Utter Confucian

By Liu Wei ( China Daily ) Updated: 2009-04-09 09:01:37

Utter Confucian

If Confucius could see the controversy his name is generating more than 2,400 years after his death, the epitome of peace and good manners would probably say: "Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated."

Earlier this month, actor Pu Cunxin said he refused to play the philosopher in a biopic because of issues with the script. He also called on everyone to fight the idea of showing Confucius as a martial arts practitioner.

Hu Mei, the film's director, responded by saying she never invited Pu to play the role. She also claimed her leading character would not be made to show kungfu moves. But according to historical records, she says, the revered thinker did know how to drive a carriage, was good at archery, and was a war commander.

However, this did nothing to cool the debate, which actually went up a notch when rumors that Chow Yun-fat would play Confucius began to do the rounds last month.

Chow, known for a number of gangster roles in John Woo's hard-boiled films and for playing kungfu master in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, himself said at one point that it was not appropriate for him to don a scholarly robe.

Despite these concerns and criticisms, Hu started filming late March - and has cast Chow as Confucius.

"I think Chow has proved his acting skills well in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Anna and the King," Hu says. "He can play any character."

The $22 million project, the first-ever film on Confucius, will follow his life from the time he was 17 years old.

Concern over who will play the ancient scholar is not without basis. Confucius, who lived from 551 to 479 BC, is widely respected as a great thinker and educator.

His teachings on moral probity, a student's duties and how to rule a country have a profound impact not only in China, but also in many other Asian countries, such as Japan and South Korea.

The question is, if Chow does not look like Confucius, who does?

A TV show Documenting China conducted a viewer survey in 2006 on how they thought Confucius looked. About 60 percent said they envisaged him as thin and short while 40 percent visualized him as stout and short.

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