ABSTRACT

On 14 January 2011 a gigantic bronze sculpture of Confucius was unveiled with great ceremony in front of the National Museum of China on Tiananmen Square, Beijing, the political heart of China, where Chairman Mao’s portrait has been dominant since the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was inaugurated in 1949. Confucius is the fi rst non-revolutionary fi gure to be honoured in such a highly symbolic place. Traditional Chinese culture encompasses diverse and sometimes competing schools of thought, including Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and a host of regional cultures. Nevertheless, Confucianism is undisputedly the most infl uential thought, which forms the foundation of the Chinese cultural tradition and still provides the basis for the norms of Chinese interpersonal behaviour (Pye 1972 ). In the history of mankind, no one else has experienced a more dramatic comeback in recent years than Confucius. For the greater part of two thousand years, Confucius (551-79 BC ), or Master Kong as he is called in Chinese ( 孔夫子 ), had been used by emperors as an indispensable tool to maintain their feudalistic rule. However, for most of the twentieth century, Confucianism had been reviled, denounced and abandoned fi rst by radical intellectuals in the 1920s and later by communists for 40 years. Mao regarded the ancient philosopher as the Number One Enemy of the Chinese nation and publicly condemned Confucius to history’s dustbin. The renaissance of Confucianism came with economic reform in the 1980s when traditional values were brought back as a solution to the increasing social problems.