Confucianism and cultural psychology, and in particular mental health.

As a result, a recent study in cross-cultural psychology provides an interesting perspective on the way that Confucianism can be used to improve the practice of psychotherapy. Following previous work by Yan (2008), who stated that Confucian concepts such as Ren-ai (仁爱) or ‘kindheartedness’ is an essential component in developing therapist-patient relationships based on cooperation and care, Yang et al. (2016) argue that Zhong-Yong thinking (中庸) can encourage people to regulate mental distress and maintain subjective well-being.

In the Doctrine of the Mean, which is the title of one of the four books of Confucian philosophy, as well as being a doctrine, it is stated that life should be about experiencing emotion without extremity, “when (emotions) are expressed, manifested in the middle with regulation, they are harmonious”. In that case, regulating emotions and processing information holistically represents the Confucian ideal of perfecting relationships and activities in human life.

Yang et al.’s (2016) study claims that therapists who think holistically and consider the interconnectedness of the mind, body, and spirit could help patients restructure their cognition and behaviour, without ignoring their physical well-being and emotional distress. Accepting the coexistence of positive and negative emotions could also help find flexible behavioural responses to distressing situations, giving patients more self-control to cope with real-life challenges.

While the study was only conducted on a Chinese undergraduate students’ sample and did not investigate the potential negative impact of Zhong-Yong thinking, the findings show that cultural heritage has the potential to play an important role in psychotherapy and mental health, encouraging people to maintain harmony and connection in their day to day lives.


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.



Dr Alan Chan HJ visits Bond University

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alan-and-raoulPictured: Dr Alan Chan HJ (left) and Professor Raoul Mortley (right)

Dr Alan Chan HJ arrived on the Gold Coast, Australia, last week where Bond University prepared a series of events to acknowledge the immense contribution and support made to the university, particularly the Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies (CEWCES).

Among the celebrations was a recognition luncheon hosted by the Vice-Chancellor of Bond University, Professor Tim Brailsford. The Chancellor, Dr Annabelle Bennett, and the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Society and Design, Professor Raoul Mortley, were also present to share their appreciations.

During the luncheon the Vice-Chancellor shared with the esteemed guests a short summary of Dr Chan’s efficacious life and career. Highlights include 40 years as a power house in the shipping business. After his exit in 2007, Dr Chan devoted his energies to the study of Confucian ethics. He published a number of books in the area, as well as the dissemination of knowledge among Centres, particularly CEWCES.

Through Dr Chan’s efforts and encouragement, Bond University has developed various collaborations and joint research with China Foreign Affairs University and Beijing Foreign Studies University. Dr Chan attends and contributes to the conferences held jointly between them. The financial assistance provided has allowed staff and doctoral students to participate in exchanges among institutions, as well as foster research by academics which has resulted in a highly regarded new book release “The Politics and Philosophy of Chinese Power” by Dr R. James Ferguson and Dr Rosita Dellios. The Confucian Weekly Bulletin is another result of his support.

During Dr Chan’s stay he was also involved in an interview with Professor Raoul Mortley, as added means to transmit Confucian doctrines to the West. Topics examined include Confucian Diplomacy, Confucianism and the Environment and Confucianism and its applicability to all cultures. To view an extract please click here.

Not only is Dr Chan an Honorary Fellow of the Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies at Bond University, but also an active thinker and contributor to a wealth of Confucian knowledge and expertise in various countries, including China. It is always a pleasure for Bond University to welcome Dr Chan back on campus and to share the fruits of knowledge and understanding that have been cultivated as a result of his generosity.


Job Opportunity Announcement: Assistant Professor for Confucian philosophy subject wanted at Bond University

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The Faculty of Society & Design, which houses the Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies, is seeking to appoint a dedicated and enthusiastic professional to the role of Assistant Professor to develop and teach an online and blended learning style course, on the subject of Confucian philosophy and its relevance in the modern world.

The successful candidate would also be expected to conduct research in the area of Confucian thought, and to collaborate with the International Relations staff in their research in the East/West area.

This is a full-time, fixed-term appointment for three years. For further details regarding this appointment please reference the position descriptions and selection criteria available from www.bond.edu.au/employ

Completed applications should be sent to Peta Dawson/Tanya Anderson: employment@bond.edu.au

Applications close 5.00pm, Wednesday 15 March 2017


Chinese New Year, Confucius, and Ben Franklin

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ben franklin.jpgOne week has passed from Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, which represents a combination of religious and secular rituals that have primarily stemmed from practices in Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism.

Communities Digital News has released an article that suggests Confucius and Ben Franklin could have celebrated Chinese New Year together, despite the differences in time and place, both reflecting the best of their respective cultures. Author Dennis Jamison writes:

As people around the world began the Chinese New Year, few people would have the audacity to make a connection between the holiday and Benjamin Franklin. Yet, at the heart of the actual celebration of Chinese New Year is the application of some of the precepts that Confucius taught centuries ago, and some of what Ben Franklin wrote about is in alignment with Confucian teaching.

Confucius lived and taught in China 500 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, at a time in which the Buddha was sharing his thought with the people of India. Franklin lived in the turbulent period of colonial America which experienced the creation of the United States of America. However, despite the difference in the time and geographic areas, it is likely that had Franklin met Confucius on a street in Philadelphia in the late 1700s, they may have had quite a discussion about Chinese New Year.

To read how you can follow the link.