He is one of the most revered figures in Chinese history, a philosopher whose teachings spread not only across East Asia, but have also influenced popular western culture. An art exhibition devoted specifically to Confucius, and to the ideals he not only espoused but also embodied, seems especially timely and relevant now, when economies around the world are in chaos and communities are in conflict about their place in society. The Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, has given its Confucius exhibition, which runs until January 11 next year, the subtitle: 'Shaping Values Through Art'. Artists from different eras in history to the present day offer their views on Confucius through about 60 individual exhibits - a combination of woodblock prints, photography, textiles and porcelain pieces - laid out in three rooms in the scenic and tranquil building. The anchor exhibit, Confucius and Disciples, is an early 20th century woodblock print, ink and colour on paper showing the great man surrounded by a quartet of learners, various writing implements on a desk in front of him. Those themes - of scholarliness, education, discipline - are evident throughout, dating as far back as a 1687 reproduction entitled Confucius Sinarum Philosophus and depicting the teacher as a towering figure in what appears to be a well-stocked library. The black-and-white drawing originated in France, indicating the extent of his renown. The exhibition's guest curator, Meher McArthur, notes in the museum materials that the exhibition is intended to demonstrate how some of the most fundamental teachings of Confucius have been expressed visually. 'Some representations are direct, such as the bold calligraphic characters that promote the virtues of benevolence and loyalty,' she says. 'Others are more subtle; filial piety is inspired by scenes of loving children helping their parents, while depictions of bamboo signify moral integrity.' As such, the pieces are grouped in some sort of tangible order, starting with a general introduction to the man and later diversifying into other dimensions of his legacy. There is an intricate 1805 reprint of a 1788 first-edition woodblock print called Portrait of Confucius taken from a book and done by Japanese artist Tachibana Sekiku, while stone rubbings abound. One, from the early 20th century, shows Confucius in his robes, their folds enveloping his girth, his hands folded in humility in front of him. Another is of a Confucian temple in Qufu province, the philosopher's birthplace, showing a towering stack of ancient buildings. These are interspersed with more contemporary interpretations; a photo by McArthur is as painterly as an oil on canvas, and shows an altar table at the Qufu temple, portrayed in all its red-and-gold brilliance. Altar tables are, by necessity, an integral part of the exhibition. An original Qing dynasty piece in teak sits regally before a silk portrait of a family from the era, created to portray the concept of ancestry, with a trio of family members seated in ornate embroidered robes. An altar table cloth, also from the Qing dynasty, and made from immaculately conserved orange and gold silk with lavish dragon emblems, hangs nearby. The works also serve to illustrate the period in which Confucius lived, some 2,500 years ago, including a Qing wedding banner of embroidered silk with couched gold thread, and a double-palace vase with the phoenix motif, made from gilded bronze with cloisonne enamel. There are cobalt blue and white dishes from the Qing and Ming eras, all with traditional phoenix and dragon motifs. Confucius believed strongly in the ideas of children respecting and honouring their elders, and a number of pieces scattered throughout the exhibition serve to prove that. A series of woodblock prints show what are described as 'The 24 Paragons of Filial Piety', interestingly, in works from Japan. In a similar offering from the Qing era, four panels depicting these Confucian precepts of filial piety have titles such as Wang Xiang Lying on the Ice to Melt It and Catch Carp for his Stepmother or Yang Xiang Wrestling with a Tiger to Save his Father. Motifs of children abound, as in Ming dynasty bronze plants. In a more contemporary offering, a simple, dramatic series of ink on paper works were finished this year. One contains the Chinese character for 'filial piety', another for 'kindness/benevolence', another still for 'ritual/propriety'. Confucius' dedication to education is also a focal point; a separate glass case contains a cluster of ancient scholarly instruments, ranging from a Qing brush washer to a 20th century porcelain brush pot with coxcomb and rooster motifs. An eight-panel scholar's screen from the Korean Joseon dynasty portrays the traditional artefacts of a scholarly life - brushes, books, rolls of paper, in ink and colour on paper. Confucius' impact on Asian-Americans is also acknowledged. There are large framed photos of statues of him at California State University and at the Chinese Cultural Gardens at Overfelt Park in San Jose. The inclusion of these, writes McArthur, is 'testimony to Confucius' global significance today'.