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Confucian Culture and Cultural Transformation in Rural China—The Enlightment of Tangchi Experiments
Master Chin Kung,Lujiang Centre of Cultural Education (LCCE),the Tangchi phenomenon,the revival of culture,cultural transformation,discourses of modernity,cultural consciousness,
|Publication Year :||2010|
In 2004, Master Chin Kung established the Lujiang Centre of Cultural Education (LCCE). It was located at Tangchi, a small town in Lujiang County, Anhui Province. The center was devoted to the teaching of Confucius to the locals. Since then, the centre had contributed to lower crime rates and divorce rates. It attracted many visitors and brought about economic prosperity in the small town; even the UNESCO sent people to investigate it. We called these “the Tangchi phenomenon.”
The influence of “the phenomenon of Tangchi,” profound as it is, can be approached from various perspectives. The current study approaches it by locating it in two contexts: “the revival of traditional Confucian culture” and “cultural transformation of contemporary rural China.” As a result of rapid political and economical reform and development, people in China can experience emptiness in their individual spiritual lives. Hence the revival of traditional Chinese culture, in particular, Confucianism. What also leads to the revival is the improvement of life quality of the farmers, which brought about some problems, called the Three Rural Issues: the issues remain to be tackled with by the long ignored traditional cultural heritage. Reading the Tangchi phenomenon against these two contexts, the study argues that the LCCE can contribute to the transformation of Chinese rural culture. In our review of the literature, many scholars worried about the deterioration of rural culture and propose solution from the perspective of political economy. The current study tries to point out the deficiency of existing discussions (in two kinds of discourse of modernity) and argue that Confucianism may help to solve the problems encountered by the cultural transformation in Chinese rural areas.
After introducing the two contexts, the study moves on to describe the activities and views of local residents in LCCE. First, it introduces the core teachings of the center, which are “Self-cultivation is the foundation; education is the priority.” What features the center’s teaching is it helps students “learn to live like Confucius' instead of 'treating Confucius’ teaching as simply classroom teaching and study'. The center emphasizes the traditional Chinese ethics and moral values, honoring and practicing what is stated in a booklet based on the teaching of Confucius, Standards for Being a Good Student and Child. The booklet provides highly workable guidelines for one's behavior, word and thought in order to cultivate one's virtues.
Regarding the development of LCCE, the study talks about its history, its interactions with the locals and its impact in three sections: “the initial period”, “the prospering period”, and “the period of transformation and closure.” These are the questions discussed: when, why, how they were established; who involved in these activities; how about their core ideas; what did they do; what kinds of the effects had been achieved. Briefly answered here, the inaugurator is a Master who is a foreign religious leader. The feature of “foreign religion” made it difficult for the center to get established during the initial period. During its prospering period, LCCE interacted with residents through such activities as “countryside education,” “picking up litter on the streets, cleaning up should one stumble upon some rubbish,” “flag-raising ceremony,” “model selection.” Through the promotion of Master Ching Kung and the success of “Series of Lectures on Happy Life”, more and more people joined this group. As the center’s impact grew, it also attracted the government’s attention arousing their worries and concern. Finally, LCCE had to be temporarily closed in November 2008. The study shall further investigate the reason for its closure and its follow-up effects.
Although LCCE lasted for only three years in the small town Tangchi, its strong character has made an impact far exceeding what the town was able to achieve by itself. The existence of the center in the rural area thus bestows on the town a dual nature: the area turns out to be both rural and urban or even global/international/universal. The small town’s experience can inspire other towns regarding their transformation: to get transformed, a town needs a kind of resource that disregards the differences between a town and a city. The long-lasting traditional Chinese culture, headed by Confucius’ teaching, is what can help the transformation. Judging by the core basic values promoted by LCCE, I don’t think the adoption of traditional Chinese culture in rural transformation will bring about the problems many scholars are worrying about. On the contrary, the adoption can help us reconsider the idea of “the Pattern of Difference Sequence.” Cultural (re-constructions) in Tangchi, with its 'spillover' effects, can inspire other villages in China when they deal with some ethical crises. In addition, from the perspective provided by the theory of “Broken windows,” the focus of LCCE on “starting from myself” or “self-cultivation” (in cleaning the living environment) is found to significant, giving an invaluable lesson to the constructor of rural culture. The LCCE experience also provides rich materials for life education: whereas life education by, for example, the Christian faith, may revolve around God, the education of LCCE is human-centered.
Having explored the development of LCCE and its possible contribution, the study investigates its specificity and limitation. There is no panacea for all political and social problems. After all, we need to take into account local differences. Besides, the cultivation of one’s mind and virtue needs patience. What is proposed by the current study certainly needs alternative perspectives to make it more workable. By proposing traditional culture of China as solution to the rural transformation in China, the study is not advocating 'the return of traditional Chinese society.' What the study tries to emphasize is part of the resources for reconstructing modern China is available from Chinese cultural heritage. We should have some degree of 'cultural consciousness,' rethinking the meaning of traditional culture. The Tangchi phenomenon, which invites people to reevaluate traditional Chinese culture, will establish itself as a symbol of cultural revival with its great impact.
|Appears in Collections:||社會學系|
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