Category Archives: China

Notes from the field: the Temple of the Duke of Zhou

Temple of the Duke of Zhou

No visit to Qufu should be complete without a visit to the Temple of the Duke of Zhou. The traditional Zhou dynasty rituals that were carried out at the temple in honor of Confucius’s great hero were the primary source of inspiration for the sage’s philosophy and teachings. They provided the living and breathing symbols that fueled his calls for a return to the golden age at the beginning of the Zhou dynasty when China reached its zenith under the duke’s wise and benign leadership.

The Duke of Zhou (周公) was the fourth son of King Wen of Zhou (周文王), the spiritual founder of the Zhou dynasty. He played an instrumental role in helping his second oldest brother, King Wu (周武王), to defeat the Shang dynasty (商朝) at the Battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in around 1046 BCE and formally establish the dynasty. Continue reading Notes from the field: the Temple of the Duke of Zhou

Notes from the field: Zhusi Academy

Zhusi Academy

Like the Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents, the Zhusi Academy probably isn’t on the must-see list for Qufu, but it’s worth checking out if you have the time.

The Zhusi Academy marks the place where Confucius is said to have taught and edited ancient canonical texts, including the so-called Five Classics (1) and the Book of Music, after returning to his home state of Lu in 484 BCE after spending fourteen years in exile. It provides an elegant and graceful symbol of the importance attached to learning in Chinese culture. Continue reading Notes from the field: Zhusi Academy

Notes from the field: the Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents

cemetery of Confucius's parents

The Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents has none of the stunning natural beauty of the ones dedicated to Mencius and his redoubtable mother. The tree count stands at a mere 467 compared to around 10,000 and 12,000 for the other two locations.

The cemetery is also nowhere near as old either. Construction on the main Sacrificial Hall began in 1179 and the complex only reached its current scale in 1755. Naturally, the main structures have also undergone extensive reconstruction and refurbishment over the centuries. Continue reading Notes from the field: the Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents

Notes from the field: checking out the potential of LSEVs

LSEV

Unable to find a taxi or bus to my hotel from the Confucius Museum in Qufu, I had just about reconciled myself to a long walk back when an old guy driving a small red contraption beeped his horn from behind and asked me if I wanted a ride.

It was only when I got inside the cramped rear of it that I realized I was sitting in a so-called LSEV (Low Speed Electric Vehicle). These small battery-powered vehicles are mainly manufactured in Shandong province, of which Qufu is the capital, and are touted by some observers such as David Li and Clayton Christenson for their disruptive potential because of their low cost (below $5,000), ease of design and manufacturing, and multiple potential last-mile mobility applications. It is estimated that 1.75 million LSEVs were sold in China in 2017. Continue reading Notes from the field: checking out the potential of LSEVs

Notes from the field: Mencius Cemetery & Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother

 

Entrance to Mencius Cemetery

One of the most delightful surprises I had on my first trip to Qufu a couple of years ago was an unplanned visit to the Temple of Mencius, second only to Confucius in the Confucian Pantheon. This time I decided to double down by taking a trip out to see his tomb at the Mencius Cemetery and the tomb of his redoubtable mother at the Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother.

The two cemeteries are located close to each other about a thirty-minute drive away from Qufu. The Mencius Cemetery (孟子林/Mengzi Lin) is covered by a pristine forest comprising around 10,000 cypress, oak, elm, and maple trees that were mainly planted during the latter part of the Song dynasty (960 – 1279). Continue reading Notes from the field: Mencius Cemetery & Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother

Notes from the field: the ancient water town of Wuzhen

wuzhen

A great pleasure to visit the ancient water town of Wuzhen for the first time and take a brief stroll among the beautiful old buildings that line its picturesque lanes and charming canals.

Wuzhen owed its bustling prosperity during the Soong, Yuan, and Ming dynasties to its location along the Grand Canal, which was once the main trade route connecting Hangzhou and Beijing. Nowadays, much of its economy is dependent on the tourist industry. Following major renovations that were completed in 2013, it now reportedly receives over 1.5 million visitors per year. Continue reading Notes from the field: the ancient water town of Wuzhen

Leadership lessons from Confucius: balanced and calm

balanced and calm

曾子曰:「以能問於不能,以多問於寡,有若無,實若虛,犯而不校,昔者吾友,嘗從事於斯矣。」
Zengzi said: “Capable but willing to listen to those who are not capable; talented but willing to listen to those without talent; viewing having as the same as not having; viewing fullness as the same as emptiness; accepting insults without bearing a grudge: long ago, I had a friend who practiced these things.”

Modesty and openness are the keys to achieving the golden mean. Whenever you meet someone, ignore your preconceptions about them and listen to what they have to say. Chances are that they have an interesting perspective to share with you and something useful to teach you. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: balanced and calm

Leadership lessons from Confucius: forgive and forget

forgive and forget

子曰:「伯夷叔齊,不念舊惡,怨是用希。」
Confucius said: “Boyi and Shuqi never bore grudges, so they rarely aroused any resentment from others.” (1)

Forgive and forget. The only person you’ll hurt by holding a grudge against is yourself. Revenge is a dish best never served at all. The taste of it will leave you bitter and sore. Continue reading Leadership lessons from Confucius: forgive and forget

2018 China travels: New Retail and New Manufacturing in Hangzhou

Hangzhou

As much as I’ve enjoyed my regular trips to Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen this year, the real highlights of my travels to China have been visits to some of the country’s so-called Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, including Hangzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Huia’an, and Huzhou.

To say that I was impressed with the progress that these lesser-known hinterland cities are making in developing modern infrastructures and building new industries would be a gross understatement. No matter whether it’s electric vehicles, renewable energy, biotech, New Retail, or New Manufacturing, they are leading the way in driving innovation on a massive scale that is already starting to impact global markets. Continue reading 2018 China travels: New Retail and New Manufacturing in Hangzhou

Situational leadership in the Analects and the Daodejing

One very good reason to study the Analects of Confucius and the Daodejing is that, for all the archaic and in the latter case mystic language they feature, these two ancient works focus on providing practical solutions to real-world problems.

Unlike many of the works in the Western philosophical cannon, neither text features an agonized search for a universal “truth” or any promises of eternal salvation for ascribing to the “right” set of values or behaving in the “correct” manner. Instead, they are concerned with dealing with the challenges of the here and now, exploring how you can improve your character to make a greater contribution to the stability and prosperity of your family, community, and society overall. Continue reading Situational leadership in the Analects and the Daodejing