Confucius Visits D.C. for his Birthday

September 23, 2010
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Maybe you don’t expect to see Confucius commemorated on his birthday in a U.S. public library, but on September 25 that’s what you will find in the main DC public library downtown. The Chinese philosopher and educator gets his 2,561st birthday blowout not with a cake but with a musical celebration of his influential ideas and his Analects.
    It’s not such a surprising fit, after all, with the institution of American public libraries and their democratic principle of self-education with a library card.
    And yes, the great man appears in the WPA guides too. The 1939 WPA Guide to California visits the Tin How Temple in San Francisco, on Waverly Place, the “oldest Chinese joss house in San Francisco,” and for that matter, the oldest Chinese temple in the United States. In 1939 you could go up to the fourth floor and ring for entry, and inside you’d find the centuries-old main altar, covered with gold leaf and carvings depicting scenes from the life of Confucius.

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