Chinese-British television documentary on the life of Confucius to be fully released in 2016

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Confucius screen grab

Screengrab of the newly released documentary “Confucius”- retrieved from

The first of a six part documentary on the life of the Chinese philosopher Confucius has been premiered earlier this month in Guangzhou.

The documentary, the English version of which already premiered at the end of October in the United Kingdom has seen the participation of China Central Television, British Lion TV, China International Television Corporation and the Dazhong News Group with a record investment of US5$ million.[1]

The documentary is set to capture the life of Confucius, from its birth and philosophy to its far-reaching impact on nowadays generations. The in-depth six part movie has taken the filming crew more than two years of research, filming, interviewing and producing. The creators travelled throughout the United States, Britain and China’s Shandong, Beijing, Hebei, Sichuan, Guangdong, Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou and Xinjiang in order to conduct relevant research, interviews and filming.[2]

The documentary has already received positive comments from critics and Chinese officials such as Guo Weimin, deputy director of China’s State Council Information Office. “The documentary ‘Confucius’ not only presents a memorable, classic production but also explores a new model of China-U.K. historical documentary co-production,” said Guo at the end of the premier screening of the documentary[3].

Will you be tuning into watch  in 2016?

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Can Confucius bridge the gap between the two Koreas?

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An interview featuring Dr Caitlin Byrne from Bond University

The dialogue between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, better known as North Korea and South Korea, is a history of long silences and tensions.

After the split of the peninsula introduced in the post-World War Two environment and entrenched through the Korean War of 1950, with the armistice signed in 1953, diplomatic exchanges between the two Koreas greatly diminished. The two countries are technically still at war, as the highly armed buffer zone between North and South Korea, known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), clearly shows. The DMZ may separate adversaries, but their starkly different developmental paths in the last 70 years have also turned them into strangers.

Although North and South Korea now reflect quite different societies, lifestyles and political views, they are still united by historical and cultural ties that speak to a shared ancient civilisation. Sporadic efforts have been made in recent years to facilitate dialogue between the two countries including through cultural exchanges, economic development projects and family reunions. Family reunions, like the one conducted recently with the assistance of the Red Cross Societies [1], reflect the deep, though aging familial bonds that link the two states and remind us of their shared national heritage.

A South Korean lady kisses her North Korean father in a family reunion in October 2015. Retrieved here.

Another often overlooked tie connecting the two Koreas is the shared and deeply rooted attachment to Confucian tradition.

The teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius have had a profound and meaningful influence on the social structures of both countries, so much so that Korea, when still united, used to be referred to as the most Confucian society on earth.

An emphasis on family, personal betterment, respect for age and authority, are prominent elements of Confucian culture. They continue to feature in the daily life of all Koreans, both of North and South to this day, some 2,500 years after the death of Confucius.

Could we say then that Confucianism could be used as a key to close the gap between the two Koreas and help the two countries to develop a closer relation and release some of the tension that characterises their relationship?

Confucian Weekly Bulletin (CWB) explored this engaging topic with Dr Caitlin Byrne, a former diplomat and Bond University professor with years of extensive research on the issue of the Korean Peninsula.

CWB: Dr Byrne, what is the historical significance of Confucius for the Korean peninsula?

“For centuries now Korea (the nation) has considered its relationship to China as paramount to its domestic stability, international engagements and foreign policy. Confucian tradition was a hallmark of Korea’s intellectual development and scholarship from the 4th century onwards. As Korean historian Bruce Cummins (2005, 35) notes ‘in the local towns young men came of age reading the five great classics of Confucian learning’ [2]. Despite the many struggles and upheavals that beset the early history of the Korean peninsula, Confucian tradition was embedded as a strong and unifying force within society. Over centuries, the Koreans interlaced the teachings of Confucius within their own customs. Confucian themes including ‘loyalty to the king, filial love to one’s parents, fidelity in friendship, bravery in battle and chivalry in warfare’ endure in the North and South of the peninsula today. On occasion, when the Chinese Empire came under attack from foreigners and ‘barbarians’, Korea embraced the responsibility of protecting the purity of Confucian tradition, a responsibility that has delivered a unique attachment to that tradition, even today.”

Could you see the teachings of Confucius as a key to improve diplomatic relations between the two countries? If yes, how could this be achieved when the two countries are now so different?

“The shared attachment that both North and South Korea hold to the principles of Confucian tradition offers some potential for future engagement between the two nations that remain physically and ideologically separate. This potential rests in the unexpected familiarity that North and South Koreans might find in the way that they interrelate on interpersonal, familial and societal interactions. However, it is a potential that is obscured by layers of political, ideological and structural distrust. Peeling back these layers remains a significant challenge.”

Do you think we will be able to witness closer interaction across the Korean peninsula despite the political challenges?

“It will require multifaceted engagement strategies at the people-to-people level – spearheaded by the recognition of their shared memories, stories and tradition. The prospects for such engagement are limited but not out of reach. Yet they diminish with each passing year as those who can remember a unified Korea and might facilitate the sharing of stories, memories and histories pass on and a new normal forged in hostile separation takes hold.”

Caitlin Byrne is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at Bond University (Gold Coast, Australia) where she teaches and researches diplomacy and public diplomacy, with a special focus on Australia and the Asia-Pacific. She also has a particular interest in the Korean Peninsula.


[2] Bruce Cummings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: A Modern History, (NY: Norton, 2005).

Strategy, the South China Sea, and the Meeting of the Misters

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Ma Ying-jeuo, president of Taiwan, and Xi Jinping, president of the People's Republic of China, shake hands in Singapore on Saturday. The meeting of the presidents of China and Taiwan is the first of its kind after 66 years.
Ma Ying-jeuo, president of Taiwan, and Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, shake hands in Singapore on Saturday. The meeting of the presidents of China and Taiwan is the first of its kind after 66 years. Retrieved here.

Our Associate Professor of International Relations, Dr Rosita Dellios, poses that the recent historic meeting between the Chinese and Taiwanese presidents after 66 years was no coincidence, rather part of a very well-studied Chinese strategy for the South China Sea.

Her writing was featured on the website APPS Policy Form.

“With all eyes on the South China Sea it is easy to forget Taiwan. But with the meeting of the two ‘Misters’ in Singapore recently – Chinese President Xi Jinping and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou – it is possible to connect the nine-dash line to Taiwan. When Xi met Ma on neutral ground, in Singapore, they both agreed to avoid the contentious use of titles and simply call each other ‘Mister’ in front of their names.

That November meeting was symbolic in that no negotiations took place on reunification between the two estranged Chinas – the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on the mainland, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province. It was historic because the reality behind the façade of mister-diplomacy was that this was an unprecedented meeting between the top leaders of PRC and ROC, a meeting that had not taken place since the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War 66 years ago…”

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The End of the “One-child” Policy: A Confucian Perspective

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China recently announced the end of the “one –child” policy of the past 35 years, removing the restriction on families to have only one child.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) commented on the decision saying that the end of the policy will “increase labour supply and ease pressures from an aging population” further adding that “this will benefit sustained and healthy economic development”.[1]

With 1.4 billion people, the People’s Republic of China is the country with the largest population in the world. The CCP introduced the one-child policy in 1979 under Deng Xiaoping’s administration as a temporary measure to curb a surging population and deal with the increasing demand of water and resources.

Although it has been abolished, the one-child policy has changed generations of young Chinese families and the lives of millions of Chinese people.

Three Generations of Chinese Family
Three generations in a portrait of a typical Chinese family. One day the little boy in the middle might have to care for the needs of four. Retrieved here.

China, as a Confucian society, has always emphasized a strong reverence for elders. However over the last three decades, the one-child policy has increased the number of aged people to the point of turning upside-down the very fabric of society, with a small young generation caring for the needs of a much larger aging population.

The Confucian virtue of xiao (filial piety) entails respect for one’s parents, elders and ancestors. Fulfilling this duty is becoming harder for the younger generation in circumstances where such respect means supporting and caring for older members of the family within their daily life.

This is reflected in population statistics which show that the policy resulted in an estimated 400 million fewer being born. Currently, more than 20% of the Chinese population is over 55. The elderly population will increase by 60% in the next five years, while the working age population will decrease by 35%. This will not only create economic challenges, but will also affect the values of the young members of Chinese society.[2] [3] [4]

An infant on his grandad’s shoulders in Yunnan’s countryside in southern China. Retrieved from:
An infant on his grandad’s shoulders in Yunnan’s countryside in southern China. Retrieved here.

How can filial piety be upheld in today’s China?

Confucius said: “Filial piety nowadays means to be able to support one’s parents. But we support even dogs and horses. If there is no feeling of reverence, wherein lies the difference?” (Analects, 2:7)

This is indeed a significant passage indicating how filial piety should be upheld. Filial piety is one of the roots of all virtues in Confucianism and as the above passage explains, it is important to understand that it does not lie only in the economic support of parents and elders, but also in the spirit with which that assistance and reverence is shown.

As China embarks on a journey to re-establish a balance within the age groups of its population, will the current generation of young Chinese be able to uphold the value of filial piety taught by Confucius?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!

Is Confucius making a comeback in China?

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Our Associate Professor of International Relations, Dr Rosita Dellios poses that the Confucian philosophy is finding its way once again in Chinese culture after its condemnation during Mao’s Cultural Revolution and is helping the country to realise its human and economic potential.

Her writing was featured on the website GBtimes.

Professor Rosita Dellios, Bond University
Professor Rosita Dellios, Bond University

Is Confucius making a comeback in China?

As China continues to find its footing on the world stage and keep its economy growing, officials are turning towards an old philosophy for ideas. The revival of Confucianism in China is gathering pace and the cultural revival could have a huge significance for the country in the coming years.

The ruling Communist Party has taken China’s cultural revival to its heart after decades of neglect. The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius is at the centre of this revival, with projects happening across the country in an effort to revive his philosophy and teachings.

A big part of of the revival is happening in the city of Qufu, the hometown of Confucius and the location of his wonderful temple. Officials in the city recently announced that teachers would have free access to the temple in an effort to spread Confucius’ teachings.

Allowing teachers free access to the temple is a clever policy, as it was Confucius, who started the first private schools in the country around 2,000 years ago. The Chinese government-sponsored Confucius Foundation of China is also setting up around 10,000 Confucius schools across the country as part of the revival strategy.

Why is Confucius coming back?

During the decade-long Cultural Revolution in 1966-1976, Confucius was considered a regressive pedant and citizens were discouraged from publicly discussing his philosophies. But the current government has played a big role in changing the attitude and putting the revered symbol of China’s traditional culture back on the map.

Dr Rosita Dellios, Associate Professor of International Relations at Bond University, told gbtimes that the revival comes at a time when the country is looking for answers. “It is a time when people are searching for values they can rely on, when China needs a firmer grip on its fast changing reality,” she said.

According to Dr Dellios, the Chinese society is moving from the socialist “serve the people” motto towards a more individualistic world, where the focus is on “generating wealth and acquiring status”.

While Confucius and especially the family-centred thinking of the philosophy were never truly forgotten in China, much of the formal and institutional aspects of Confucius were brushed aside….


Can Ren and Li help counter extremism?

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A Uygur dance, one of Xinjiang’s traditional dances in Western China
A Uygur dance, one of Xinjiang’s traditional dances in Western China.  Retrieved here 

Social order is a central premise in Confucian teachings. It is supported by the main pillars of Confucianism: Ren and Li, both of which help create a harmonious society that avoids the use of violence.

The principle of Ren has been translated in English with words such as benevolence, altruism and doing good. It refers to the inner capacity of all human beings to act with humanity and with the purpose of helping others. In Ren, humaneness is the key to prosperity and harmony, while aggression is its opposite.

Li is also similar to Ren and the two are often presented as connected values. Li refers to the right way of behaving. Every social interaction is dictated by proper behaviour and the respect for others. When we behave in this way, it is not necessary to use force in the pursuit of the common good and unity.

Not only Confucianism, but the other two main spiritual traditions of China, Daoism and Buddhism, also teach the importance of harmony and the need to avoid violence:

For example, in the main Daoist text the Daodejing, it is stated:

“Those who assist a leader by means of the Tao [Dao] do not use arms to coerce the world, for these things tend to reverse- brambles grow where an army has been, bad years follow a great war.

Weapons are inauspicious instruments, not the tools of the enlightened. When there is no choice but to use them, it is the best to be calm and free from greed, and not celebrate victory. Those who celebrate victory are bloodthirsty, and the bloodthirsty cannot have their way with the world.”

The strong rejection of violence is the foundation on which the Chinese Government has recently worked to ensure greater national unity and to counteract forms of terrorism and extremism within China.

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has described terrorism as a fight that Chinese must take on together, creating a narrative that invites the country to unify to combat any form of extremism.

In a speech given last year in Xinjiang Autonomous Region , addressing military forces after a series of terrorist attacks, Xi Jinping urged the soldiers to “care for each other, help each other, study together, maintain national unity and guard the borderland of China(1); he furthermore added that they should “sweat more in peacetime to bleed less in wartime”.

Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China (Retrieved from: )
Xinjiang Autonomous Region in China.  Retrieved here. 

Now after well over a year from that speech and the terrorist attacks, it seems as a new social balance is emerging within Xinjiang. In a press conference three weeks ago, Shohrat Zakir, the party chairman of the Autonomous Region, said that “Xinjiang now has an effective mechanism to prevent and deal with terrorist attacks. Battling terrorism in the region is everyday work”(2). A white paper presented at the conference also outlined how the different cultures within Xinjiang are now starting to create a stronger dialogue; people of different religions and those who have no religious beliefs in Xinjiang have learned to show respect and understand each other.

While the values of Ren and Li are bringing about the construction of a harmonious society within the borders of China and are helping Xinjiang in countering forms of extremism, the rest of the world is still dealing with various forms of terrorism, especially within the Middle East.

Can Li and Ren help the world to counter terrorism?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!

10,000 Confucius schools to be built across China

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Statue of Confucius at the entrance of the Confucius Temple in Beijing, China
Statue of Confucius at the entrance of the Confucius Temple in Beijing, China

The building of 10,000 Confucian schools in China has begun. These will spread Confucian values and will train students to live in the ways of its master, Confucius. This is the ambitious project of the Confucius Foundation of China (CFC) as announced by its secretary-general, Wang Daqian, at the Cross-Strait Academic Forum on Confucianism on October 10.

The forum, which was held close to the 2,565th anniversary of the birth of Confucius in his home province, Shandong, outlined that although the Confucius School project started only a year ago, over 100 institutions of this kind have already been built and that the long term goal will be to build a total of 10,000 China-wide.

It is to be expected that the news will be welcomed by the Chinese government and by President Xi Jinping. Mr Xi remarked last year that Confucianism was one of the cultures that “nourished the flourishing Chinese nation.”

As Mr Wang remarked, the academic curriculum of the schools will provide students not only with theoretical concepts but will also strive to endow them with strong practical Confucian values.

This is in harmony with the teaching of Confucius:

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand,” – Confucius

Read more on this topic here.