“However, they all contributed to ascribe to the ruling regimes a moral and symbolic authenticity—or, if we borrow Duara’s terms, a timeless identity and authenticity.”

Sebastien Billioud, The Sage and the People, page 187


During the reforms after the Cultural Revolution, Confucianism gradually became tied to traditional Chinese culture and identity with some viewing Confucius as “The Uncrowned King.” This claim to traditional heritage became the grounds upon which the PRC hoped to establish what was coined a “state cult.” This state cult was a quasi-religious and political organization that would ascribe legitimacy to the PRC from both mainland China and international Chinese communities, including Taiwan. Through the state cult, the PRC claimed to be the arbiter of Chinese culture and heritage. They sought to use the state cult to sacralize both the idea of a nation-state and a claim to the idea of an ancestral land (祖國 zugo). The state cult and its ceremonies encompassed more than just Confucianism, venerating mythical Chinese heroes and popular deities.

International Tourism

The international angle of the revival brought mass tourism to temple spaces creating a new stream of revenue for the government. The various temple committees established in the reforms tried to encourage and maintain this growth of tourism. In Qufu, the temple promoted personal rites like prayer cards and incense burning. This commercial aspect also existed in the various ceremonies held, including the World Confucian Conference, pictured above. These massive ceremonies went beyond the traditional temple space, creating festivals and conventions throughout the city. These highly publicized festivals were televised to an international public, hosting many activities throughout the entire city, ranging from concerts held in stadiums to the ceremony called “the lighting of the holy fire of Chinese Culture” (zhonghua wenhua shenghuo), a ceremony where they light a pyre by the city walls. These activities pushed for audiences and communal participation.