One of the lesser known policies of the era of Mao Tse Tung was the relegation of Confucianism to the memory hole in Communist China. Lately, Confucius has been making a reappearance there, according to an historian from the University of Pittsburgh.
During the time of Mao Tse Tung, “Articles appearing in the press during the mass campaign presented Confucius as ‘a representative of the declining slave-owning aristocracy who hated the emerging feudal landlords and their supporters, the legalist philosophers,’” Evelyn S. Rawski noted in a paper she recently delivered at the University of Pennsylvania. “In other words, Confucius was not even feudal, he was pre-feudal and attempted to block the historical dialectical movement from aristocracy to feudal order.”
“In contrast, the first emperor and unifier of China (221 B.C.), Qin Shihuang, who had traditionally been characterized as a villain by Confucian historiography, was hailed as a hero for burning books, in order to break the dominant aristocracy to usher in a new historical era.” Rawski’s talk was sponsored by the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute.
By way of comparison, “The recent appearance of a bronze statue of Confucius, which now stands on the east side of Tian’anmen square, at the heart of China’s capital, Beijing, in close proximity of Mao Zedong’s mausoleum, culminates a political reorientation that uses Confucianism as a cultural symbol to be projected abroad, one that seems to be less threatening to the capitalist countries with which China deals on an increasingly intimate basis,” Rawski notes.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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