|A statue of Confucius at Chaotian Palace in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. (file photo)|
Frustrated with the problems of modern society, many people have turned to ancient wisdom for answers. Could the cure for environmental woes also lie in the ancient teachings of Confucius?
Earlier this year the International Confucian Ecological Alliance (ICEA) was founded. Led by Tu Weiming, a professor at Harvard University and Peking University and a renowned Confucian scholar, the alliance includes several Confucian institutions and academies in China.
In their statement on ecology, the ICEA quoted texts from classic Confucian writings. Ming dynasty scholar Wang Yangming (1472-1529), for instance, wrote that, "The great man regards Heaven and Earth and the myriad things as one body."
The statement says, "Confucianism sees mankind as having a deep and cosmic significance. This significance manifests itself in partnership with both Heaven and Earth forming the classic Chinese trinity of Heaven, Earth and Man, together manifesting the true embodiment of nature itself."
Confucianism also holds that the Earth is alive and that the "Golden Rule" - do not do to others what you don't wish done to yourself - and the benevolence that Confucianism champions, applies not only to other people, but also to nature.
ICEA is a member of ARC, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, a UK-based organization founded in 1995 that aims to bring faith and conservation together and is now working with 12 faiths around the world.
It's not the first time such a link between Confucianism and the environment has been drawn. Pan Yue, now deputy minister of the Environmental Protection Ministry, said in 2007 that the core of traditional Chinese culture, both Confucianism and Taoism, is harmony between Man and nature and it should be revived as a way to tackle today's environmental problems.
The Daoist Association is also a member of ARC and has announced plans to promote and apply Taoist teachings to the environment.
Fan Ruiping, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong, also wrote about the relationship between Man and nature in his 2010 book Reconstructionist Confucianism. He wrote that in Confucianism, "As finite and embodied beings, humans naturally use the environment as their home, while incessantly performing proper rituals to transform nature so as to pursue the profound meaning of the cosmos and maintain harmony with Heaven."