Celebration of Confucius

Gate marking birthplace of Confucius with many visitors arriving
The birthplace of Confucius, present day Shandong Province, is now the primary place where followers and tourists visit to pay their respects to Confucius. The State of Luo is where Confucius was born and died and therefore many individuals travel to pay homage to his grave and see the temples in Shandong Province. It has been said that Qufu, in ancient China, was thought to be as important and sacred as Jerusalem or Mecca, but the Confucius Temple was not built until one year after his death. The yellow roof of this temple is quite distinctive and is meant to symbolize the importance of the philosophical, social, and political ideals that were imbued in the Chinese tradition by Confucius’s teachings. Each year, since the 1980s, a commemoratory celebration is held on his birthday, September 28th, and Qufu is the epicenter of this celebration. During the celebration the participants of the celebration dress in traditional clothing and perform the traditional rituals that have been acted out since the Qing Dynasty, roughly 1644-1911. Although these celebrations have become significantly larger since the 1980s, in order to attract tourists, similar celebrations have been held since 206 BC – 24 AD in the Western Han Dynasty. Although not considered the state religion during the Han Dynasty, Confucianism was the accepted “state ideology” (Yao 193). While records have indicated that rulers before the Han Dynasty did make small and sporadic sacrifices to Confucius, the significance and degree of these sacrifices grew immensely in the Han Dynasty. In an attempt to foster tourism smaller versions of the Confucius Festival have been held on the 28th of each month from April to October since 2006. This year marks Confucius’s 2,560th birthday and was rung in by thousands of visitors in a special celebration that was the focal point of the International Confucius Cultural Festival.

Burnt fireworks and ashes celebrating ConfuciusAt 8:30 a.m., a phalanx consisting of tens of thousands of locals read Confucius classics to welcome visitors. The memorial for Confucius was unveiled 10 minutes later as the Temple of Confucius opened and the Door of Great Perfection was unlocked. Confucianism scholars and Confucius’ descendants served flowers to Confucius at the Hall of Great Perfection at 9:00 a.m. Jiang Daming, governor of Shandong province, read the lament for Confucius written by the famous calligrapher Fanzeng. The memorial ended with a song and dance ceremony. (Yuan)

The ceremonies performed for Confucius’s birthday are all connected to the concept li. Although this notion was previously explained through its relation to ethics, “Confucians believe that in the human realm li has religious, social and psychological dimensions, and that its meaning extends from ritual to propriety, from civil laws to codified customs, and from moral rules for behavior to ethical senses for thinking, feeling and acting” (Yao 192). Understood through a religious context then, li denotes the proper way in which humans commemorate their deceased ancestors. Similar to other ancestral worship, the Confucius birthday celebrations include the “orderly performance of dance and music combined with offerings and sacrifice” (192). These offerings include incense and dead animals, but through these offerings nothing is asked of Confucius. They are in this way not a true sacrifice because he is not noted as divine and is not asked for anything in return for the offerings. In addition to the traditional rituals, this year, as a part of celebration of Confucius’s 2,560th birthday, the latest version of the Confucius family tree by the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee was revealed in a ceremony in Qufu on Spetember 24,th 2009.