Dr. Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Professor of History at the University of California Irvine and author of China in the 21st Century, gave a lecture on the contrasting views of Confucius by China's political leaders over the last 100 years. A hundred years ago, Lu Xun's famous short story "Diary of a Madman" regarded China's classical tradition as stultifying and a hindrance to modernization. In recent speeches by Xi Jinping, Confucius is presented as a sage whose ideas have great value in the modern country that China has become. In between, there were the contrasting views on Confucius of earlier Chinese political leaders, such as Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong who battled for control of China in the middle of the 1900s. The irony is that Xi leads the Communist Party that Mao once headed, but when he speaks about Confucius, he sounds more like the anti-Communist Chiang.
The lecture was held on April 5th at the West Lafayette Public Library.