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PRESS RELEASE: Confucianism - powerful new force for a greener China

October 8, 2013:

On Monday September 9th the International Confucian Ecological Alliance (ICEA) was launched in the historic city of Deng Feng in Henan Province, central China.

The launch took place in an ancient classroom within the Song Yang Academy, the oldest and most respected of Confucianism’s teaching centres at the foot of Mt Song, one of the most sacred mountains in China.

Following the ceremony the core members of the ICEA went on to lay plans for the group to move forward, beginning with an eight-year plan of environmental development within China.

Eight-Year Plan

The ICEA is drawing up an ambitious and far-reaching plan of environmental action for the next eight years which will include:

  • Working through their temples and academies to educate people on the Confucian approach to environmental issues
  • Working with the Chinese Government’s Culture and Propaganda Ministry to deliver 100 lectures on the subject
  • Creating a Confucian Ecological Village as a model of good environmental practice
  • Working in the Hia Dian district of Beijing – an area that has a population of 3 million people and houses the famous Summer Palace – to develop it as a Confucian Ecological Town
  • Bring together the protection of historic sites with modern green approaches by adapting the ARC-produced Green Pilgrimage Handbook to become a Green Cultural Ecology Handbook. This will then be made available to the over 2000 towns in China that are over 2000 years old.
  • Carry out an environmental audit of 500 Confucian temples, some 200 of which are already thought to be significant environmental sites as habitats for indigenous plants and animals
  • Develop, by 2015, a worldwide network of 500 Confucian centres that will serve as models of a simpler way of life, treading more gently on the Earth
  • Targeting the annual Confucian festival of Qing Ming, when 300 million people are thought to travel to pay respect to their ancestors, to tackle the resulting waste, littering and the environmental impact of burnt offerings
  • Similarly addressing the environmental impact for Deng Feng, a major Confucian destination that receives 8 million visitors a year.
  • At the end of September 2014 a major environmental conference will be held in the People’s Hall in Beijing to mark the 2565th anniversary of the birth of Confucius.

This resurgence of activity marks the return of Confucianism as a major spiritual, moral and social force in China and beyond, a revival that is one of the most extraordinary aspects of China’s recent history. Confucianism was almost completely eradicated in the Cultural Revolution and it has until recently been seen with deep suspicion by reformers. The need for a moral basis in contemporary Chinese society has, however, led to its re-emergence.

In his opening speech to the conference Professor Tu Weiming (ICEA President and Professor at Peking and Harvard Universities) referred to Confucianism’s role as a social force, describing it as ‘spiritual humanism’. He also said that tackling China’s growing ecological problems is an absolute necessity if Confucianism is to be of any lasting significance.

Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) welcomed the development of ARC’s partnership with the ICEA: “We’ve worked for many years with the Chinese Daoists who represent the folk traditions and rural perspective in Chinese society. It is exciting now to work with Confucianism as well – a philosophy that is right at the heart of Chinese society, especially in the urban and political worlds.

“This conference, and the launch of ICEA, perhaps marks the single most powerful force helping to reform the social and political structures of modern China and the ambitious programme being developed by the ICEA is a sign of their confidence, heritage and vision.”


ICEA is a new consortium of major Confucian organisations within the People’s Republic of China formed to take Confucian environmental action forward within the country.

Estimates of the numbers of Confucianists worldwide vary from six million (people who follow Confucianism to the exclusion of other beliefs) to 350 million (people following Chinese traditional religion, a combination of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and local traditions)

ARC is a worldwide NGO based in the UK, founded by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, that supports the engagement of religions in engaging with the care of the environment in accordance with their teachings and traditions. It was set up in 1996 and currently has major programmes running in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.


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What does Confucianism teach about ecology?
Confucian reflections about the natural world and our relationship with heaven and earth
Confucian Statement on Ecology
The full text of the statement prepared by Professor Tu Weiming of the International Confucian Ecological Alliance (ICEA) and announced at the ARC meeting in Trondheim, Norway in July 2013.
International Confucian Ecological Alliance
The ICEA is the formal body, constituted in 2013, that will work with ARC and with the 500 Confucian temples in China on environmental action.