Confucius comes to life as a man

Updated: 2013-08-17 10:29

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Confucius comes to life as a man

A scene from dance drama Confucius, currently staged at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, features Confucius with his students. Provided to China Daily

Nearly 2,500 years after the great Chinese sage Confucius traveled to 14 states with his students to spread his ideas, his direct descendant has written and directed a dance drama to narrate the journey.

In Confucius, staged at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Aug 16 and 17, the director focuses on the stories Confucius encountered during his travel instead of recounting the philosophies he distilled from the experience.

In the eyes of most people, Confucius is a wise man, whose thoughts and ideas have shaped the history and culture of China. But for Kong Dexin, a 77th generation descendant of Confucius, the man is more like a family member.

"I feel very close to him. My grandfather told me his stories when I was little. His pictures are everywhere in our house. Every year, we go back to our hometown to commemorate our ancestors," says the 34-year-old Kong, who is a choreographer and director of China National Opera and Dance Drama Company.

"For me, the man is not up there," she says while pointing her finger to the ceiling. "He is a man of flesh and bones so I want him to be a real person, who laughs and cries, loves and hates."

She also says that the trip was not easy and Confucius suffered a lot, which mirrors the hardship young people go through to achieve success.

"His great thinking and works came from those difficult moments. He learned from those sufferings," says the director. "We, too, have to endure failure and loss before the final success."

It is said that Confucius had more than 3,000 students, and 72 were excellent and famous in their time. A student named Yan Hui was Confucius' favorite. When Yan died, Confucius was very sad and cried for him.

The story impressed Kong very much. She says that what Confucius values derived from humanity and great love.

One of Confucius' values Kong respects highly is modesty. She says that when Confucius was only 15 years old, he was eager to learn from others.

"He said, 'If three of us are walking together, at least one of the other two is good enough to be my teacher.' But how many young people of our generation keep that virtue in life?" she asks.

Hu Yang, an actor from China National Opera and Dance Company, plays the role of Confucius in the dance drama. The 22-year-old says that he has read many books about Confucius and he feels very connected to his thought.

"Confucius believed that art should play a key role in people's lives and it helped perfect a man's character. Now, I am dancing and acting onstage to communicate with the audiences. It's the same thing, though from different era," he says.

Kong says that ever since she studied at Beijing Dance Academy, she has been thinking about writing a story about Confucius. A year ago, Kong received a grant to realize her dream.

"I think the reason why we are presenting such a show about Confucius is that we want our audiences living in the modern world to learn his story and his philosophy again," says Kong. "There are many Confucius Institutes abroad and many foreigners are learning his philosophy. However, how many Chinese people are still learning it? It's really shameful."

"This dance drama is not aiming to educate people. I just want Chinese audiences, especially the young generation, to see a man's real experience and then reflect on themselves," she adds.

(China Daily USA 08/19/2013 page8)

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