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Confucianism in modern China


When the Communists came to power they saw Confucianism as an archaic, feudal system and an anti-Confucius campaign was instigated, which came to a climax during the Cultural Revolution. Now, however, Conservatives frightened by the pace of change, the growing generation gap and the new materialism of China are calling for a return to Confucian values of respect and selflessness, just as their nervous counterparts in the West preach a return to family values. Confucian social morality – obeying authority, regarding family as the seat of morality and emphasizing the mutual benefits of friendship – is sometimes hailed as one of the main reasons for the success of East Asian economies, just as Protestantism provided the ideological complement to the growth of the industrialized West.

Most of the Confucian buildings in Qufu have been recently renovated, but this is strictly in the interests of tourism, not worship. Confucianism as a moral force was thought to have died, yet the ability of Chinese traditions to survive modernization and suppression always surprises observers. As one Chinese visitor commented, “Confucius is the one Chinese leader who never let the people down”.

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