Happy birthday to Confucius! - Jillian Lin

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Happy birthday to Confucius!

It is more than 2,500 years ago when Confucius was born, but people still celebrate his birthday. In Taiwan, 28 September is known as Teacher’s Day, and China is also planning to show appreciation to their teachers on the same day.

Every year, many temples in China, Taiwan and other parts of Asia perform a special ceremony to celebrate Confucius’ birthday. It starts with three drum rolls and a procession to the temple. When it arrives, the gates open. Food and drink are placed at the altar as an offering. Traditionally, a pig, cow and goat had to be offered, but nowadays these have been replaced with fruit and other vegetarian options, including look-alike animals made of glutinous rice.

Eight dancers in eight rows, all dressed in traditional robes, perform the so-called Ba Yi dance, accompanied by Chinese instruments. Each dancer holds a bamboo flute, which symbolizes balance, in the left hand and a pheasant tail feather, which symbolizes integrity, in the right hand.

Incense or joss sticks are then lit, which is followed by speeches. At the end of the ceremony, people say prayers and burn spirit money. Not long after that, the gates of the temple close again.

On this day, long lines form outside the temple as students try to get a piece of a special rice cake, known as wisdom cake, which they hope will bring them luck in their studies.

To find out more about the life and ideas of Confucius, China’s ‘First Teacher’, read my books The Wise Teacher Of China (for children 2-5 years) and The King Without A Throne (6-12 years).