The Confucian Academy, Soft Power and Patriotism
By Antony Ou | 31 December 2010
The Confucian Academy is a misleading term and is lost in English translation. The second Chinese character actually means religion, and the English term does not reflect such an orientation. Chen Huanzhang (陳煥章) (1881–1933) founded the Confucian Society (孔教會) with his teacher Kang Youwei in Shanghai. Subsequently, the Hong Kong Confucian Academy was established in 1930. That same year, the Confucian Secondary School was built. From 1942, Zhu Yuzhen, Lu Xiangfu and Huang Yuntian were the chairmen of the Academy. Tang Enjia then has become the Dean of the Academy since 1992. Nowadays, the Academy aimed at following Confucius’s teaching and promoting the essence of rites and benevolence. Its objectives are:
- Promoting Confucianism as the nation’s major religion in order to enhance the cohesion of the Chinese nation,
- Advocating Confucius’s birthday as a public holiday in Hong Kong,
- Establishing Confucian temples in various cities and towns around the world,
- Including Confucian teachings in primary schools, secondary colleges and universities,
- Constructing the Confucius Memorial Hall in Hong Kong and make it as the world’s centre of the Confucianism.
On the one hand, the Confucian Academy thinks that it bears the responsibility to export Confucius’s teaching to the world. The Dean, Tang Enjia is a preacher of Confucianism. He insists that Confucianism is the essence of Chinese culture, and is desirable to export it all over the world. To him, the key teachings of Confucius include Confucian “business ethics”, filial piety, Confucian “environmentalism” and so on. Firstly, businessmen should always keep their promises and should prioritize “rightness” over what they can gain. In other words, businessmen are moral agents who do business with moral conscious and ethical means. Secondly, everyone should love and take care of their parents, and by doing so societies can be peaceful and harmonious. Thirdly, according to Tang, Confucius is an “environmentalist”, who studied the relationship between human beings and nature. He proposed that we should not be in conflict with nature, instead, we should respect it and cherish it. Eventually we could possibly realize that human beings and nature are inseparable and even compatible with each other. Hence, for Tang and his Academy, in facing the challenges of moral decay and environmental degradation, Confucian teachings are essential prescriptions to the modern world. Confucianists do have the duty to uphold these principles and warn the others. In this sense, The Confucian Academy is a centre for breeding “soft power”.
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* Published in the Fourth Issue of Political Reflection Magazine (PR).