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Confucian church

The Confucian church (Kongjiao hui 孔教会) is a Confucian religious and social institution of congregational type. It was first theorised by Kang Youwei (1858–1927) in the last years of the 19th century as a state church of China on the model of European state religions.[1]

The "Confucian church" model was later continued amongst overseas Chinese communities,[2] who established independent Confucian churches active on the local level, especially in Indonesia and the United States.

In contemporary China, since the 2000s, there has been a revival of Confucianism with the proliferation of Confucian academies (shuyuan 书院), the opening and reopening of Confucian temples, the new phenomenon of grassroots Confucian communities or congregations (shequ ruxue 社区儒学), and renewed talks about a national "Confucian church".[3]

Kang Youwei's national Confucian Church

The idea of a "Confucian Church" as the state religion of China was theorised by Kang Youwei as part of an early New Confucian search for a regeneration of the social relevance of Confucianism, at a time when it was de-institutionalised with the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the Chinese empire.[4] Kang modeled his ideal "Confucian Church" after European national Christian churches, as a hierarchical and centralised institution, closely bound to the state, with local church branches, devoted to the worship and the spread of the teachings of Confucius.[5]

The Confucian Church was founded by a disciple of Kang, Chen Huanzhang, in 1912, and within a few years it established 132 branches countrywise.[6] From 1913 to 1916, an important debate took place whether Confucianism should become the state religion (guo jiao) and as such inscribed in the constitution of China.[7] This finally didn't occur, and anti-religious campaigns mounting in the 1920s led to a dissolution of the Confucian church.[8]

Modern Confucian churches and congregations

While Kang's idea did not realise in China, it was carried on in Hong Kong and amongst overseas Chinese peoples.[9] The Hong Kong branch of Kang's movement took the name of "Confucian Academy" (Kongjiao xueyuan 孔教学院), while the Indonesian branch became the Supreme Council for Confucian Religion in Indonesia. Members believe in Tian with Confucius as the prophet (nabi).[10]

Chinese people in the United States established independent, local Confucian churches such as the Confucius Church of Sacramento or the Confucius Church of Salinas.

In contemporary mainland China, the revival of Confucianism in the post-Maoist era has developed into different, yet interwoven, directions: the proliferation of Confucian schools or academies (shuyuan 书院),[11] the resurgence of Confucian rites (chuantong liyi),[12] and the birth of new forms of Confucian activity on the popular level, such as the Confucian communities (shequ ruxue 社区儒学).

Other forms of revival are Chinese folk religion[13] or Chinese salvationist religion[14] groups with a Confucian focus, for example the Yidan xuetang (一耽学堂) based in Beijing.[15] "Confucian businessmen" (rushang, also "learned businessman"), is a recently recovered term that defines people of the entrepreneurial or economic elite that recognise their social responsibility and therefore apply Confucian culture to their business.[16]

In more recent times, the Hong Kong Confucian Academy has expanded its activities to the mainland, with the construction of statues of Confucius, and the first Confucian church in Shenzhen and another structure in Qufu in the year 2009.[17]

Contemporary New Confucian scholars Jiang Qing[18] and Kang Xiaoguang are among the most influential supporters of a structuration of the Confucian revival into a national "Confucian Church".[19]

See also


  1. ^ Ya-pei Kuo, 2010.
  2. ^ Yong Chen, 2012. p. 174
  3. ^ Billioud, 2010. p. 201
  4. ^ Yong Chen, 2012. p. 174
  5. ^ Yong Chen, 2012. p. 174
  6. ^ Billioud, 2010. p. 207
  7. ^ Billioud, 2010. p. 207
  8. ^ Billioud, 2010. p. 207
  9. ^ Yong Chen, 2012. p. 174
  10. ^ Yong Chen, 2012. p. 175
  11. ^ Yong Chen, 2012. p. 175
  12. ^ Yong Chen, 2012. p. 175
  13. ^ Billioud, 2010. p. 203
  14. ^ Billioud, 2010. p. 214
  15. ^ Billioud, 2010. p. 219
  16. ^ Billioud, 2010. p. 204
  17. ^ Billioud, 2010. p. 209
  18. ^ Yong Chen, 2012. p. 175
  19. ^ Angle, 2012. § Ritual, Education, and the State.


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