Confucius stands tall near Tian'anmen

08:27, January 13, 2011      

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A visitor takes a photo of the Confucius statue outside the National Museum of China on the east side of Tian'anmen Square in Beijing on Wednesday. Wu Changqing / for China Daily

Tian'anmen Square has a new sentinel as a larger-than-life statue of the ancient sage Confucius now watches over its visitors.

The 9.5-meter bronze statue, outside the National Museum of China, is the latest sign of the philosopher's comeback amid the country's efforts to promote him as a symbol of traditional Chinese culture.

"Confucius was respected and even worshiped as a sage in most of the dynastic eras," said museum dean Lu Zhangshen at an unveiling ceremony on Tuesday.

Believed to be born in 551 BC, in Qufu of East China's Shandong province, Confucius is widely regarded as a symbol of Chinese civilization around the world, he added.

The National Museum of China, which has been under renovation over the past four years, "bears deep cultural and political significance", said Lu.

He believes the statue will surely become "another eye-catching landmark" along with the museum, the Forbidden City and the Great Hall of the People.

The statue is from the hands of Wu Weishan, a famed sculptor from Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

Since 1994, Wu has created more than 20 statues of Confucius of different sizes and styles. They have been placed on university campuses and international museums such as the Fitzwilliam Museum, in Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

"I created this statue with my whole heart my finger imprints are on each square inch of it," said Wu who began materializing the lofty image of Confucius last March.

The final version, rendered in an expressionistic mode, came out of eight different sculptural drafts. It looks like a towering mountain, instead of the usual, realistic sculpture.

"I meant to present Confucius as a peak in the history of Chinese philosophy and culture," Wu explained.

He visualizes an amiable and erudite Confucius, looking down silently at people on Chang'an Avenue with a slight smile.

"When passers-by look at his eyes, they may feel a kind of spiritual communication with the ancient wise man," Wu explained.

The statue has quickly become a new attraction for visitors to central Beijing.

"In my opinion, Confucius was a loser in his lifetime, but he was a respectful loser because he stuck to his ideals despite all sorts of setbacks," said Cui Xiaozhan, a technician from Qingdao, Shandong province, as he passed by the statue.

Cui said it is good to promote Confucianism by erecting his statues, spreading his thoughts and establishing Confucius Institutes worldwide.

"Confucian wisdom transcends time and space. In my opinion, Confucianism is at the core of Chinese values It can still guide us in daily life," Cui said.

A 74-year-old visitor surnamed He took time to visit the statue after reading about the installment in a local newspaper.

The retired lawyer from Chengde of Hebei province said "it is time to spread the thoughts of the ancient sage who advocated peace, harmony and civility".

The unveiling of the statue came two months ahead of the reopening of the renovated National Museum at a cost of 2.5 billion yuan ($379 million).

The renovated museum is believed to be the world's largest national museum, with a floor space of nearly 200,000 square meters, and more than 1 million national treasures in its permanent collection.

Guo Shuhan contributed to this story.

By Zhu Linyong, China Daily

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