In 2004, China began establishing non-profit public institutions which aims to promote its language and culture in foreign countries. As an educational organization from China, it was named the Confucius Institute in honor of the nation's most well-known and well-loved teacher.
A total of 516 Confucius Institutes and 1,076 Confucius Classrooms have so far been established in 142 countries and regions, introducing Chinese language and culture to people all over the world. But Confucius has also inspired people to come from far-off places to his birthplace, where they observe and study Confucianism and China close up.[Special Coverage]
Daniel A. Bell, born in Montreal, Canada and educated at McGill and Oxford, has been teaching in China since 1996.
As dean of the School of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University, he believes that "the best way to promote Confucian research abroad is to show its positive impact on China today and to show how dialogue with other traditions can enrich both Confucianism and other traditions."
The university, well-known for its Confucianism research, has a strong reputation nationally for its studies in humanities. It publishes the Journal of Chinese Humanities, a peer-reviewed, English-language journal, which now counts Harvard and Stanford in its overseas institutional subscriptions.
The journal's assistant editor, Benjamin Hammer, a historian on Chinese history, said the goal of the journal is to foster international dialogue on important issues in Chinese studies and provide a platform for academic exchange.
The Confucian tradition is rich and diverse, constantly evolving and adapting to new circumstances. Adaptability can be found embedded in Confucianism, which emphasizes heavily on education and life-long learning, said Nadezhda Razumkova, a Russia-born scholar teaching at Qufu Normal University.
The Analects, a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to Confucius and his students, noted that in education there should be no class distinctions and that learning is a sustained commitment.
After years of rapid economic expansions, many Chinese have begun seeking out spiritual pursuits, particularly traditional values and beliefs.
"Part of what's exciting about the Confucian revival is that there are so many debates about interpretations of history, as well as debates about the relevance for contemporary society," Bell said. "It is good that the government provides support, so long as there is room for new interpretations and for unconstrained debates by students and intellectuals."
"That's what makes Confucianism a living tradition, constantly evolving and learning from other traditions in China and elsewhere," he said.
This sentiment continues in Bell's book The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy, one of the Financial Times Best Books of 2015, which looks at a the Chinese political system and argues that China has evolved a model of democratic meritocracy that is both morally desirable and politically stable.
Alan HJ Chan, a Singaporean businessman who has donated hundreds of millions of yuan to promoting the Confucius culture in recent years, feels the same.
At the age of 85, Chan says he has lived through six flags. He sold his business in 2012 before coming to China.
"Now I devote all my time to translating Confucianism books and giving lectures and seminars on the Confucius culture," said Chan.
Certain parts of Confucianism originated in the agriculture-based economy long ago, Chan continued, so it is imperative that nowadays people do away with the parts in Confucianism that are no longer compatible with modern life.
There is still so much in Confucianism that provides guidance for modern life, according to Chan.
"Virtue never stays alone. It is bound to attract companionship," said the Singaporean, translating a key quote from the Analects, "and that's still the way to forge companionship between people and countries."