The world's interest in China, its history, culture and economy is not new. But it seems to have reached a feverish pitch now that the country is poised to become the world's second largest economy. One indication of that is the opening of an increasing number of schools for Chinese culture both in and outside the country. And though not entirely true, Chinese culture has become synonymous with Confucianism.
That's great news for Kung Peng-cheng, a Taiwan resident and visiting professor at Peking University. Kung has always dreamed of seeing the revival of Confucianism.
In his crimson Tang suit with frog buttons, Kung looks more like a man from the late Qing Dynasty. He seems to have stepped out of an even earlier era when he speaks. He is soft-spoken but articulate, quoting from Chinese classics with graceful lan.
Kung is a Confucius scholar and follower. He has spent nearly three decades writing, teaching and traveling, similar to what the revered philosopher did more than 2,500 years ago. He is only 53 years old but has already authored more than 70 books on subjects ranging from Chinese literature and history to philosophy and religion. Among his celebrated works are The History of Chinese Literary History and Introduction to Chinese Studies. Kung may be happy at the renewed public interest in Confucianism, but he warns against the tendency of using Confucius' teachings just to make money. It is still too early to say we are in the throes of a cultural renaissance. So, he says, we should do more pragmatic things to carry our culture forward rather than indulging in empty talk about when and how Chinese studies would become a dominant subject worldwide.
"Confucianism is first and foremost about education, because education can make everyone a better person," Kung says. Education can help any person to grow into a wise man. For thousands of years, Chinese people have attached great importance to education. And education has played a vital role in making us better students, better employees and better human beings. But today, society is in danger of losing that tradition, because government spending on education (and cultural development) is inadequate.