It’s interesting to read Ellis’ writing on the revival of Confucius ideology in today’s China. During my recent trip to Beijing and Changchun, I saw many books interpreting the classics of Confucius on the shelves of bookstores.
I remember growing up in China during the Culture Revolution. Reciting Mao’s quotations and shouting revolutionary slogans replaced the learning of classic Chinese, which rendered our generation illiterate to classic Chinese. Needless to say, we couldn’t read any of the Confucius’ teachings in its original writing. However, during the “Anti-Lin and Anti Confucius Movement” (Lin Biao, Vice Chairman and Mao’s heir apparent who was later condemned as a traitor), we were all required to denounce Lin and Confucius. We, middle school students at the time who had entered elementary school as the Culture Revolution swept through country, had no clue why Lin and Confucius was linked together. We followed the Party line and imitated newspaper articles.
Now students started reciting Confucius statements in its classic form, and the ideology of harmony, social order and obedience to elders and authority were hailed. Yu Dan, a college professor, wrote a series of books on deciphering classic Chinese philosophies, including one on Confucius. She put a modern spin or application in her interpretation and became very popular among the young. She reached celebrity status in China and hosted a lecture program on television. Reportedly, one of her book sold more than four million copies the first month it was released.
As a Chinese, I am happy to see the revival of Confucius in China. The Chinese culture is embedded with Confucius values despite the “smashing” of its ideology in China’s recent history. However, I hope the study is conducted from a cultural and philosophical perspective, as how Aristotle and Plato are studies, and it’s not subjected to current political needs.
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. www.mulberrychild.com