Grand ceremonies were held on both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan on Thursday, the 2,557th birthday of Confucius, to commemorate the great ancient Chinese thinker and philosopher revered around the world.
Amid peaceful music and incense smoke, 2,557 people filed into the Confucian temple in Qufu of east China's Shandong province, hometown of Confucius, shortly after a brief gate opening ceremony at 9:00 a.m..
Descendants of Confucius from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and other parts of the world, Qufu mayor Jiang Cheng, government officials and worshippers of Confucius were in the procession, with young men in ancient costumes standing on each side of the red-carpet path in welcoming poses.
China Central Television and Shandong Television carried live broadcasts of the event, with scholars commenting on its significance.
"The thoughts of Confucius have influenced the minds of Chinese people for more than 2,000 years. They are embedded in our behavior and speech," said Yang Chaoming, a leading Confucius researcher at Qufu Normal University.
"Confucius and his disciples advocated positive self-discipline, healthy living, maintaining harmony in family life, peace and order in the country, peace in the world, seeking great harmony in the world, self-improvement every day, and enjoying harmony while still keeping one's own characteristics," said Yang.
"These ideals are important to not only Chinese people, but also people throughout the world," said Yang.
The procession stopped about half an hour later at Dachengdian (Hall of Great Success), the main hall of the temple and site of the grand commemoration ceremony.
Soil from Qufu and Taiwan, and holy soil and holy water from a hill where Confucius was born were brought to the door of the hall, followed by floral baskets dedicated by descendants of Confucius, dignitaries and worshipers.
Mayor Jiang read out a eulogy in front of the Dachengdian.
"People of Qufu, compatriots from both sides of the Taiwan Strait and friends from all over the world are here in the autumn of 2006 to mark the 2,557th birthday of Confucius.
"People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, who are of the same cultural roots, jointly pay respect to our ancient teacher and remember his words and deeds with pious feelings."
A family prospered because of internal harmony and people enjoyed stable and happy lives if a country was in harmony. "We hope all nations live in harmony and the whole world enjoys peace, " he read.
Toward the end of the ceremony, 80 college students attended a ceremony marking the attainment of adulthood; 100 primary school students read out teachings from the Analects of Confucius and 100 "Confucius-style businessmen" read out commitments to do business in an honest way.
In Taipei, city mayor Ma Ying-jeou chaired the commemoration in the local Confucian temple. Commemoration activities were held in many other Confucian temples on the Chinese mainland and in Taiwan.
According to a mainland team working on the family tree of Confucius, there are about 4,000 descendants in Taiwan. The influence of Confucius is greater in Taiwan than on the mainland.
The Confucian temple in Qufu and the Confucian temple in Taipei exchanged replicas of treasured sacrificial utensils before the ceremony.
Former Kuomintang vice-chairwoman Lin Cheng-chi, who now heads the party's central appraisal committee, and Kuomintang vice-chairwoman Chang Jen-Hsiang also attended the commemoration ceremony.