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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 08:04, September 26, 2006
"Official" image of Confucius sparks debate among scholars
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A portrait of an ancient Chinese philosopher or a symbol of modern commercialism?

The new "standardized" image of Confucius has sparked controversy among China's scholars, many of whom doubt it will stand the test of time.

Designers have defended the image unveiled in a bronze statue on Saturday, saying it would better commemorate the ancient philosopher and promote his school of thought.

However, critics call it commercialism and say there is no definite historical evidence that the statue commissioned by the China Confucius Foundation bears any resemblance to the great philosopher's actual appearance.

Designers of the statue say this "doesn't really matter".

"What matters is his founding of Confucianism, which features harmony and peace and constitutes the essence of Chinese culture," said Zhang Shuhua, secretary-general of the foundation.

The government-backed organization, based in Jinan, east China's Shandong Province, was established in 1984 to raise funds for Confucian studies at home and abroad.

By unveiling the "official" image, Zhang said his organization aims to give Confucius a single, recognizable identity to better promote Confucianism around the globe. "A Taiwanese society for Confucian studies launched a standard portrait of him in 1986."

Zhang's foundation began to work on a standard portrait in January and released a draft in June. The final version was released last Saturday at Confucius' hometown Qufu in east China's Shandong Province to mark the 2,557th anniversary of his birth.

The 225.7-cm bronze statue depicts Confucius as a kind old gentleman with a square face, long beard, broad mouth and thick brows. He wears a Chinese-style robe and his hands are crossed on his chest.

"The version was agreed by renowned sinologists Ren Jiyu and Wen Huaisha as well as representatives of Confucius' descendants," said Zhang.

The designers also referred to the most recognizable portrait of Confucius that dated to the Tang Dynasty, at least 1,100 years from today.

Countless portraits of Confucius exist in China, representing different interpretations of the philosopher's features by artists throughout history. The earliest known version is a stone statue from the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD).

Kong Xianglin, vice president of Confucius Research Institute, said it was important to give Confucius an "official" image so that people across the world had a uniform idea of the Chinese philosopher. "Otherwise, foreigners will never know which one actually portrays the great man."

But Wang Dianqing, director of International Confucian Association, thinks otherwise.

"It's really unnecessary to work out a new image of Confucius. It won't stand the test of history," he said.

Source: Xinhua

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