Confucius goes to college
Asked whether the UCD Confucius Institute would host events dealing with issues such as China’s record on human rights, or Tibet, Dr Liming nods. “My view is that you need to have dialogue rather than trying to avoid or ignore problems. I have no problem hosting something that people might think is politically sensitive. Why not sit together to express our views, even if they are different? There are no subjects off limits whatsoever.”
Prof Fan Hong, the director of the UCC Confucius Institute and head of the university’s school of Asian studies, says her institute has facilitated debates on Tibet and on whether, given China’s human-rights record, Beijing should have hosted the Olympic Games.
“There is academic freedom. We don’t say Tibet and other issues are forbidden subjects,” she says. “I think criticism of Confucius Institutes more generally should be more balanced. There are more than 350 institutes in the world, and the model varies.
“Some have attracted criticism because of the way they work, but what we are doing here is not for Chinese government propaganda; we are here to promote Chinese studies as an academic discipline just like French or Italian studies.”
Confucius the teacher Philosophy and principles
The Chinese thinker, philosopher, statesman and educator Confucius, whose Chinese name is Kongqiu, lived from 551 to 479 BC, and his philosophy has dominated Chinese society for centuries.
His thinking spread to Europe in the late 16th century and Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit missionary to China, is credited with giving him the romanised name Confucius. To Chinese people, he is “Kong Zi”, or Master Kong, “the Master”, or “the Model Teacher for 10,000 years”.
Harmony, respecting your elders and worshipping your parents are essential parts of his philosophy.
His teaching of the family as a basis for government remains strongly etched in the Chinese psyche, though his father died when he was three and he is said to have abandoned his own family to pursue his studies.
Under Chinese law, children are legally obliged to support their parents. At temples of Confucius all around the country, parents burn incense, light candles, pray and leave notes saying: “Please help my child pass the exams.”
More than three million people in China, Korea and farther afield believe they are descended from the philosopher.
A few years ago the China Confucius Foundation published a standard image of him, as an old man with a long beard, broad mouth and big ears, wearing a robe with his hands crossed on his chest. - Clifford Coonan