BEIJING, Jan. 12 (Xinhua) -- A bronze statue of Confucius has been unveiled near the Tian'anmen Square in central Beijing.
The statue, at the north gate of the China National Museum, which overlooks the Chang' an Avenue, is 9.5 meters tall, including the stone base. The statue shows the scholar, born more than 2,500 years ago, putting his palms together in front of his chest and looking into the distance.
"Confucius was seen as a saint by many dynasties in Chinese history," said Lu Zhangshen, curator of the museum, at a ceremony to unveil the statue on Tuesday.
"He is the symbol of traditional Chinese culture, with a far-reaching impact across the globe," he said.
The statue was built by Wu Weishan, 48, president of the Sculpture Institute of the Chinese Academy of Arts, and a member of Royal British Society of Sculptors. It took him about a year to finish the statue.
Wu has been making statues of famous historical persons since 1990. He started making statues of Confucius in 1994.
"In our social transformation period, we needed a cultural monument to pass down our traditional culture, which was represented by Confucius," said the long-haired artist.
Confucius, of the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC to 476 BC), guided people for thousands of years in many aspects of Chinese life, from raising children to ruling empires.
However, the reputation of the ancient scholar dropped sharply after Confucianism began to be seen as a symbol of outdated and backward feudal culture. Temples dedicated to the philosopher were torn down, and tombs of his descendants were destroyed.
Fifty-eight-year-old Kong Lingshao, a 76th-generation descendant of Confucius, had just finished primary school when the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) started. He remembered how the Red Guards pulled down statues of Confucius from the temples and dragged them through the streets, and criticized the philosopher at public meetings.
"As a descendant, I don't have words to express the humiliation I felt," Kong Lingshao said.
However, he noted that, after several years, the Chinese nation had finally begun to reflect on how to treat its traditional culture.
"In Confucianism, there were flaws, but who is flawless?" Kong asked, adding that tolerance and seeking harmony without uniformity were important beliefs under Confucianism.
Confucius has been regaining popularity in recent years. In 2007, a female lecturer attracted nationwide attention with her televised lecture series about the Analects of Confucius.
Then, last September, the Nishan Forum on World Civilization was held in Qufu, where domestic and overseas scholars drew upon the wisdom of the ancient sages, Confucius and Jesus.
By the end of 2010, China had set up more than 320 Confucius Institutes in 96 countries around the globe.
Wednesday was sunny in Beijing, and good for sightseeing. Several passers-by stopped to take photos of the statue.
Among them was 60-year-old Sun Qiqing, a retired official from the cultural bureau of Wuqi in northwest China' s Shaanxi Province, a small city where the Long March ends. Sun' s hometown was Tai' an in Shandong, about 80 kilometers away from Qufu, the hometown of Confucius.
"I saw news of the unveiling ceremony and came to take some photos," he said.
He noted that Confucius was an icon of Chinese culture. "His main thought was harmony," he said, adding that building such a statue showed China's attempt to improve social harmony in its peaceful era.
Manuel Pavon Belizon from Spain believed that Confucius was the "top representation" of Chinese culture. Having lived in China for five years, he loves Chinese culture. He found that some of Confucius' ideas, like forgiveness, were similar to some beliefs in Christianity.
He said the statue is "a combination of tradition and modernity." "Its bronze color was like the color of ancient cauldrons he saw in museums, he added.