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Confucius say: Do not make robot wise man

At the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, China, a robotic version of the ancient sage Confucius just can't stand still.

Rockbund Art Museum

The Master said, "The superior man thinks of virtue; the small man thinks of comfort."

No doubt Confucius knew it would be uncomfortable to be reincarnated as a humanoid robot in a cage full of monkeys. That must be the reason the ancient sage is gracing the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai, China, with his presence.

I feel there is something to be learned here, but my iPod copy of "The Analects of Confucius" isn't helping any.

Curated by Fumio Nanjo of Tokyo's Mori Art Museum, the robot art installation is the work of Chinese performance and sculpture artist Zhang Huan and is titled "Q Confucius."

Rockbund Art Museum

The ongoing show opened in October with nine monkeys joining Confucius in the cage. The exhibition includes a massive silicone and steel sculpture of Confucius half-submerged in water and apparently breathing.

What precisely inspired Zhang to also build the gyrating Confucius No. 6 in the monkey cage (seen in the video below, without monkeys) is perplexing. The museum offers us the following nugget:

"The exhibition makes use of 'Confucius', a symbol representative of Eastern moral and political thinking, to explore the question of how humanity might, in an era of technological development and rapidly evolving social organizations and means of interaction, progress together and come to coexist in harmony, both with fellow humans and with nature, and indeed whether this is possible at all."

Indeed. Confucius No. 6 seems to agree. Not only is he having a bad hair day, he can't seem to stand still amid the great changes taking place in China.

Let's remember that the Master also said, "The wise find pleasure in water; the virtuous find pleasure in hills. The wise are active; the virtuous are tranquil. The wise are joyful; the virtuous are long-lived."

Long live the Master. "Q Confucius" runs through January 29.

(Via Asia Society)