UPDATED and moved to top: As Steve Angle reported in comments a couple of days ago, apparently the statue has been moved inside the museum! Confucianism revivalists are up in arms. Information about why this was done — whether long-planned, or not -– is contradictory. The English-language press is now reporting this, though they don’t have much information, either!
Here’s a New York Times piece about it from yesterday: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/world/asia/23confucius.html?_r=1
If you hover over the Times picture, it shows you a dramatic(?) before and after shot. Note this interesting quote from the piece:
Guo Qijia, a professor at Beijing Normal University who helps run the China Confucius Institute, said that only Confucian teachings could rescue China from what he described as a moral crisis.
“Students come home from school and tell their parents, ‘One of my classmates got run over by a car today — now I have one less person to compete against,’ ” he said. “We have lost our humanity, our kindness and our spirit. Confucianism is our only hope for becoming a great nation.”
The originally posted Associated Press news story is here. A snippet from that piece:
Placing the statue at China’s political heart is the authoritarian government’s most visible endorsement yet of the 2,500-year-old sage and, selectively, his teachings.
Confucius is enjoying a revival, in books and films, on TV and in classrooms. His message of harmonious social order and deference to authority is unthreatening to the party, while his emphasis on ethics resonates among Chinese coping with fast-paced social change on the back of torrid economic growth.
The government is increasingly marshaling his popularity to bolster national identity. “The rise of a big country requires a cultural foundation, and Chinese culture upholds the spirit of harmony,” said Wu Weishan, the sculptor, who has made more than 200 statues of the philosopher. “The essential thoughts of Confucius are love, kindness, wisdom and generosity. And peace and prosperity are what the people are striving for.”