An epitome of the spirit of harmony in the new epoch

With the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution, Confucius had his reputation rehabilitated, who became regarded as a great statesman, literary master and educationist. Those key ideas of “peace,” “harmony” and “benevolence” advocated by Confucius were considered perfectly geared to the value orientations of the contemporary Chinese society, conforming to the ideological tenets of what came to be called “the harmonious society.”

Confucius as the most influential icon of the Chinese culture, an icon best known to the international society, has been rediscovered and re-championed across the world. By March 2012, in 105 countries and regions around the globe whose population accounts for 86% of entire the world population, 358 Confucius Institutes had been established, with 500 Confucius classrooms in primary and middle schools, all of which are committed to the teaching of the Chinese language and the dissemination of the Chinese culture. The development of the Confucius Institutes has veritably become a successful case of introducing Chinese

Confucius’ Connotative Signification during the Contemporary Period

Figure 2.8 Confucius’ Connotative Signification during the Contemporary Period

culture to the international community and a perfect “China Model” in the cultural exchanges of the world. It is beyond a doubt that Confucius is one of the most poignant symbols in China’s cultural exchanges with the rest of the world.

As a representative of the traditional Chinese culture, Confucius raised such crucial ideas as “benevolent are those who love fellow human creatures” and “supreme are peace and harmony.” Those doctrines perfectly resonate with the values of the contemporary Chinese society engaged in the development of a harmonious socialist country. They also echo the value orientations of the contemporary China, which is becoming increasingly open and liberal amidst its rapid social and economic development. Thus, Confucius is taken to signify, on the connotative level, all the tenets of a harmonious society in contemporary China, in the new era of reform and opening up.

Throughout his vicissitudes in history, Confucius has been taken advantage of in his changing roles in order to answer to the changing needs of the reigning ideologies in different historical periods. As an icon, Confucius has already transcended the role that he actually played during his lifetime - a great thinker, a literary master, an educator and a philosopher in ancient China. He has been constantly accorded different images in accordance with the needs of different eras in history which have generated new connotative significations. In a word, Confucius has been turned into a classic icon of remarkable historical continuity, which yields different and even conflicting signifieds in different historical contexts.


  • 1 Lin Yali, “The Relationship between the Symbol and the Context,” in Journal of Guizhou Normal University (Social Science Edition), 2010, Issue 3.
  • 2 Peng Huanping and Wang Zhihua, “Chinese Luck Culture from the Perspective of the Olympic Icon,” in Young Journalists, 2008, Issue 20.
  • 3 Luo Anxian, A History of Confucianism in China, (Beijing: People’s Press, 2008).
  • 4 Qiu Tao and Wang Xuebin, “The Changing Images of Confucius Over the Past Century: A Review of Confucius and 20th-Century China,” in Theories and Reviews, 2010, Issue 1, 61-65.
  • 5 Luo Anxian, A History of Confucianism in China, (Beijing: People’s Press, 2008), 79.
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