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HOW TO REANIMATE A SAGE

2016-01-10byJeremiahJenne

汉语世界(The World of Chinese) 2016年2期
关键词:時代陈独秀孔子

by Jeremiah Jenne

This isnt the first rebirth for Confucius

時代在变,对孔子的认识和解读也在变

The 21st-century revival of Confucianism has been a long strange trip back to relevance for Chinas most famous sage. His image is seemingly everywhere. Officials from Xi Jinping down to local Party secretaries quote the Analects in speeches. A new documentary featuring both Chinese and international scholars debuted in January on CCTV. Confucius hometown in Qufu has been the recipient of millions of RMB in investment to transform the Shandong city into a Confucian theme park.

At the same time, a lot of attention has been paid, deservedly so, to the ironies of venerating Confucius only a few decades after his image was burned in effigy as one of the “Four Olds” during the Cultural Revolution.

But this is not the first time Confucius has made such a comeback. A century ago, a generation of young intellectuals excoriated Confucianism. The students and teachers of the New Culture Movement, which began in 1915, blamed Confucianism for a host of social ills including gender discrimination, economic inequality, and political repression. This generation equated personal liberation with political and social reform, and Confucianism represented all of the obstacles in their way. To be free as an individual meant unbuckling the family shackles of the “Three Cardinal Guides and Five Constant Virtues”. To be free as a nation meant liberating Chinese culture from the grip of its Confucian past.

In 1916, Chen Duxiu (陈独秀), editor of the influential New Culture journal La Jeunesse (Xin Qingnian) wrote:

“Confucius lived in a feudal age. The ethics he promoted are the ethics of a feudal age. The social mores he taught and even his own mode of living were teachings and mode of a feudal age. The objectives, ethics, social norms, mode of living, and political institutions did not go beyond the privilege and prestige of a few rulers and aristocrats and had nothing to do with the happiness of the great masses.”

Just 18 years after Chen Duxius vitriolic rant against Confucius, Republic of China president Chiang Kai-shek extolled the virtues of Confucius as part of a “New Life Movement” starting in 1934. Chiang believed Confucian values could promote a more modern, disciplined, and harmonious society. The quest for personal liberation and social reform during the New Culture era had ceded primacy to a new goal: strengthening the state.

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