He’s been dead for over 2,500 years but his family keeps growing all the same.
According to the latest version of his family tree, Confucius (known as Kong Zi in Mandarin) now has over 2 million descendants.
The announcement was made at a recent ceremony in Confucius’ hometown of Qufu to celebrate the Great Sage’s 2,560th birthday.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the genealogy is the world’s largest, spreading to 43,000 pages.
It was last updated in 1937, when 560,000 Confucian descendants were listed. So that makes for a tripling in descendants in the last seventy years? Well, not quite.
According to Kong Deyong, a 77th generation descendant and head of the International Confucius Association, this is the first time women, ethnic minorities and descendants living overseas have been included.
Confucianism has traditionally given women a lower status than men.
But genealogists have announced that they too, have to “move with the times,” so to speak.
“In terms of genes, Confucius’ blood is flowing in our body,” says Kong Dejun, a former university teacher who travelled from Switzerland to attend the ceremony. “The revision shows that Chinese females’ status is improving.”
The family tree took over 10 years to complete and cost more than Rmb10 million ($1.46 million) to produce.
Kong told the China Daily it is money well spent, not just in terms of academic research but also in helping Confucius’ descendants discover their ancestors.
A copy of the family tree will be deposited at China’s National Library in Beijing.
That is something of a turnaround for a government that – until relatively recently – had a far less respectful relationship with China’s most famous thinker.
Confucius was dismissed as a relic of China’s feudal past by Mao Zedong during the 1960s.
From the 1990s the Communist Party has turned back to many traditional Confucian ideas, emphasising the need for the respect for authority and harmony in an increasingly divided and materialistic society.
President Hu Jintao’s political catchphrase “building of a harmonious society,” was lifted out of the Analects too.
In another sign of how just how far official attitudes have change, the Chinese government has funded a biopic on the life of the sage, starring martial arts star Chow Yun-Fat as Confucius and mainland starlet Zhou Xun (see WiC10).
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