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Battling drug addiction with Confucian wisdom

Authorities in an east China province are drawing on old wisdom to blaze a trail in treating drug addiction, borrowing the concepts of Confucius to help addicts stay clean.

Shandong Province recently established the Confucius Institute at Jidong compulsory detoxification center in Jinan, capital city of Shandong, sparking heated discussions on how ancient Chinese philosophy can help treat the modern-day problem of drug addiction.

Confucianism advocates family ties, filial duties and mutual respect, which authorities believe will have a positive moral impact on those receiving treatment.

"Confucianism will help boost the addicts' confidence in detoxification and reshape their spiritual world," said Wang Daqian, secretary-general of the China Confucius Foundation (CCF), which co-founded the institute.

Authorities hope that the ancient philosophy will help change an addict's incorrect perceptions and improper behavior so that they can "completely get rid of drug addiction and get back to society."

"It's quite creative!" commented one user on microblog Sina Weibo. "I think it really would make sense to use the Confucius philosophy to influence them emotionally."

It's a novel way pioneered by Shandong to battle drug addiction. The province, birthplace of Confucius, has set up eight Confucius institutes in its rehab centers so far, with the first established in Jining City in 2015.


"Those who are filial should respect the old and the young in their families..." More than 300 drug addicts were reciting classic texts inspired by the Confucius Analects - at the Jidong detox center when reporters visited.

In a reading room at the institute, addicts studied books around a long table. A portrait of Confucius hung on the wall, with two scrolls containing couplets advocating good temper, love, respect, frugality and humbleness.

"Besides reading, we also learn calligraphy," one of them said. "The more you learn, you get a deeper sense of calmness."

Calligraphy, which requires careful and attentive strokes, can help "purify the addicts' souls," said Cui Dongzheng, deputy head of the center.

In another Confucius institute in the Jining rehab center, drug addicts have classrooms, a library and a calligraphy center. Besides regular education, the center incorporates Confucius culture to "touch them emotionally."

"Ever since I left school, I have never picked up a book," a 24-year-old drug addict surnamed Zhang told the local as he read a book of Confucius Analects. "In the past I didn't think taking drugs was a big deal, but now I know the harm it causes and I am determined to get rid of it."

Sui Shanjian, head of the center, said that it's easy for the drug addicts to "get rid of drugs physically" but "hard for them to quit psychologically."

"It's common to see many addicts get back to taking drugs again after leaving rehab," Sui said.

But Confucianism, which advocates introspection and responsibility, effectively "builds up an impulse mechanism" that helps the addicts avoid drugs proactively, according to Sui.

A series of calligraphy competitions, cultural lectures and speech contests have been held at the center, which has strengthened their beliefs to shake off drug addition, he added.

With the help of Confucian education, many addicts have become more confident, their voices become tender when speaking to their families and they have become less violent.

"Some addicts weighed only about 45 kg when they were admitted, but after two to three months of such education, many have gained weight," an official said.

China faces a daunting task of battling drug addiction, with more than three million registered drug addicts across the country, according to Qi Yan'an, deputy head of Shandong's Department of Justice.

"Behind every drug addict is the lack of love and responsibility," said Wang Daqian.

"As a Chinese saying goes, 'it is easy to catch the thieves in the mountains, but it is hard to catch the thieves in the heart.' I hope that the addicts in the rehab centers can learn traditional culture attentively, so that they cultivate proper values and be a good person to their families and our society in the future," Wang said.


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