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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 17:12, September 28, 2005
Enlightenment drawn from global worship of Confucius
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The first global memorial ceremony for Confucius was held in Qufu, east China's Shandong on September 28. This year's memorial ceremony for Confucius represents a major modification and elevation made on the basis of worship of Confucius for over 20 years.

After being criticized for nearly 100 years in the 20th century, why has Confucianism become popular again? Why have Western wise men call for absorbing Confucius' intelligence to safeguard the survival of mankind?

The world today is not in peace, this is mainly because of hegemony and terrorism.

World peace requires treatment and cure of such modern world maladies. "Harmony without uniformity" proposed by Confucius can be taken as a good medicine for treating the illness.

Confucius said, "A gentleman gets along with others, but does not necessarily agree with them; a base man agrees with others, but does not coexist with them harmoniously".

What is the difference between harmony and uniformity?

Harmony is the rational composition of different things and the unity of varied things; uniformity is the simple duplication and coincidence of things of different natures and is monotonous identity; the "harmony without uniformity" idea consists of three principles.

First is that one should have his own independent thinking, and should not drift with the tide, still less associate himself with evil elements.

Second is that one should allow others to have their initiative, should not force others to obey him, and should not practice despotism, known as "let those who complied with me survive and those who resisted me perish".

Third is that one must be good at engaging in friendly cooperation with others, be good at coordinating relations, particularly that he should protect and help the weak, so that the widower, the widow, the orphan and the childless as well as the disabled who have lost work ability and have no one to rely on can enjoy happiness in the world. This principle is required for the formation of a concordant family, the building of a harmonious society and the establishment of a peaceful world. Among a crowd of people, one should neither act as a lackey, nor as an overlord, nor as an individual isolated from others, but rather one should live in an organized, harmonious entity. This entity enables everybody to enjoy a happy life of working and living in peace and contentment. This principle is applicable to the relations between nations, between religions and between countries.

Fifty years ago, the Chinese government, together with India and Burma (Myanmar), initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence for handling international relations, and thus made major contribution to world peace.

The "one country, two systems" principle advanced by Deng Xiaoping has successfully solved the problem of the return of Hong Kong and Macao to the embrace of the motherland and it embodies China's traditional spirit of "harmony without uniformity", thus providing the world with a typical example for solving similar problems. This also represents a contribution to world peace. "Harmony without uniformity" between humankind and all creatures on Earth has provided today's world with a kind of rational idea for environmental protection, a correct outlook on sustainable development.

Confucianism advocates benevolence: "One who, destining to develop himself, develops others and in destining to sustain himself, sustains others", "Don't do to others what you don't want others to do to you", and one should get along well with all peace-loving people. Refraining from seeking hegemony is a fine tradition of Confucianism.

This year marks the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's journey across the sea. In the early period of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), China led the world in its navigation and shipbuilding industries. Zheng He gathered together over 200 ships and more than 27,000 people to go abroad across the sea seven times, but he did not open up a single land of colony, this gives full expression to the Chinese spirit of "harmony". Christopher Columbus of Italy began his navigation 87 years later than Zheng He did, he led 90 people on three small boats to cross the Atlantic and reach the Americas. Europeans went to the Americas where they opened up a large group of colonies, which was a typical predatory rise.

China's present peaceful rise is precisely an inheritance of the fine tradition. China's peaceful development will not constitute a threat to the surrounding countries. As Chinese President Hu Jintao said in his speech delivered at the summit marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations on September 15: We should "adhere to the spirit of tolerance, jointly build a harmonious world. Difference in history, culture, social system and development pattern should not become obstacle to exchanges among various countries, still less should it be a reason for mutual antagonism". This actually is an emphasis on "harmony without uniformity".

(The author Zhou Guitian is chairman of the Academic Commission of the International Confucianism Federation, vice-president of the China Confucian Society and professor at Beijing Normal University)

Published on the front page of People's Daily Overseas Edition on September 28, the article is translated by People's Daily Online


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