Feature: Singaporean builds bridge between Confucianism and the world

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-22 19:50:03|Editor: Jiaxin
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BEIJING, Dec. 22 (Xinhua) -- Following a successful career in the shipmaking business, 85-year-old Singaporean Alan Chan has taken on a new identity as a passionate promoter of Confucianism.

"Ten years ago, I sold my company and decided to invest in the culture industry," he said, and that is when he turned his eyes to the ancient philosophy of Confucianism.

"I was amazed by the Confucian ideas on self-cultivation and governance," he said. For Chan, the 2,500-year-old wisdom is still relevant to today's world.

His favorite saying from The Analects of Confucius is: "Virtue never stays alone. It is bound to attract companionship."

"Virtue, or integrity, which was repeatedly emphasized by Confucius, is a key to success, both to the lives of individuals and the well-being of countries," he said.

Chan's own life experience is also a testament to Confucian wisdom.

Born in south China's Guangdong Province, five-year-old Chan followed his parents to Singapore in 1937 in order to escape the war with Japan.

He worked as a bilingual broadcaster and a civil servant, and then worked his way up from a salesman to a shipowner.

"I thought it was pure luck for me to meet several mentors who lent me great help in my career," he said.

"After I gained some understanding of Confucianism, I found that it was my way of getting along with others -- being upright and willing to help -- which was in line with Confucianism and attracted friends," he said.

In 2007, on the eve of the global shipping industry crisis, Chan saw the rampant expansion of the shipmaking industry and sensed the danger of collapse. He sold his company and successfully avoided the next year's crisis.

"That is also in accordance with Confucianism, which emphasizes farsightedness," said Chan. "As Confucius said: 'Without thinking afar, one is bound to encounter troubles in time to come.'"

"People used to act in accordance with what they learn, while I'm quite the other way around -- act before learning," he said.

"Maybe Confucianism is always in my genes," he said.

The first time Chan went back to China to trace his ancestral roots was in 1978, the year China began its reform and opening up.

He traveled to many cities, including the hometown of Confucius in Qufu City, Shandong Province.

In 2013, Chan, who had made up his mind to devote himself to Confucianism, started to build a Confucianism academy in Qufu.

The academy, which is still under construction, will focus on research and dissemination of Chinese culture, especially Confucianism.

At the same time, Chan has been writing books on Confucianism and Chinese culture in English, and giving speeches in an attempt to introduce Chinese wisdom to the English-speaking world.

Confucianism was first brought to the West in the 16th century, when Italian clergyman Matteo Ricci translated several Confucian classics into Latin.

However, Chan believes that exploring the value of Confucianism is far from enough and more should be done to make Westerners better accept Confucian thought.

"The Confucian teachings should be carefully selected, which means we need to exclude outdated content that is not applicable in today's society," he said.

In his book "Analects Renovated," he selected only about 20 percent of the original version of the Analects.

"The most appealing part of the Analects are the teachings related to human nature," he said. "That is what people in different parts of the world can relate with."

Chan always says that he has lived under six different national flags: the flag of the Republic of China when he was born; the flags of Great Britain, Japan and Malaysia, which ruled Singapore; the flag of Singapore after its independence; and the flag of the People's Republic of China today.

In August, he was named an honorary citizen of Shandong Province for his contributions in promoting Chinese culture.

"I grew up receiving Western education, and have mostly been speaking English in my life," he said.

He used to travel a lot and enjoyed getting to learn about different cultures. "I found Confucianism to be the richest and dearest to my heart," he said.

"Hopefully my multi-cultural background will help bridge Confucianism to the world," he said.