Transmitting Confucius through Theatre

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A leading approach to communicate the Chinese language and culture worldwide is to establish Confucius Institutes across the globe. However, a new initiative has risen by way of Theatre.

China National Opera and Dance Drama Theatre commissioned the recent performance of a Confucius dedicated production in Xi’an, where Ms Kong Dexin, 77th generation descendant of Confucius, directed and choreographed a “flashy new dance-drama” about the revered ancient philosopher.

Spectators recounted that “the wide-sleeves on the scholar’s robe billowed as the bearded sage whirled, cartwheeled and leapt across stage before a backdrop of massive bamboo strips inscribed with ancient Chinese characters”.

The premier of the 90 minute show was in Beijing in 2013 and has since toured through Europe. It has become a cultural calling card for China as the country seeks to bolster its efforts to project soft power abroad. The production will visit the Kennedy Centre in Washington after going to New York in January 2017.

Over the centuries, Confucius has become one of the most important and recognisable symbols of traditional Chinese culture. Across East Asia, his teachings about harmony, benevolence and righteousness have influenced everything from the makeup of political institutions to the dynamics of everyday relationships. There is no limitation to how these values can be transmitted to Western cultures, with Theatre being a primary example.

The complete article can be found here.

2016 Confucianism Symposium

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Two East-West Centres – one from China and one from Australia –joined forces for the second year in a row to explore the relevance of Confucian thought in today’s world. After being launched at Australia’s Bond University in May 2015, the second of the Confucianism Symposiums was held in Beijing on October 8 and 9, 2016. Representatives from seven  countries united to attend the 2016 Confucianism Symposium, a joint collaboration between Centre for East West Relations at Beijing Foreign Studies University and Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies at Bond University. A collective perspective was apparent among China, Australia, India, South Korea, Singapore, Africa and Germany: Confucianism has exerted great influence on modern economic activity and governance and is transferable to western culture and society.

Professor and Pro-Vice Chancellor Raoul Mortley from Bond University launched the Opening Ceremony with acknowledgements to the organising committee, expert speakers and guests. He noted this second Symposium of the joint collaboration was successful in strengthening the ties between both universities and its scholars. Vice President of Beijing Foreign Studies University, Professor Sun Youzhong, continued with the Opening Ceremony to also welcome all representatives and wish the Symposium a great success.

Internationally renowned Confucian scholar, Professor Roger Ames from Beijing University, gave the inaugural keynote speech. He discussed Confucian Role Ethics and the challenges posed Individualism. Over the course of two days many stimulating topics, pertaining to the theme of “Confucianism, Governance and Emerging Economic Order”, were explored. Among them were the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative, Socialism with Chinese characteristics, the concept of Hope in Human Culture as an East-West comparison, and adaptive Confucian relationships. Professor Daniel Bell from Tsinghua University concluded the conference with the closing keynote speech: Democracy and Meritocracy as a political model in China.

As the world continues to globalise rapidly, with its complex interdependence, the need for a more responsive governance system is becoming increasingly evident. The 2016 Confucianism Symposium generated open discussion into how Confucian philosophy, including its modern variants , can play an influential role in governing the globe more efficiently and harmoniously.

Thank you to all the representatives for contributing expert knowledge to the conference. Information regarding the 2017 Confucianism Symposium held at Bond University, Australia will be released in due course via the Confucian Weekly Bulletin.

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What Confucius said – Quote of the week

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Confucius – a legendary film

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Confucius is a 2010 biographical film based on the life of highly-influential Chinese philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC). describes the film as an epic masterpiece that balances breathtaking spectacle, visceral action and heart-wrenching drama to deliver one China’s most unforgettable movies.

In 500 BC during China’s famed ‘Spring and Autumn Period’, Confucius, a commoner revered for his outstanding wisdom, is made Minister of Law in the ancient Kingdom of Lu. Under his inspired leadership, Lu ascends to new heights but becomes a target of conquest for the warlike nation of Qi. Threatened with annihilation by their powerful neighbour, desperate people turn to their greatest teacher to lead their most powerful army. When Confucius delivers a stunning victory against all odds a jealous aristocracy sets out to destroy him, but they should never under-estimate a remarkable man whose wisdom is more powerful than the sword.

With breathtaking cinematography from Oscar-winning director of photography, Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Confucius is one of Asian Cinema’s finest achievements and is a compelling invitation to discover the remarkable story of one of history’s greatest heroes.

The trailer can be found here.

What Confucius said – Quote of the week

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Happy 2,567th Birthday Confucius

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Today Eastern Asia unites to pay tribute to ancient philosopher Confucius on his 2,567th birthday, born September 28, 551BC.

In Qufu, the birth place of Confucius, thousands gather to attend the formal ceremony at the Confucius Temple. Celebrations are also held in temples throughout China and Taiwan, as well as Macau, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam. The modern Confucian ceremony is 60 minutes long and consists of 37 choreographed parts. During the commemoration there are many musical performances and dancing using ancient instruments and traditional costumes.

September 28 is also celebrated as Teachers’ Day in Taiwan, a holiday that honours teachers and the birthday of Confucius, who is considered the master educator in ancient China. There is current debate in the People’s Republic of China to whether Teachers’ day should be moved from September 10 to September 28. The Teachers’ Day change is considered a landmark of Confucianism’s revival.

Confucius and his philosophy have profoundly influenced Chinese politics, values and ethics. Today not only is his life celebrated but his death venerated.

More information can be found in the following articles:

Across China: China observes 2,567th anniversary of Confucius’ birth

Image of Asia: Celebrating birth of Confucius in Beijing

China celebrates 2,567th birth anniversary of Confucius



History of Confucius

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With China’s most influential philosopher Confucius due to celebrate his 2,567th birthday, a summary of history may enlighten us in sight of the momentous day. Although there continues to be scholarly debate as to the events that took place, such as whether he became a governor, the following is the standard account.

Confucius was born in Zou, Lu state (near present-day Qufu) on the 28th of September, 551 BC during the Zhou Dynasty (1045 – 255BC). Confucius was a sage, scholar and philosopher whose thoughts and teachings have become the foundation of a system known as Confucianism. This philosophy has profoundly influenced Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese thoughts and life.

The Latinised name Confucius, based on the honorific title Kong Fuzi (K’ung Fu-tzu), was created by 16th-century Jesuit missionaries in China. Confucius was born into an aristocratic family who had lost their wealth and position. His father died when Confucius was only three years old. Instructed first by his mother, Confucius then distinguished himself as a passionate learner in his teens. He had served in minor government posts managing stables and keeping books for granaries before he married a woman of similar background when he was 19, later fathering 3 children. Confucius’ mastery of the six arts and his familiarity with poetry and history enabled him to start a school and brilliant teaching career in his 30’s. His teachings included humaneness towards others, ritual, etiquette, love of parents for their children, and of children for their parents. An emphasis was placed on self-cultivation and skilled judgement, rather than knowledge of rules.

During his lifetime Confucius developed concepts about education, society and government that he hoped to put into practice in a political career. By the age of 50 he may have become a governor. At 56, when he realised that his superiors were uninterested in his policies (feeding the poor at the expense of the state), Confucius left the country in an attempt to find another feudal state to which he could render his service.

Despite his political frustration he was accompanied by an expanding circle of students during this self-imposed exile of almost 12 years. His reputation as a man of vision and mission spread. At the age of 67 Confucius returned home to teach and to preserve his cherished classical traditions by writing and editing. He died in 479 BC, at the age of 73.

Confucius’ teachings were later turned into an elaborate set of rules and practices by his numerous disciples and followers, who organised his teachings into the Analects. Confucius’ disciples and his only grandson, Zisi, continued his philosophical school after his death. These efforts spread Confucian ideals to students who then became officials in many of the royal courts in China, thereby giving Confucianism the first wide-scale test of its dogma.

In the Analects (2:4), Confucius is recorded as summarising his life this way:

At 15 I set my heart on learning; at 30 I firmly took my stand; at 40 I had no delusions; at 50 I knew the Mandate of Heaven; at 60 my ear was attuned; at 70 I followed my heart’s desire without overstepping the boundaries of right.



Information used in this post was derived from Encyclopaedia Britannica and ReligionFacts.