Kong Zhong: The biggest role of rituals is to ensure harmony
China Daily

Kong Zhong, vice-chairman of World Confucius Descendants Association (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)

Q: What's a particular charm of Confucius and Confucianism in your mind?

A: In my opinion, the lasting charm of Confucius mainly comes from his pursuit of the inherent goodness of human nature (summarized as "benevolence", one of the three universally recognized moral qualities of men in his eyes), as well as his search for knowledge, morality, and truth (summarized as "wisdom"), along with his extraordinary effort for building a world for the common good and an ideal society of Great Harmony (summarized as "courage"). Confucius practiced and realized "the unity of inner knowledge and action", "being a sage inside while kingly outside" throughout his lifetime, opening a new era for the Chinese civilization, and even humanity as a whole. Thus, his name was forever remembered by the Chinese and his thoughts are widely praised by people at home and abroad.

Confucianism is an ideological, cultural, and academic system established by Confucius that is based on summarizing and inheriting the cultural traditions of previous generations. The Chinese culture has been born with remarkable features of being highly natural, humanistic, systematic, dialectical, and developmental, and these characteristics are also what Confucianism possesses. It can be said that Confucianism is essentially "knowledge about human learning" that starts from human beings and returns to human beings. Where there is a human being, there is Confucianism and its followers. The Chinese culture, with Confucianism as the main body, in line with the human will, human feelings, and human nature, and is constantly upgraded for transcendence, enables the continuous and long-lasting development of the Chinese nation and Chinese civilization.

Q: What is your favorite line from The Analects and how do you interpret it?

A: I really like the phrase "in performing the rites, propriety is important" in The Analects. I understand the meaning of it as: "The biggest role of rituals is to ensure harmony". Propriety is what Confucius advocated and practiced all his life, as one of the core concepts in Confucianism. Paying respect is the way to achieve harmony as the aim. The fundamental purpose of making rites, performing rites, and observing rituals is for the harmonious coexistence of people and themselves, people and people, and people and nature.

The norms of the "propriety" and the concept of "harmony" have created a civilized and harmonious China with the culture of rites and music, ensuring that people, families, and organizations in this land can develop harmoniously and sustainably, while contributing to the progress of the world. Today, under the new situation, it is particularly urgent and crucial to learn from Chinese cultural traditions, to deeply explore the relationship between ruling by virtue, ruling by rites, and ruling by law, and to explore the ultimate purpose and way of life of human beings.

Q: What do you think is the contemporary value of cultural self-confidence and Confucianism?

A: As the foundation and main vein of our long-standing civilization and tradition, Confucianism serves as the foundational force of modern civilization. It contains not only the unchanging way of governing the country and the people, but also the changing way of adapting to the times. For individuals, it can protect kind-heartedness and virtue, for families and society, it can maintain human relations and justice, and for all humankind, it can promote consensus and common interests. Therefore, it is worthy of our stronger efforts to inherit and develop it.

Q: What do you think is the significance of traditional Chinese culture in modern society?

A: There is no doubt that traditional Chinese culture is the most remarkable creation of the Chinese people and a treasure for all mankind. Its value and significance lie in its ability to access history, guide the present, and build a harmonious and sustainable future. At the moment of global integration and value diversification, how to deal with the relationship between one and many, individual and collective, part and whole, inheritance and innovation, competition and cooperation, and avoid the conflict of civilizations, is related to you, me, they and all generations. This is a major unavoidable issue, and the grand view of history, great values, and a broad life outlook presented in Chinese culture can provide many references.

Q: Is this the first time you have participated in the Nishan Forum? What are your expectations for this forum?

A: This is my second time participating in the Nishan Forum on World Civilizations. We are planning "an overall strategic situation for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation" amid "profound changes unseen in a century".

The challenges we face are unprecedented, and the opportunities we face are also unparalleled. I look forward to working with all walks of life and international friends at this forum to seek truths, focus on various significant issues of the times and common problems of all mankind, and discuss practical solutions. I expect to jointly find a feasible way to build a shared future of common interests.

In addition, I also participated in organizing this year's Intellectual Businessmen Culture Forum as I hope to have an in-depth discussion with entrepreneurs on how to better carry forward the tradition of Confucian entrepreneurs in the new era.

We should put people at the central focus and the country as the priority, and bear in mind "being the first to worry about the affairs of the state and the last to enjoy oneself". We should act to jointly overcome difficulties and be brave to make innovations, doing our bit in implementing the country's major strategies and solving the problem of "unbalanced and insufficient development".