The Return of Confucius

The bronze sculpture of Confucius stands tall at 31 feet (9.5 meters) and is described as having a serious expression. Four months after appearing in Tienanmen Square staring at Mao portrait hanging from the walls of the Forbidden City, the statue—without fanfare—was quietly moved to the courtyard of a museum in Beijing.

Chang writes, “Confucius is enjoying a revival, in books and films, on TV and in classrooms…” In fact, a $500-million dollar museum-and-park complex is under construction in his hometown of Qufu in Shandong Province that includes a statue of Confucius almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

For those who don’t know, Mao declared war on Confucianism and education during the Cultural Revolution.

My wife, who grew up in China during Mao’s era, still believes Confucian values for harmony and peace are what made China weak and a victim to Western Imperialism during the 19th century and to the Japanese during World War II. She may be right. At the time, China believed it was too civilized to worry and wasn’t prepared to defend itself as it is today.

However, she also says to pay attention to the small things the government does. Don’t expect Chinese to be as direct as Westerners.

There’s a strong message in Confucius standing opposite Mao across the vastness of Tiananmen Square as if he were scolding Mao for what he did and few mainland Chinese will miss the meaning. Mao, the student, has been chastised and Tiger Mothers such as Amy Chua are being sent a message to stay tough with their children when it comes to having the kids eat bitterness and sacrifice having fun while working hard earning an education.

Confucius wouldn’t want it any other way.

Now that China is a capitalist/socialist nation with an open market economy, the need for Confucian values is making a comeback with government support. Confucius taught duty to family, respect for learning, virtuous behavior (three traits rare in the West) and obedience of individuals to the state.

What Chang doesn’t say is that Confucius also had expectations for the state to lead by example and to act the part of a gentleman. China’s leaders are aware that they are responsible to provide security for the nation and economic progress for the people in ways that most Western rulers would never consider.

Although China’s central government hasn’t launched a Western style public relations campaign to resurrect Confucian values, which are still a strong foundation for most Chinese families, Chang indicates that we will see some top leaders promoting Confucianism.

In fact, in 2010, a movie of Confucius with Chow Yun Fat was filmed and released in China.

There’s another message that most American weapons’ manufactures and conservative hawks won’t want the world to understand. If China is really moving back to Confucian values, that means China will not be the aggressor in war but will keep a modern military for defense only.


Lloyd Lofthouseis the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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8 Responses to The Return of Confucius

  1. […] Discover The Return of Confucious […]

  2. I share your concern about graduation rates. But even if we look at a 65% high school graduation rate for the lowest group, we can’t say respect for learning is “rare.” And even some of the dropouts may still have a respect for learning. Again I go back to my experience (which is probably quite different from yours). My father, who didn’t finish 10th grade, had a great respect for learning.

    I do admire your desire to see improvements. And I, too, wish things were better in my country. But there’s a lot that is good here too. That shouldn’t be ignored.

    • I think most Americans value learning and education but those who live in poverty don’t equate that with hard work. Maybe I should say that teachers in the United States don’t get the respect and cooperation that teachers seem to get in Asian countries.

    • It took me another day to remember the fact that by age 24, 90% of Americans have earned a high school degree or its equivalent. Some just don’t realize how important that degree is until a few years later after going out into the job market. You can’t wash dishes or mow lawns until you’re seventy but that’s what many end up doing (my older brother, for instance, who died at 64 in 1999). For some, poverty was the burden that kept them from graduating on time—especially among black families where almost 70% of children live in a single parent family and finding a job as soon as they are old enough is more important than going to school. In addition the fact, that of the sixteen+ million children who live in poverty, many of them grow up with no love of reading and start school with no literacy level at all and this puts them several steps behind most middle class kids who grew up with parents who at least read the newspaper or a magazine or two.

      Kids who start out behind and fall behind tend to resent being forced to go to school and they hate reading and hate doing the school work with resistance often growing with age.

      For me, I didn’t hate my teachers but I hated school. The only reason I could read was because my mother used a wire coat hanger to motivate me to read when I was seven after she was told I was too retarded to ever learn to read or write. In the 1950s, the so-called education experts didn’t know what a learnign disability like dyslexia was. My brother and I both had severe dyslexia. My wake up call that forcing yourself to earn an education came in Vietnam when the first sniper almost took me out. Laying in the dirt looking for my almost killer, I thought, if I get out of this alive, I’m going to go to college on the GI Bill. Before that moment, I had no intention of ever going to college.

      This resistance to school work, of course, caused our teachers no end of challenges. My brother was a problem from the start. Because I was a sickly kid struggling to survive under a doctor’s care, I was the quiet one who just didn’t pay attention and sat my way through thirteen years of school doing little to no work.

      I left the Marines in 1968 and started at a local community college near my parents home and those first two years were HARD. I’d never been a real student before. I barely held on to a 2.0 GPA, the highest of my life at that time. From there I went to a university where my GPA moved into the 3.0 territory. When I graduated, after five years in college, when a BA in journalism, I was an the dean’s honor role.

      I know all about at-risk kids who are difficult to teach. I was one of them. My brother was worse. It isn’t fair to teachers to punish them for the standardized test scores of students. It isn’t right to fire teachers and take away their due process job protection. It isn’t right to close public schools that serve high rates of children who live in poverty. It’s wrong. It’s an injustice.

      America’s government and many parents treat teachers as if they are lazy, second class citizens who are to blame for every problem in this country. I know that too, because I was a public school teacher for thirty yea5rs working in schools with very high pvoerty rates. But in reality, those teachers, who are under attack all the time from every direction: students, parents, administrators, school boards, politicians—work hard, very hard to overcome the impossible burden of apathy and poverty.

      Some of us kids who came from poverty and also had a learning disability, wake up late after high school. Many don’t and they languish in poverty along with their children in a vicious cycle they can’t escape from. That was what happened to my brother’s seven kids. Because of my mother and that painful wire coat hanger and what happened in the Marines and Vietnam, I escaped that world.

  3. In 1986 we attended a very large festival in honor of Confucius. I guess his return has been going on for a few years now.

    Your opinion that “duty to family, respect for learning, and virtuous behavior” are rare in the West, doesn’t square with my experience.

    • To clarify, I want to revise my statement.

      According to on-time high school graduation rates, illiteracy rates by race, and ratios of college graduates by race, respect for education in the US is strongest with Asians, then whites, blacks, Latinos and last native Americans.
      But Asians tend to respect teachers the most, while some whites don’t—then again, most of my experience as a teacher for thirty years was in schools where the poverty rate was more than seventy percent, so was the Latino student population, and there was a strong violent, Latino gang culture that dominated the community around the school.

      But a couple of miles away in the hills, was where most of the Asians and whites lived was middle class, which represented less than 30% of the school population. Today that number is less than 20%—poverty has increased.

      I have a book coming out called “Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose”. In the early half of the 1990s, I kept a very detailed daily journal for one school year and wrote the daily entries as soon as I got home each day. That journal sat in a fire proof safe for almost twenty years, and is the primary source for the memoir.

      If you read that book, you’ll understand where my opinion comes from. I’m hoping to have the e-book out in a few days followed by the paper back later in the month. Twenty-three percent of children in America live in poverty.

      You can measure respect of learning and teachers by these rates for on-time high school graduation rate for 2010-11:
      Asian/Pacific Islander – 87%
      White – 84%
      Hispanic – 71%
      Black – 67%
      American Indian/Alaska Native – 65%

      Then we can look at the prose literacy level by race in 2003 which is another indicator or respect for education and teachers, but I’ll focus on the lowest literacy level which is Below Basic that’s illiterate or close to it:
      White 7%
      Asian/Pacific Islander 14%
      Black 24%
      Hispanic 44%

      Next, let’s look at college graduates by race:
      48.3% of Asian-Americans
      29.7% of whites
      16.3% of blacks
      13.5% of Latinos

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