Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday weighed in on the recent war of words between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) over the role of Chinese classics as an educational tool, saying that parts of the collection are inappropriate material for children if a political agenda is involved.
Saying he had read the Four Books and Five Classics (四書五經), a collection of Confucian writings dating back to 300 BC, when he was young, Lee posted in a Facebook message that while the collection’s emphasis on filial piety and trust is recommendable, it is not right to “use it on the political front” and try to control the public with ideology.
The Chinese Communist Party does not promote communism anymore, he added.
Instead, it promotes the Four Books and Five Classics and the “New Confucianism” and tries to manipulate people with Confucian ideas, such as “legitimacy, monarchy, unification and imperial hierarchy,” Lee said.
Lee’s remarks came in the wake of a TV advertisement released by President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) re-election campaign that highlights Ma’s commitment to promoting Chinese culture.
The ad features interviews with children and parents on both sides of the Taiwan Strait talking about their experiences attending Chinese classics classes.
The classes, where teachers and volunteers teach children the Four Books and Five Classics, began at the Confucius Temple in Taipei about 12 years ago and gradually expanded nationwide, as well as to cities in China.
The DPP on Monday criticized Ma and the KMT over their intentions to promote Chinese literature rather than Taiwanese culture, and indicated that many notorious figures in China’ s history, such as Qin Kuai (秦檜), a chancellor during the Song Dynasty who is widely regarded as a traitor to the Han ethnic group, also the read Four Books and Five Classics.
Dismissing the DPP’s criticism, Ma’s campaign office yesterday accused the DPP of stigmatizing traditional Chinese culture.
“As a pioneer in promoting Chinese culture, Taiwan has enjoyed great competitiveness on the international stage, and the DPP’s blind opposition to classic works of literature and Chinese culture is a step backward that will not help the country enrich its culture,” Ma’s campaign office spokesperson Lee Chia-fei (李佳霏) said.
Regarding the DPP’s example of Qin Kuai, Lee said the accusations made by the DPP were unfair to tens of thousands of volunteers who promote and teach the classics, as well as parents and students who studied the works.
“If DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) agreed with the DPP’s stigmatizing comments, please tell those teachers and students that she is against activities that involve the reading of the classics,” Lee said.
KMT spokesperson Chen Yi-hsin (陳以信) also joined Ma’s campaign team to rebut the DPP’s criticism, saying that there are no conflicts between promoting Chinese culture and prioritizing Taiwan’s interests.
At a separate setting yesterday, DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said the DPP’s criticism of the advertisement on Monday was not a categorical opposition to the books.
“What the DPP is against is the ideology and political motivation hidden behind the veil of education,” Lin said. “We are also opposed to the TV advertisement’s implication that some literary and philosophical works are superior to others.”