WANG Miao had never heard of a “child reception ceremony,” an ancient ritual in which a father salutes his wife and his new-born child on their first meeting.
“The father bows to thank his wife for her company for better or worse, for the hardship of her pregnancy and the pain of giving birth,” Wang, 36, said.
“Many fathers shed tears at the sight, determining to treat their wives better,” she said.
Such simulated rituals are just one aspect of the cultural experience in Shuxiang Qufu, a learning center in Qufu, birthplace of Confucius, in east China’s Shandong Province.
Other experiences on offer include learning to play the guzheng, a Chinese stringed instrument, a guided study of the classic works of Confucianism and demonstrations of ancient crafts such as movable-type printing and paper making.
Wang, a local hotelier, takes her 10-year-old son there almost every week and has seen changes in him over the past year.
“He gets up early every day to recite the Analects, and is not addicted to mobile games like many other children,” she says.
Yesterday was the 2,568th anniversary of the birth of Confucius, educator, philosopher and founder of Confucianism.
President Xi Jinping visited Qufu in 2013 and said the moral standards passed on by forefathers should be inherited on the basis of “making the past serve the present” and “keeping the essential while discarding the dross.”
In front of a wooden bench in Kongfu, former residence of descendants of Confucius and now a tourist site, Kong Hongen is telling visitors about the corruption of Yan Song, a notorious official in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
When Yan and his son were accused of graft, the Ming emperor sentenced his son to death. Yan came to beg for help from a descendant of Confucius, but sat on the bench for six hours without being received.
“Yan did not have a son until 40 years old, and spoiled him. Officials today should learn his lesson and discipline their families,” said Kong.
Kong, a 75th generation descendant of Confucius, works at Jining Executive Leadership Academy for political and moral study. He teaches officials Confucianism in places like Kongfu.
The academy was established in June 2015. More than 40,000 officials have been trained there, ranging from ministerial to township levels, from across the country, said Li Jingxue, its head.
“In addition to classroom training, we have 22 instruction spots, such as the bench, which cover Confucius’ thoughts on peace and harmony, family instructions, filial piety and corruption,” said Li.
For more than 2,000 years, Confucius’ ideas, including rule by virtue, self-discipline to appease others and harmony in diversity, have been central to personal, family and social life in China.
However, “moral decline” has become a hot topic, from a toddler hit by a car and left without help, to people looting watermelons that fell off truck after a road accident.
Yang Chaoming, head of the Confucius Research Institute of China, said that while pursuing material wealth, some people had neglected traditional ethics.