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The Teaching of True Humanity

29 September 2007


The ageless heaven and timeless earth,
And the universe that stands for eternal existence.
We pray for harmony of the world during all four seasons,
And happiness for the people in all eight directions.

This is a passage in an eulogy enunciated in the Confucian Memorial Service at a Urumqi Confucian Temple, which is the largest shrine devoted to the sage in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, constructed mainly during the 18th century. The service is the first this kind since 1945.

Friday, 28 September, is the 2558th birth anniversary of China’s one of the greatest sages Confucian, and his followers once again gathered together for public memorial services.

The sage’s teaching, known as 儒家思想 (Confucius), has been the heart and backbone of Chinese culture and tradition for two thousands years, which helped created one of the most splendid civilisations in the human history.

At the start of this year's ceremony in his birthplace, under the ancient city wall of the Ming Dynasty, one of Confucian's descendant lighted a torch that symbolises the flame of the Chinese cultural tradition. In the angelic and graceful music, the memory procession paraded through the Ming City and its seven gates to approach the teaching alter (杏坛) before the Hall of the Great Accomplishment (大成殿) in the Confucian Temple (孔庙), where 1,500 students recited the chapters in the Analects (论语), the most important work of Confucius that speaks of its fundamental doctrine: the universal humanity (仁).

In another memorial ceremony site in Suzhou, which has a history that goes back to the time when the sage lived, and produced more priced First Confucius Scholars (状元) in history than anywhere else in China, the antiquated Six-Line Dance (六佾舞) was performed by 36 children wearing a red robe in the Ming fashion.

The earliest record of the Six-Line Dance as a part of the memorial representation appeared in the fifth century: “元嘉立学, 裴松之仪, 应舞六佾; 以郊乐未具, 故从权奏登歌. 今金石已备, 宜设轩县之乐, 六佾之舞, 牲牢器用, 悉依上公. (The rites should include the Six-Line Dance. However, since the music band was not available, we had only staged singing performance. But now, as the orchestra is ready, the Six-Line Dance will be the part of the sacrificial presentation. )”

The Six-Line Dance, originally a chamber dance in the Han emperors’ palace, is a collection of a set of ceremonial expressions that includes music, singing, dance and rites, and can be further divided into cultural and martial two major categories. When presenting cultural dance, the performers usually hold one or three feathers in the right hand and a bamboo flute in the left, with each body movement swinging to the tune of a spoken word or a music note.

The dance performed at the Confucian Memorial Service is traditionally consisted of three chapters, each having eight lines of four-word verse, totaling 96 characters that correspond at precision to 96 physical movements. Through which the concepts travel, expand and radiate; and as the sage’s message of the universal humanity conveyed with the strength of synchronized harmony, it is thus made susceptible to the deep corner in our hearts, which further allows it to be developed into a comprehensive revelation of the greater wisdom, and beyond.

It is reported that from September 2008, the World Confucius Forum will be held annually in the sage's birthplace Qufu County (曲阜市), Shandong Province (山东省).

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Quotes by Confucian

得众则得国, 失众则失国.
By gaining the hearts of the people, the territory is gained; by losing the hearts of the people, the territory is lost.

不能正其身, 如正人何?
If one cannot rectify himself, what has he to do with rectifying others?

恭近于礼, 远耻辱也.
When one treats others with respect, he keeps far from being disgraced.

己所不欲, 勿施于人.
Not to do to others as you would not wish done to yourself.

夫仁者, 己欲立而立人, 己欲达而达人.
The man of virtue wishing to stand firm himself as well as help others to stand firm; wishing to be succeed as well as help others to success.

君子泰而不骄, 小人骄而不泰.
A supreme man has a dignified ease without pride; a mean man is full of pride without a dignified ease.

国家不以聚集财富为利益, 而以实行道义为利益.
The prosperity of a state can not be gained through accumulating wealth; it can only be achieved by upholding the righteousness.

道之以死, 齐之以刑, 民免而无耻; 道之以德, 齐之以礼, 有耻且格.
If the people be led by laws, they will try to avoid the punishment with no sense of shame; If the people be led by virtue, they will discern right from wrong.

学而不思则罔, 思而不学则殆.
Learning without thought is fruitless; thought without leaning is dangerous.

A teacher shall make no distinguish between different social classes among his students.


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