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Confucians vs. Christmas


Ten PhD students from some of China's top universities issued a letter this week in which they called for a rejection of Christmas and an increased awareness of traditional Chinese culture. China Daily offers a brief summary of the document here, and there's a nice discussion going on at Granite Studio.

The letter offers a long list of complaints about the holiday: people don't really know what it means, it's an encroachment on traditional Chinese holidays by western "soft-power," why should China roll over when even Europe is resisting "American-style" commercialized Christmas, China is gradually becoming a Christian nation, and so forth. It's not all complaints, however - the scholars put forth some suggestions, most of which echo recent calls for a revival of Confucianism and traditional learning. Some excerpts:

2. Within the bounds of respecting the freedom of religious belief and the framework of the law, the government should review and make appropriate standards for the increasing popularity of the "Christmas craze" in shops, restaurants, hotels, the Internet, in newspapers, on TV, on the radio, and in schools. In particular, we believe that the on-campus, collective celebration of Christmas by students from kindergarten through college out of ignorance and a pursuit of fashion, even to the point of teacher-organized celebrations of Christmas among students, violates both the constitutional principle that religion must not "be an obstacle to the national education system" and the educational principle of "separation of education and religion," and we therefore urge the government to be highly vigilant and tighten its standards.

4. Reflecting on traditional misperceptions of the issue of religion, understanding the vaue and function of religion in a positive light, and recognizing humanity's concern for the ultimate, pursuit of transcendence, and the innate desire and reasonable appeal for communal, religious, spiritual, and cultural life, there is a need to respect the faith of China's believers in western religions like Christianity, and an even greater need for an appropriate excavation of uses for native Chinese religions like Buddhism and Daoism. In particular, the need exists for a full development of the religious use in society of Confucianism, which was the backbone of traditional Chinese culture throughout history; a high degree of attention should be paid to current efforts to revive Confucianism in contemporary society, and there needs to be active promotion of the rebuilding and revival of Confucianism.

The author of the petition, Wang Dasan, has already received his PhD, so he did not sign it himself. In an explanation released the day after the petition was printed in New Express, Wang described how he toned down his own considerably more extreme views to arrive at a statement that ten doctoral students (originally twenty) were willing to sign. The letter, for example, states outright that "we uphold religious tolerance and freedom of religion, and we have no intent to exclude [Christianity]." Wang, on the other hand, believes that rejecting Christianity is essential for a renaissance of Confucianism.

Last year, Wang posted a "Notice to the Chinese people concerning the so-called 'Christmas' problem" in which he recommended overhauling the Chinese terminology for all things related to Christianity. Like any hard-core guoxue supporter, he wrote the notice in literary Chinese. The same ideas appear in this year's petition, where Wang writes in the vernacular to gain a wider audience:

1. Those who do not adhere to "Jesusism" (耶教) should follow the practice of 1920s and 30s China and contemporary Hong Kong and Taiwan; instead of using names like "Christ" (基督), "Christianity" (基督教), "Holy Bible" (圣经), "Christmas" (圣诞节), and "Christmas Tree" (圣诞树) for things that are holy only to Christians, they should use words that do not have any emotional tone or reverential implication, such as "Jesus" (耶酥), "Jesusism", "Jesus Scriptures" (耶经), "Jesus' Birthday" (耶诞节) and "Jesus' Birthday Tree" (耶诞树). They should in no way, whether intentional or unintentional, observe "Jesus' Birthday" and they should not send "Jesus' Birthday" SMS, letters, cards, or gifts. They should not take part in "Jesus' Birthday" get-togethers or parties. They should not worship or pray at "Jesusist Churches."

It's somewhat ironic that when the letter was printed in New Express, the carefully-chosen term "耶诞节" in the title and throughout the text was replaced with the more common "圣诞节" that the scholars reject.

Update: A later Danwei post has comments by media professionals who discuss bans on reporting about foreign holidays.

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There are currently 9 Comments for Confucians vs. Christmas.

Comments on Confucians vs. Christmas

One of the foreign teachers at Beijing's Beihang University has been having an all day Christmas party for her students today with them going in and out of her two room flat right next door to mine. Her students are in the flight school here and many will go on to be pilots, both civil and military. As pilots, they represent a group of people who will one day be important to China's defense and development. And they are having a hell of a Christmas party.

"native Chinese religions like Buddhism"

Hmmmm....some people might need to work on their history.

Ten PhD students from some of USA's top universities issued a letter this week in which they called for a rejection of tattoos in Chinese characters and an increased awareness of traditional American language:


I got into work at CCTV-9 on Christmas Eve, my heart sinking when I remembered I'd be facing a stream of the same old "China is embracing Christmas" and "Santas on rollercoasters" stories that we dust off every year like old decorations that should have been given to a charity shop ages ago. But when I opened up the editing system on my computer, there was the glorious all-users message: "No reports with content about Christmas are to be included in any news broadcasts".

O tidings of comfort and joy!

Maybe we have the PhD students to thank for this merciful release. They came to save us all from Santa's power when we were gone astray.

Too late, cats out of Santa's bag and Christmas will be forever a new holiday in China. One reason is the economic surge provided by those buying Christmas presents, cards, etc. I think the New Express article only fueled the interest in this Jesus birthday holiday.

Presumably terminology will also be changed for such non-Confucian concepts such as "the Buddha". Gautamaism, perhaps?

Not sure how they're going to refer to Daoism without showing reverence to the soi-disant "Way", though.

Who would win in a fight: Buddha or Santa? They are both fat mothers but Clause would F that beer belly up. Slap him with a bag of coal Santa. What does Buddha got? GO JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Who would win in a fight: Buddha or Santa?)
Why? Why? Why? When we talk about two different cultures or religions, we always want to define which one is better than the other. However, just think about it, do it really that important? Eskimos live in Arctic area have their own traditional culture, and a lot of the common senses in our civilized society will be meaningless and even useless. Can we say that the cultural in civilized society is better than Eskimos’ traditional culture, or Eskimos’ is better than ours?

When we talk about two different cultures, can we focus more on coexistence of cultures? When we talk about two different religions, can we focus more on how to give more choices to people, so that the diversity of their needs can be fully satisfied?

I think Buddha and Santa have contributed enough to this world, so they don’t need to win in a fight but hold hand in hand to work more on the world peace.

Funny how the "10 PhD students" at some of the "top US universities" cited by bingfeng all have the same names as characters on Prison Break.

Nice one, whoever concocted that.

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