Tue, Sep 29, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Presidential Office re-examines Confucius plaque

Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Children perform an eight-fold formation dance in celebration of Confucius’ birthday at the Confucius Temple in Taichung yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

The Presidential Office yesterday dismissed speculation that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) had denigrated the dignity of Confucius by sending an unorthodox plaque to a Confucius temple in Tainan.

Presidential Office press relations director Tsai Chung-li (蔡仲禮) said the office did not mean to depreciate the nobility of Confucius or the temple, adding that the plaques conferred by the Presidential Office conformed to certain standards.

The plaque may not be in line with regional practices, he said, adding that the office had collected opinions from Tainan City and would present an assessment to the president for final reference.

Feng shui masters have complained about the plaque, which Ma gave to the temple last year, saying it was too small and that the writing should stand out from its surface, rather than being carved into it. They say only writing on gravestones is carved into the surface.

Hsu Keng-hsiu (??, director of the Tainan City Government’s Department of Culture and Tourism, said the city informed the Presidential Office of the complaints last year, but that it had yet to receive any response.

Attending an early-morning ceremony to celebrate the 2,559th birthday of the Chinese philosopher at the temple yesterday morning, Ma burned incense sticks and paid his respects as a “special guest” of the event.

No president had ever attended the annual ceremony in Tainan, instead sending the minister of the interior to perform the honor.

Ma attended the ceremony in Taipei last year and said he would attend the event in a different place every year.

At a different setting on Yangmingshan yesterday morning, Ma said he attended the event to show his respect for Confucianism and support for Confucius’ educational concept of “providing education for all people without discrimination” and “teaching students in accordance with their aptitude.”

Ma encouraged local governments to store the ashes of outstanding local educators at local Confucius temples.

The president said he did so three years ago with the ashes of an academic and educator of the Qing Dynasty who taught in northern Taiwan for many years.

Ma said he would fulfill his campaign promise by increasing the educational budget by 0.2 percent of GDP each year. During his stint as Taipei mayor, Ma said that while the city government’s budget had shown negative growth five years in a row, the educational budget never contracted.

“My theory is that even if we are poor, education cannot be poor, and even if we suffer, we cannot let our children suffer,” he said.

He also vowed to narrow the salary gap between public school teachers and their counterparts at private schools.

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