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  The revolution of recognizing women in Confucius family tree  

  

 

Female descendants of Confucius will be officially included in the family tree of the great philosopher. The decision is revolutionary because it turns the Confucian ideal of a male-dominated society upside down.

The inclusion of female offspring in the philosopher's pedigree represents social progress and respect of female rights, according to Kong Deming, a Confucius descendant and senior member of the editorial board, which is updating the family tree. He said the decision affects more than 200,000 Chinese women living today.

According to Kong, the children of Confucius' female offspring who have been surnamed Kong will be also ranked into the future pedigree, as they are also consanguineous offspring of Confucius.

More than 1.8 million descendants of Confucius, or Kong Qiu (551-479 BC), will be listed into the newly revised official version of Confucius' family tree, to be formally published mid next year.

Thousands of Confucius descendants yesterday came to Qufu, in East China's Shandong Province, to celebrate the 2557th birthday of Confucius. Born and growing up in Qufu, the great master was considered to be a major creator of the Chinese intellectual tradition. Confucianism stresses the respect of tradition, social harmony and encourages the rulers to be benevolent.

"In the modern era, respecting women's rights should be an integral part of the harmonious philosophy of Confucianism," said Kong.

In early Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), Confucius was established as a great master. Since then, the ruling dynasties in China had been conferring the title of Yanshenggong, or Duke of Saint Family, to the lineal eldest sons of Confucius' offspring, generations after generations. The title has never been broken in the 2,000-year history of Chinese dynasties.

The lineal eldest son and his family stayed in the mansion of Confucius, located in Shandong's Qufu, and his younger brothers moved out but kept a full record of their paternal trees. Females have never been recorded. As a result, the Confucian family has the most complete records of pedigree.

So far, there have been 83 generations of Confucius offspring, whose numbers are estimated to be nearly 3 million worldwide.

There have been four large-scale nationwide revisions of Confucius' pedigree, taking place in Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties as well as in the period of the Kuomintang ruling on the Chinese mainland (1911-1949).

According to the pedigree editors, it is the first time that the revision of Confucius' pedigree, starting in the mid 1990s, was funded by private donations. Previously revisions were funded by the government. During the previous large-scale update in the 1930s, 560,000 were identified as Confucius' descendants.

Although the revision has greatly increased the recorded number of Confucius' descendants, many of them could still not be listed, according to the pedigree editors.

"Many of nowadays' Confucian descendents could not tell the names of their grandfathers and obtain no evidence to support their family trees," Kong said.

Together with the revision, various activities, such as traditional dancing and praying, were held yesterday to celebrate the 2557th anniversary of Confucius.

"The most important thing is not to reveal how many real descendants Confucius has, but to memorize and develop his great ideas through the pedigree revision and other activities," Kong Dewei, co-director of the editorial board of the pedigree revision, told China Daily during a recent interview.

 

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