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May 15, 2011

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Fairness in the family

Confucius was credited as one of the greatest philosophers and educationists in China, as he created Confucianism, a core of traditional Chinese culture, and he promoted the fair provision of study to all.

As a 78th lineal descendant of Confucius, 48-year-old Kong Zhong (Richard Kong) feels a large responsibility on him to promote Confucianism and offer fair education chances to as many children as possible.

As a successful businessman over the past 20 years, Kong has focused on charities concerning education in recent years. He has donated toward the construction of three primary schools, adopted four poor children, established the "Confucius Encouraging Financial Aid" for the China Academy of Art in 2005 and the "Nishan Confucius Education Fund" in 2007, to provide financial help for poor students and encouragement for teachers in poor areas.

Kong was in Shanghai earlier this month to give a speech on "the leadership for future," and he shared some of his understanding of Confucianism and his education charity work with Shanghai Daily.

Q: As a descendant of the Confucius family, has Confucianism posed a great impact on you since you were young?

A: Actually, no. It was not until recent years that I started to learn about Confucianism. I didn't have the chance. Though I was born in Beijing, the "cultural revolution (1966-76)" that started when I was three robbed our chances to learn about the traditional culture. And soon, we left for Hong Kong and then studied abroad. It was not until four years ago with the fifth revision of the genealogy of Confucius that I started to learn about Confucianism. I met a lot of other descendants of the Confucius family at the time, and talking with them was so helpful for me to know about the traditional culture based on Confucianism. I also started reading some Confucius books myself and gradually realized how this traditional philosophy can help our modern life today.

Q: Did the study of Confucianism change you in any way?

A: Sure it did. It changed a lot of the way I see the world. As you know, I spent quite a long time in business, which is majorly a material world. So, I was very impressed about the way Confucius defines the world. He clarified the relation between people, and that between people and the natural world. A good relationship between people doesn't only involve communication by languages, but also based on mutual respect, tolerance and love.

Q: You have contributed a lot to charity in recent years. It seems that you focus more on education-related charity work; is that because of Confucius, the great educationist?

A: Years ago, when I visited Nishan Middle school (Nishan in Shandong Province was the birthplace of Confucius), I was astonished by what I saw. There were 30 computers in the classroom, but all covered by cloth and dust. They told me that those computers were donated by kind people, but since they could not afford the network expense of 200 yuan (US$30.78) per month, the computers were never used. Confucius promoted providing education for all people without discrimination, but kids at his hometown were studying in such a poor condition. It was such a sad scene that I could not let myself do nothing. So I started donating to Nishan Middle School to improve their education conditions at first and thus gave support to other education-related projects later on. And contributing to charity also helps me to enjoy the fun in giving without expecting returns.


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