China's Return of Confucius

“Avatar” was bumped off screens in China by a state-sponsored biopic on Confucius. We look at his teachings — and the rise of Confucianism in China today.

Promotional poster for the new Chinese film "Confucius."

Post your comments below

The 3-D blockbuster “Avatar” got the boot from 2,000 movie theaters in China this weekend. And “Avatar” was huge in China. But the Chinese government puts limits on foreign film runs — and it has other priorities.

Now running on all those big screens: a big-budget biopic on the ancient philosopher — China’s “Great Sage” — Confucius. [The New York Times has this update on the movie duel.]

The Chinese Communist Party has increasingly embraced Confucianism as a path to “harmony” and “order.” Admirers say it’s a natural return of the sage. Critics say it’s Chinese autocrats looking for cover.

This hour, On Point: The return of Confucius — and his new place in contemporary China.


Joining us in our studio is Tu Weiming, professor of Chinese history and philosophy and of Confucian studies at Harvard University. He spent the last six months in China, where he is starting the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Peking University. He written extensively on Confucius.

From New York we’re joined by Xudong Zhang, professor of East Asian studies and comparative literature at New York University. He is author of “Postsocialism and Cultural Politics: The Last Decade of China’s Twentieth Century.”

And from Berkeley, Calif., we’re joined by Minxin Pei, senior associate in the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College, where he is also professor of government. He is author of “China’s Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy.”

More links:

Update, 1/29: “China’s Zeal for ‘Avatar’ Crowds Out ‘Confucius’” — The New York Times reports that Chinese moviegoers preferred “Avatar” to “Confucius” in such numbers that “Chinese authorities appeared to have backpedaled this week on a decision to pull ‘Avatar’ from the nation’s 2-D movie screens in favor of ‘Confucius.'”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Oct 9, 2015
A manhole begins to spill over with floodwaters as high tide approaches at Dorchester Road at Sawmill Branch Canal in Summerville, S.C., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.  (AP)

Russia goes big in Syria. The US hits a hospital in Kunduz. Hillary flips on the TPP. An epic flood in South Carolina. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Oct 9, 2015
In this Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, photo, Devlin D'Zmura, a tending news manager at DraftKings, a daily fantasy sports company, works on his laptop at the company's offices in Boston. (AP)

Fantasy football scandal, and the wild, booming betting world of fantasy sports.

Oct 8, 2015
US singer Patti Smith performs during the Way Out West music festival in Gothenburg, Sweden, Saturday, Aug.15, 2015.  (AP)

Iconic rocker, poet of punk, and National Book Award-winning author Patti Smith joins us to talk about her new memoir, “M Train”.

Oct 8, 2015
In this Aug. 2, 2012 file photo, local newspapers show stories about the controversial strategy to bail the government out of a financial hole, at a restaurant along Seven Mile Beach on the outskirts of George Town on the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands have lost some of their allure by abruptly proposing what amounts to an income tax on expatriate workers who have helped build the territory into one of the most famous or, for some people, notorious offshore banking centers that have tax advantages for foreign investment operations. (AP)

Trillions of dollars are now stashed in protected tax havens around the world, leaving societies’ bills to those at home. We’ll dig in.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Rep. Daniel Webster: ‘I’m Gonna Sell This Message’
Tuesday, Oct 6, 2015

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his retirement and resignation from his position last month, it surprised both his Party and the Washington political establishment.

More »
Our Week In The Web: October 2, 2015
Friday, Oct 2, 2015

We say hello again to our email address (since so many of you did this week) and goodbye to the Log Lady.

More »
Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders: ‘Count Me As A Radical’
Thursday, Oct 1, 2015

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is making waves in the 2016 Presidential race, and he joined us today from the US Capitol to explain how his campaign message is connecting with voters around the country.

More »