For the first time in more than 2,500 years the family tree of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, is to include women descendants.
Kong Dehong, a descendant overseeing the updating of the family tree, said: "We have to move with the times. Men and women are equal now." Traditional Confucian thinking gave women little status and required them to obey men in its strict hierarchy. A million descendants may be added to the tree, about 200,000 of them women.
Confucius (551 to 479 BC) developed traditions of piety and respect to elders that are still heavily influential in Chinese life and politics.
But his views on women were distinct: "Women and people of low birth are very hard to deal with. If you are friendly with them, they get out of hand, and if you keep your distance, they resent it."
However Mr Kong, speaking at a festival marking Confucius' 2,557th birthday in the philosopher's home town of Qufu in eastern Shandong province, said equality now had to be observed.
Mr Kong is planning to reveal the fifth family tree update in 2009 and believes there could now be more than three million descendants - about 2.5m of whom live in China. He said: "Even if a woman has to leave the family when she gets married to live with her husband, that doesn't change the fact that she is descended from Confucius."