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Confucius in church

By Xuyang Jingjing (Global Times)

09:47, October 10, 2012

A Confucius statue stands in the campus of Renmin University of China. (Xinhua)

It's a Sunday afternoon, and a group of Christians are meeting in a regular gathering. They start to sing hymns, raising their hands in praise. After concluding grace with "Amen," they sit down and start to study, not the Bible, but the Confucian classic Lun Yu, or the Analects.

This is part of a quiet grass-roots campaign among a small number of Chinese Christians to learn about traditional Chinese culture. Organizers say they simply want to help promote dialogue and better understanding between the two cultures by reading the Analects and the Bible side by side, but their efforts have met with criticism from both Christians and Confucian scholars.

Shi Hengtan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, leads the class of 14 people in Beijing. Since September they have been meeting once a week to study the Analects. The class read the text, and Shi offers an explanation, and then quotes a verse from the Bible with a similar meaning.

For instance, at one point in the Analects Confucius says "With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pillow, I have still joy in the midst of these things. Riches and honors acquired by unrighteousness, are to me as a floating cloud." (James Legge translation.) Shi parallels this with Luke 9:58, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

Earlier this year Shi and some pastors initiated this project by organizing weekly study sessions online, via blogs and microblogs. Each week Shi left the students several questions to think over and discuss at the next class. They also needed to write an essay to complete the course. Over 50 people joined but only 20 finished the course, which took eight months.

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