I was doing some research on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 for our A block last night, when I came across a bit of news tangentially related to the Square.
Tiananmen Square recently acquired a new tenant -- a bronze, 31-foot-tall sculpture of the great philosopher Confucius. Mao Zedong and the Chinese government essentially exiled the image and lessons of Confucius when they launched the Cultural Revolution in 1966. Mao's big nationwide project is one of recent history's ugliest chapters, a period of forced "re-education" of citizens through both teachings and violence. The Cultural Revolution dragged on for a decade marked by countless deaths, torture and economic ruin. The era leaves in its path a conflicted history within China -- despite the Cultural Revolution's epic failure, Mao's portrait still hangs prominently in Tiananmen Square.
And now, the revolutionary Mao and the Confucius he exiled share a home. Confucius has been making a subdued, almost mythical return to the hearts of the Chinese people and government, for somewhat dubious reasons. As The Economist notes, "Party officials use Confucius as a Father-Christmas-like symbol of avuncular Chineseness rather than as the proponent of a philosophical outlook."
On another note, Happy Chinese New Year! Gung Hay Fat Choy! It is the Year of the Rabbit.