Dan, a 41-year-old media scholar at Beijing Normal University, has
attracted nationwide attention with her televised lecture series about the
Analects of Confucius, written by his disciples around 475
For centuries, Chinese women were discouraged from pursuing education so that
they could be more "virtuous". Confucius, China's most famous thinker, educator
and philosopher, would never have anticipated that 2,500 years later, his
thought would be popularized among his Chinese descendants by a woman.
Yu's popularity was visible for all to see at a book signing ceremony in
Beijing. To her publisher's delight, the literature master stunned the public by
selling more than 600,000 copies of her book about the Analects.
For over 2000 years, Confucius' doctrine of love, fidelity, politeness and
self-discipline has been mainstream thought in the minds of the people of East
Asia, including China, Japan and South Korea.
"I am not an expert in Confucian studies," Yu admitted. "I am just willing to
share with people my understanding of these centuries-old pearls of wisdom."
Yu grew up in reading Chinese classics including the ancient philosophy of
Mencius, Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu.
In her lectures and book, the short-haired fashionable-looking lady explained
the abstruse maxims with lively stories. The deified Confucius was an amiable
elderly teacher and his disciples were curious, sometimes cunning, students.
"As I see it, those philosophical, inspiring ideas and arguments about human
existence and social life should not be regarded merely as interesting quotes,
glistening with wisdom but of little use for day-to-day living. Instead, they
are simple truths that can jump the barrier of time and space and shed new light
for the future of every human being," she said.
Yu's lessons were treasured by many people.
There are nearly 10,000 posts on the bulletin board named after Yu Dan on the
portal Baidu.com. White collar
workers, college students, professors, migrant workers, community guards and
retired grannies all had something to say.
But not everyone has been won over.
A playwright identified by his pen name as Saiwailiyue said that he found 14
errors in Yu's speech. "The Analects of Confucius record the thought of China's
greatest philosopher, but Yu selected only a small part of the book, maybe one
tenth, related to living a happy life. This is misleading to readers," he said.
"It is sheer hype," said a
netizen named Huang Wenzhi, "what she really cares about is profit, even though
she claims she is indifferent to fame and fortune."
Experts speculate that the popularity of Yu's lecture may signal a return by
Chinese people to Confucianism, as many people have lost their bearings in
China's rapidly developing economy and modernizing society.
Although Yu's lectures embroider their own story from the Analects, she must
be credited with transforming the classics from a dusty pile of paper to
something relevant to people in an internet era.
"The program caught the interest of audiences and resurrected the glamour of
Chinese history and traditional culture," said Yi Zhongtian, Professor of
literature and history at Xiamen University in east China's Fujian Province,
adding that in-depth study of the works is a job for historians.
But Chen Donghui, associate professor with the Chinese history research
center at Zhejiang University warned people that Yu Dan's lessons could never
replace the Analects of Confucius. "Yu Dan's lectures are a bit like fast food.
If you want to reach the real kernel of Chinese culture and thought, you need to
prepare an elaborate banquet," he said.
Even Yu Dan is little worried. "The temperature of the classics should be
maintained at the same level as the body heat of human beings. Fever is not
Yu Dan's new series of lectures about Chuang Tzu screened to an expectant
public during the Spring Festival holiday.