Page last updated at 15:13 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 16:13 UK

Confucian family tree 'triples'

A statue of Confucius in Nanjing, China (file image)
Confucianism has grown in popularity in recent years

Two million people are now recognised as being descendants of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, more than tripling the number in the last count.

The announcement was made as the fifth update to Confucius' family tree was unveiled on the 2,560th anniversary of his birth, say Chinese state media.

Last updated in 1937, the book lists all 83 generations of descendents.

For the first time women, ethnic minorities and descendants living overseas have been included.

The 43,000-page document, spreading over 80 books, was unveiled at a ceremony in Confucius' home town of Qufu, said Xinhua news agency.

It adds 1.4 million names to the family tree of Confucius, known in China as Kong Fuzi, and is believed by the authorities to be the world's largest.

"Confucius' family tree is a national treasure," said Kong Deyong, a 77th generation descendant and head of the International Confucius Association.

Mr Kong said the family tree was important not only for academic research, but also for "helping Confucius' descendants around the world discover their ancestors and strengthen family bonds".

Confucius' blood is flowing in our body
Kong Dejun

Confucianism has traditionally given women a lower status than men in its strict hierarchy, so female descendants were not counted, but genealogists announced in 2006 that they had decided to "move with the times".

Mr Kong said that even if many descendants were not Chinese nationals or Han Chinese - the majority ethnic group in China - "we should count them in because we are one big family".

Kong Dejun, a former university teacher who travelled from Switzerland for the ceremony, said being included in the book was "the most exciting moment in my life".

"In terms of genes, Confucius' blood is flowing in our body," she told Xinhua, adding that the inclusion of women "shows Chinese females' status is improving".

The new family tree cost 10m yuan ($1.4m; £1m) to produce, paid for by the descendants.

Confucius was dismissed as bourgeois and a relic of China's feudal past by Mao Zedong during the 1960s Cultural Revolution.

But Confucian thought has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years and the Chinese government has even funded a film of the philosopher's life, starring Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat.

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