Friday, January 21, 2011

Confucius Revived

I previously blogged on the unveiling of a statue of Confucius in Tiananmen Square and the spread of Confucius Institutes around the world.

Stanford University has recently announced the establishment of a Confucius Institute as an integral part of the Department of East Asian Languages and Culture.  The web page of the Confucian Institute notes that Chinese has become the second most popular foreign language at Stanford.  The Institute will award three graduate fellowships to those in the Chinese language program.  Stanford is one of a growing number of universities that have or will establish Confucius Institutes.

The Confucius Institute is a partnership between Stanford, Peking University, and Hanban, an administrative arm of China’s Ministry of Education.

In graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis (1962-68), my first teaching assignment with undergraduate students of Chinese history was a discussion of the Analects of Confucius.  I still have the paperback book with the Analects I marked for discussion.  I have since added other translations to my library along with Internet editions.

One of the most striking features of Confucian thought is the almost complete absence of women.  There is only one Analect devoted specifically and exclusively to women, which appears in Chapter 17, marked as number 23 or 25 depending on the author’s enumeration.

James Legge’s translation:

The Master said, “Of all people, girls and servants are the most difficult to behave to.  If you are familiar with them, they lose their humility.  If you maintain a reserve toward them, they are discontented.”  (Legge interpreted girls as concubines, although he expressed shock that Confucius would utter such a statement.)

D. C. Lau:

The Master said, “In one’s household, it is the women and the small men that are difficult to deal with.  If you let them get too close, they become insolent.  If you keep them at a distance, they complain.”

James R. Ware:

The Master said, “Only women and petty man are hard to have around the house.  If you get too close to them, they become non-compliant.  If you keep them at a distance, they turn resentful.”

Lin Yutang:

Confucius said, “Women and the uneducated people are most difficult to deal with.  When you are familiar with them, they become cheeky, and when you ignore them, they resent it.”

Stanford has established the Clayman Center for Gender Research.  Hundreds of other colleges and universities have set up centers for women's studies.  One wonders what feminist scholars think about the new Confucius Institutes on their campuses?

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