The Return of Confucius

June 4, 2014

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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