A shortened version of this story was published as a Xinhua feature, Oct. 1, 2017
By Tamara Treichel
“Study the Analects if you want to understand China better,” a close Chinese friend once advised me. So before moving to China, I bought a copy of Arthur Waley’s translation of the Analects, and I must say my friend’s advice was among the best I have ever received.
The longer I stay in China, the more I realize that this collection of ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher and educator Confucius (551-479 B.C.) is a minefield of wisdom – ponder Confucius’ sayings, and you will be blown away by their profundity and enduring relevance.
Moreover, the more I interact with Chinese people, the more vestiges of Confucianism do I discover in today’s China. For example, when a Chinese coworker told me about doing everything at the proper time (e.g. allowing one’s children to do certain things only at a certain age), I interpreted it as an example of propriety, a key virtue espoused by Confucius.
Another example: When taking public transportation in Beijing, I encounter signs everywhere reminding passengers to give up their seats to those in need, such as the sick and elderly, and besides the subway cars and buses, some public places like banks and train stations also have designated seats for such persons. Obviously, benevolence, another Confucian virtue, is still very much encouraged in China.
My copy of Waley’s Analects as well as the several years that I have lived in China have provided me with a sort of introductory course to China’s venerated sage, or as we Americans would say, “Confucius 101,” about the man who has contributed greatly to the secular morality of contemporary Chinese society.
When Xinhua News Agency asked me to co-host two Livestream programs about Confucius’ life in Qufu, Shandong Province, the philosopher’s hometown, I was excited about what I considered an “immersion course” in Confucianism. I had traveled to Qufu earlier this year on a blitz tour of the “San Kong,” or three sites related to Confucius in Qufu – the Confucius Temple, the Residence of the Confucius Family and the Confucius Mausoleum – as well as the Temple of Yanzi, Confucius’ beloved and exceptionally bright disciple who had died young. Yanzi, also known as Yan Hui, had dreamed of an ideal society and was content with a rice bowl and a drinking gourd.