About two million people are now recognised as descendants of Confucius, more than tripling the size of the celebrated Chinese philosopher's family tree, state media reported Friday.
Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu (Source: Wikipedia)
The new list, which includes ethnic minorities, women and overseas relatives for the first time, was unveiled on Thursday in the thinker's hometown Qufu to coincide with the 2,560th anniversary of his birth, the Global Times said.
The family tree -- believed to be the biggest in the world -- was last updated in 1937, and had only 560,000 members, according to the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee, the report said.
"It is not only important for academic research, but also valuable in helping Confucius descendants around the world discover their ancestors and strengthen family bonds," said Kong Deyong, a 77th generation descendant of the philosopher who is known as Kong Fuzi in China.
Kong, who heads the International Confucius Association, said he was glad that gender, religion and nationality were no longer factors in determining which descendants were counted.
"Even if many descendants are no longer Han or without Chinese nationality, we should count them in because we are one big family," the Global Times quoted him as saying.
Kong Dejun, a teacher at Cambridge University, said her inclusion in the family tree -- which has 43,000 pages and is bound in 80 books -- was the "most exciting moment" of her life.
"In terms of genes, Confucius' blood is flowing in our body," Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying.
Extensive research was carried out in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and across Southeast Asia to find the descendants, Kong Deyong told the paper.
The ancient teachings of Confucius (551-479 BC), centring on peace and social harmony, have enjoyed a renaissance here in recent years.