Yesterday marked the 2,560th birthday of Confucius which was celebrated in many parts of the country, including Qufu in Shandong Province, where the great sage was born.
It is believed that Confucius was born September 28, 551 BC and died in 479 BC.
More than 10,000 people participated in the event, dressing up in traditional Chinese robes, and performing dances and music, and reciting poems.
His philosophy was about social rituals and morality, justice and sincerity. He believed a society would not have conflicts if every person knew their place within it, and adhered to the traditions and culture he had prescribed. For example, in the family, children must have filial piety and look after their parents in their old age. He also had the saying which is similar to what Jesus preached -- "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself".
Confucius lived during the Spring and Autumn Period, where the country was made up of several states, and he tried to influence the leaders of such states as Lu, Wei, Song, Chen and Cai. But his ideas about social order and the morality of rulers fell on deaf ears. That led to Confucius setting up his own school of thought and teaching his disciples to carry on his ideas. They included Mencius and Xun Zi.
Fast forward into the 20th century and when the Chinese Communists were in power, Chairman Mao denounced Confucius on many occasions. In a passage written in 1969, Mao boasted he had outdone by "more than a hundredfold" the first emperor Qin Shihuang, who buried alive 460 Confucian scholars and burned their books. "I think he [Qin Shihuang] killed too few Confucian scholars," Mao wrote. "All those Confucian scholars were indeed counter-revolutionaries."
During the Cultural Revolution, traditional things were destroyed or criticized, Confucianism blamed for the country's backwardness. And as a result two generations of people had to forget or unlearn what they had known about Confucianism, particularly at home. Children were forced to denounce their parents, and instead obey the Party first.
But decades later the philosophy is back in fashion, with even the central government condoning it. The government has set up "language schools" called Confucius Institutes all over the world. While there are concerns surrounding the actual aim of these schools as just for promoting language learning and culture, the fact that they are called Confucius Institutes shows the government is eager to promote his name.
Some Confucian academics here are making good money going on TV to explain Confucian thought to wider audiences and how his philosophy applies to today's world. Some entrepreneurs have set up private Confucius schools for young children, getting them to recite the Analects of Confucius, even though his teachings are still not officially part of the education system.
Most importantly, Confucius' ideas on society help back up President Hu Jintao's ongoing proposal of a "harmonious society". He echoed this repeatedly in China, most recently in his landmark address to the United Nations last week.
So Confucius continues to live on in China and with the blessing of the Communist government, the wise sage will continue to be "worshipped". As his ideas are still practiced today in many Asian societies, he will never be completely forgotten, which would probably please him greatly.