Confucius’ wisdom is still cherished after two millennia with the efforts from his hometown to promote this philosophy
Published: Oct 17, 2021 07:48 PM Updated: Oct 16, 2021 09:48 AM
After two millennia, Confucianism, a philosophy that is considered to have helped form China's society, still shines its light today by influencing and inspiring people all around the world with its advocacy for education, harmony and other excellent qualities of humanity.

In his hometown Jining, in East China's Shandong Province, the thoughts of the great philosopher of Confucius have been proudly inherited and are now been promoted to other parts of the world. 

In past years, international events featuring Confucius and his cultural heritage have been hosted in Jining. Every year, the giant ceremony to mark Confucius' birthday in late September has become a feast for locals, scholars and all the people who follow his great thoughts.

Young students at the Confucius Ceremony Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Young students at the Confucius Ceremony Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Internationally, academic studies on Confucianism have never stopped. Respected institutes in China and in Confucius' hometown, Jining, have also been actively promoting the academic exchanges and studies in this area. Confucian concepts have also been applied in international contexts to provide advice and explanations.

Moreover, Jining has been opening its gates to the world to welcome tourists from abroad to learn about the essence of Confucianism and trace back his life stories.

With the growth of China's influence in the world and the Belt and Road Initiative, quoting Confucius or applying his 2,000-year-old wisdom has become a trend. Growing numbers of people around the world are recognizing and embracing the wisdom of Confucianism. 

Marked with international events

Confucianism is still cherished by many in China and around the world after more than two millennia. Today, people gather in a grand ceremony to mark his birthday and show respect to the great ancient philosopher.

Confucius' 2,572nd birthday was celebrated in his hometown Qufu, in Jining, on September 28, 2021. Hundreds took part in the ceremony in the morning at the Temple of Confucius, including local senior officials, foreign envoys, scholars, and Confucius' descendants.

The ceremony also featured performances by students from local colleges using ancient etiquette. Li Jiaming, student at Qufu Fareast College, told the Global Times that he and his schoolmates rehearsed for a week for their performance. "It is a great way to get to know this important ancestor and his wisdom for us," Li said.

The Confucius Ceremony Photo: Shan Jie/GT

The Confucius Ceremony Photo: Shan Jie/GT

The Confucius Ceremony Photo: Shan Jie/GT

The Confucius Ceremony Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Similar ceremonies were also held around China and other countries like South Korea where Confucius has a deep influence.

Together with the Confucius Ceremony, the International Confucius Cultural Festival was launched featuring the international Nishan Forum, a space to discuss about culture and civilization, as well as the Confucius Culture Week for Chinese and foreign students.

The 2021 festival includes both online and offline events aimed at followers of Confucian culture around the world.

Founded in 1989, the International Confucius Cultural Festival is one of the largest national and international tourism festivals integrating culture, tourism, and scholarly and scientific activities to promote ancient Chinese culture.

The day before the Confucius Ceremony, three programs worldwide were given the Confucius Prize this year. The winners include "Building and Growing" from Mexico, which helps construction workers learn to read and write, the "Ain Shams University experience in organizing online literacy classes for rural areas in Egypt", which focuses on the development of rural residents, especially children and women, and the "Functional literacy for traders in Abidjan through the use of ICT" from Côte d'Ivoire, which is specialized in literacy of local women.

The UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy was established in 2005 with the support of the Chinese government. It is awarded to excellent literacy programs with special consideration to adult literacy learning in rural areas and out-of-school youth, particularly girls and women.

Dancers perform during the Confucius Cultural Festival. Photo: Pang Yue/GT

Dancers perform during the Confucius Cultural Festival. Photo: Pang Yue/GT

The award ceremony was held during the 2021 China International Confucius Cultural Festival and the 7th Nishan Forum on World Civilizations, which kicked off on September 27. More than 172 scholars, envoys and officials from 16 countries attended the event online or on site.

Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a congratulatory letter that only through dialogue can different civilizations work together, inspire each other, and find answers to problems. He believes that in this process, the Confucian civilization will definitely exert its unique values.

Yasuo Fukuda, honorary Chairman of the Organizing Committee of Nishan Forum on World Civilization and former Prime Minister of Japan, said that the scheduled holding of this forum itself is to promote meaningful dialogue among diverse civilizations and illuminate the turbulent and confused world.

Teacher of all ages

Confucius said: "Education breeds confidence. Confidence breeds hope. Hope breeds peace."

His ideas on education are still considered meaningful today, such as "teaching students should be in accordance with their aptitude" and "no student should be left behind."

Confucius is crowned in China as the "teacher of all ages" and as Chinese people believe he was the first teacher ever in history.

Education is also a window for Confucianism to step out of China and make the ancient oriental philosophy more international.

Nowadays, many foreign students and teachers live in Jining, showing the city's openness and tolerance.

A foreign student in the campus of the Qufu Normal University Photo: Courtesy of Qufu Normal University

A foreign student in the campus of the Qufu Normal University Photo: Courtesy of Qufu Normal University

Onyekwelu Patrick Chinazam, 27 years old from Nigeria, is a student from Qufu Normal University and has been in China for two years. "Jining is a colorful city that represents China culturally," he told the Global Times, adding that "it is the best place to learn Chinese because it is the home city of Confucius and Mencius."

A student of Chinese language, Chinazam has his own understanding about Confucius. "He is a great thinker. Peace and principles are his thoughts all about," he said.

In the future, Chinazam wants to be a teacher to teach Chinese language and spread Chinese culture in his home country.

Njoroge Lydia Nduta from Kenya, Chinazam's schoolmate, said that her favorite quote from Confucius is: "When parents are alive, we do not travel to the distance." Being away from home for years, she said that she sympathizes with the poetic statement.

The city also draws its future with international visions.

Jacobus Coenraad Hoffman, 25 years old from South Africa, has been teaching English for two years at Sampan Kindergarten in Rencheng district in Jining. Hoffman loves teaching. In his class, he teaches young children new words by playing games.

Hoffman also knows Confucius. "He is a great teacher. Everybody looks up to him," he said.

Jacobus Coenraad Hoffman in his class Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Jacobus Coenraad Hoffman in his class Photo: Shan Jie/GT

Yang Xiaodong, headmaster of the kindergarten, told the Global Times that the school has combined Italy's Montessori system with Confucianism, creating the future citizens of Jining with international vision.

In Jining Confucius International School, students from 6 to 18 years old can enjoy the best studying facilities. They can speak fluent English, express themselves or introduce their hometown with confidence while knowing well their traditions, like playing Chinese instruments or performing the tea ceremony.

The influence of the Chinese philosopher could also be seen at Confucius Institutes that have opened around the world.

As of 2019, there were 550 Confucius Institutes and 1,172 Confucius Classrooms in 162 countries and regions. These efforts aim to deepen international understanding of the Chinese language and culture and promote people-to-people exchanges between China and other countries.

Treasure of thoughts for modern world

Confucius was born in Zouyi more than 2,000 years ago, a region that now belongs to Jining. From this place, his thoughts formed and developed and were later spread around China and nearby countries. 

China's close neighbors like as Japan, Korea and Vietnam all have been deeply influenced by Confucianism, and it's footprint can still be seen in their traditional etiquette and cultures.

In the past decades, the wisdom of Confucianism has been spreading, reaching places far away from its place of origin. People admire Confucius' thoughts on harmony, education and many other aspects and the classics of Confucianism have become an important section in Chinese language learning.

Foreign envoys talk about the thoughts of Confucius at the Nishan Forum. Photo: Pang Yue/GT

Foreign envoys talk about the thoughts of Confucius at the Nishan Forum. Photo: Pang Yue/GT

Ratish Singh, Counsellor of the Embassy of Fiji in China, told the Global Times that The Analects of Confucius are based on "strong values, discipline and also a lot of peace and harmony."

Addressing current issues and challenges in the world, Singh said that trust, loyalty, sincerity are the real values that we should uphold when facing any challenges.

"The whole human development can be enhanced by some of his philosophical writings," Martin Charles, Ambassador of Dominica in China present at the ceremony, told the Global Times.

Liu Xubing, head of the Confucius Research Institute in Qufu, told the Global Times that the most fundamental question in Confucianism is how to deal with the relationships between men, between our inside and our outside, between individuals and society, as well as between countries.

"That's why we underline kindheartedness, which is important for the changing world today with so many conflicts," he said, adding that this is the reason "why China could put forward the Belt and Road Initiative and keep its stance as a responsible big country today."

A foreign language version of Confucius' work is exhibited in Confucius Research Institute. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

A foreign language version of Confucius' work is exhibited in Confucius Research Institute. Photo: Shan Jie/GT

"The thought of kindheartedness and tolerance promoted by Confucius is a gift from the Chinese people to the world," Liu noted.

As the leader of the study and promotion of Confucianism in China, the Confucius Research Institute has been working on enhancing cultural exchanges and telling the stories of the philosopher through the organization of the World Confucian Conference, delivering speeches and dispatching scholars to communicate in other countries.

Jining has also become a popular destination for international tourists who want to follow the steps of the great philosopher. According to the local tourism authority, from 2009 to 2019, each year the city welcomed about 300,000 foreign visitors, generating revenue of over $80 million.