This evening Liz and I went to a lecture on Confucius (in, bizarrely, the Turkish Embassy, but that's another story). Actually, it was less about the bloke (although we learned that he was born in 551BC, on 28 September, a Tuesday apparently), and more about the resurgence of Confucian thought in modern China.
He wasn't in official favour for much of the last century (too feudal), but in the search for meaning amidst rampant change, Confucian ethics are once again proving attractive to many. Even the Government has cautiously accepted him back: the Chinese equivalent of the British Council is called the Confucius Institute (though it's government run, not at arm's length).
Confucianism is difficult to describe. It's not a religion in the Christian, Juddaic or Islamic sense, which all worship a god, or even Buddhism (Buddha isn't a god, but people do 'worship' him). But it is a way to lead one's life. Many people say that China is not a religious country, but it depends what one means by religious. Aside from Confucianism and Buddhism, there's also Taoism, and around 50m each of Muslims and Christians, plus various other 'minority' beliefs.
Anyway, you can't go wrong with a bit of respect for elders, the importance of study and being virtuous. "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself" was attributed to him. He wasn't particularly interested in the afterlife though he acknowledged a kind of omnipresent heaven.
But what particularly interests me is his genealogy. Confucius's family, the Kongs, has the longest recorded pedigree in the world today. There are around 2m known and registered descendants. I know one of them. He's working with us on our British Film Week.