They're celebrating in China and Taiwan (though they say it is merely the 2557th birthday) and Hawaii (thanks Kim!). Below the fold is an excerpt from last year's Useless Tree Confucian birthday post...
.....And that brings me to what I really want to talk about: how to make the writing of Confucius himself (i.e. before it was revised in the Han dynasty and after) relevant to modern life. Here are three easy steps:
1. Go all the way with gender equality. Perhaps the most pernicious effects of Confucianism stemmed historically from the ways in which it was interpreted and used to subjugate women. His own time was certainly one of patriarchy, which was not peculiar to China. And for most of Chinese history following his time, and most of world history for that matter, women were culturally and politically subordinated to men. But times have happily changed. And Confucian thought, if it is to be useful in a contemporary context, must now assume that there is no moral distinction between men and women on gender grounds alone. When we refer to "elders" and "parents" in Confucian thought, these days we must refer to men and women together. Children owe their mothers the same sort of respect and consideration due their fathers; and elder women must be held in the same regard as elder men. There, that's easy.
2. Detach Confucianism from Legalism. The great sleight of hand of the Han dynasty was to declare "Confucianism" the state ideology, create a curriculum to study his thought, but all the while maintain the stern, un-Confucian political practices of the Qin dynasty. (follow the link and scroll down to "state Confucianism"). The Han were not as brutal as Qin. However, they "legalized" Confucianism, using law and punishment as means to enforce a Confucian-esque public and political morality. This was, of course, a break with Confucius himself, who believed that the proper way to engender morality was through exemplary behavior of ethically aware gentlemen (and women, we will now say). It is only because of the Han revision that a place like Singapore could possibly be considered "Confucian." We need to throw off the Legalist yoke and get back to the Confucius of gentler persuasion.
3. Think of Ritual in everyday terms. I get this from Fingarette,
who talks about how a handshake is a form of Confucian ritual. What I
like about this notion is that it requires us to think carefully about
the most mundane daily tasks: if we put our heart into those, and
cultivate them to preserve our closest loving relationships, we are
then moving toward Humanity. Ritual is not just about Births and
Weddings and Funerals; it is also about doing the myriad daily tasks
that hold our families and social networks together. This makes
Confucian morality more demanding, but it also brings it down to a
concretely human level.
I could probably come up with more "easy steps" but I have to get back to the demands of my day job. Anyone have any further suggestions?