Shandong: Cradle of Confucian Culture


SEVERAL years ago, an animation film featuring ancient Chinese sage Confucius and his home province of Shandong was shown in New York’s Times Square. The image of Confucius in an ink-and-wash animation screened for the people of this main metropolis was an example of ancient China’s integration into today’s world.   

At the opening ceremony of the international seminar commemorating the 2,565th anniversary of Confucius’ birth and the Fifth Congress of the International Confucian Association in September 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out that Confucianism, along with other philosophies and cultures taking shape and growing within China, were records of the nation’s spiritual experiences, rational thinking, and cultural achievements. His remarks signified that China has always diligently highlighted research on and inheritance of Confucianism as a priority. During his visit to Shandong Province in November 2013, Xi called for the enhancement of traditional Chinese culture studies and the innovative development of time-honored virtues.  

Shandong understands well the importance of passing on the remarkable traditional culture originating in this region. In recent years, Shandong has strived to promote Chinese culture and the development of its cultural industry by virtue of being the home province of Confucius.   


An Accessible Philosophy

On the day marking the 2,565th anniversary of Confucius’ birth, over 60 descendants of Confucius and 300 participants from all walks of life and corners of the world gathered to recite the classics of the ancient philosopher as part of the celebrations held at the Confucius Temple in Qufu, Shandong.

In Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, an annual grand ceremony is held to commemorate this sage. Held in the Confucius Temple, it draws a crowd of spectators from home and abroad, and was nominated by UNESCO as part of China’s intangible cultural heritage. Confucius is also celebrated in the annual Confucius Cultural Festival, which has been running for over three decades since 1984 and developed into a major platform to carry forward Chinese culture and facilitate cultural exchanges. In addition, the Confucius Institute Headquarters Experience Center, established in Qufu in September 2014, provides an ideal setting for overseas students to learn more about Confucian culture after their visits to the Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion.    

Various symposiums, like the Nishan Forum on World Civilization and the World Confucian Conference, are further opportunities to advance research on Confucius and his philosophy, and to enhance mutual understanding and cooperation between different cultures worldwide.

People from home and abroad have shown a great passion for Confucian culture. Nishan Shengyuan Academy, where the first two sessions of the Nishan Forum on World Civilization were held, sees carrying forward the essence of Confucian culture as its responsibility, making efforts to advance the dialogue on human civilization, boost cultural and educational progress, and serve socio-economic development. In 2009, the academy cooperated with the Chinese Confucius and Mencius Association based in Taiwan to launch a training program in which veteran teachers from Taiwan gave lectures on ancient Chinese civilization to teachers from the mainland’s primary and middle schools.  

According to Sun Shougang, director of the Publicity Department of the CPC Shandong Provincial Committee, carrying forward traditional culture and enhancing civic and moral education are major elements in strengthening core socialist values. The key to implementing them lies in integrating outstanding traditional culture into our everyday life.  

With the aim of making Confucianism more accessible to the general public, a project to promote the sage’s philosophy in rural areas was launched in the province. Last year, the provincial Culture Department invested RMB 13 million to train the first batch of 500 key workers for this project. What’s more, 16,000 lectures were given to around 800,000 people in 1,900 cultural centers in towns and villages. These lectures have contributed to improving solidarity and moral virtues among local residents.


Striving to Inherit Confucian Culture

Qufu is deemed a sacred city because it is the birthplace of Confucius and Confucianism. Confucius is a symbol of China, while Qufu is one of the landmarks of China on the world map of civilization. A special cultural and economic zone in Qufu specializes in passing on Confucianism, developing local cultural industry, and supporting innovations in Confucian culture.

Meanwhile, the city endeavors to build up projects related to the sage in an all-round way. People can visit a tourist resort in Confucius’ hometown and enjoy various performances and ancient music. The Confucius Cultural Festival and the Confucius Institutes have become important stages for learning about and enjoying ancient Chinese history. Moreover, cuisine, handicrafts, and books in this field have been successfully developed into cultural products. The city also boasts several companies specializing in Confucian culture.

Historical relics are well preserved in Qufu. In December 1994, the Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion were approved by UNESCO as world cultural heritage sites. Twenty years later, the provincial government launched a project to restore the colored paintings on the time-honored buildings at these three sites. The preservation project is expected to be completed in 2017.  

Confucian culture is also integrated into tourism. The city makes full use of its tourism resources to hold cultural festivals, exhibitions, and educational trips to promote Confucian culture. Han Fengju, deputy director of Qufu’s Bureau of Cultural Heritage, explains that educational trips include the coming of age ceremony, reading and reciting the classics of Confucius, and worship rituals in the Temple of Confucius, to name a few. In addition, city trips themed on Confucian culture are also popular, according to Han.       

In April 2013, the old rituals of ringing a bell at dawn and beating a drum in a gate tower at dusk, dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), was revived in Qufu. A year later, tourist events in the scenic spots of the Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion were enriched with the coming of age ceremony and performances of traditional Shandong opera. In the meantime, products, films, exhibitions, and fairs focusing on Confucian culture are developing rapidly, generating over 35 percent of Qufu’s tourism revenue.

What’s more, the city boasts a national level cultural industry demonstration zone, which welcomes new cultural projects featuring high technology and high added-value. The city is determined to become a cultural industry hub of the province, and a flag bearer of cultural industry in eastern China.


Going Global

At the 98th International Esperanto Conference in Iceland’s Reykjavik in 2013, a picture exhibition about Confucius and Shandong attracted nearly 2,000 visitors from 57 countries. Mark Fettes, chief of the World Esperanto Association, remarked that it was amazing to learn about the sage in such an intimate way. He believes that the idea of benevolence in Confucianism was shared by Esperanto, which emphasizes harmony and peace. “This exhibition has heightened my impression of Shandong,” he commented. Apart from the pictures, a statue of Confucius, a gift from Shandong provincial government, was especially favored by international participants in the conference.  

Director of International Communication Office of the CPC Shandong Provincial Committee Wang Shinong pointed out that the slogan “Shandong – Confucius’ hometown” is designed to promote the province abroad. Exhibitions and events that comprehensively showcase Confucius provide a chance for people to learn more about the renowned sage and Shandong.  

To date, over 80 huge statues of Confucius have been presented as gifts by Shandong to the international community. Furthermore, picture exhibitions about Confucius and Shandong have toured East Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa. In recent years, Shandong has organized more than 20 cultural exchange events in several countries.

While going global, Shandong welcomes foreign visitors, too. A good number of trips and events have been organized to invite journalists and artists from home and abroad to experience Shandong in person.