TAIPEI (Reuters) - Kung Teh-cheng, the 77th lineal descendant of Confucius, died in Taiwan on Tuesday, local media reported. He was 88.
Kung, whose surname equates to the first syllable of Confucius' Latinized name, had been suffering from failing heart and lung functions, the United Evening News reported.
Born in the family's ancestral home in northeastern China, he fled the mainland in 1949 ahead of the victorious Communist armies and settled in Taiwan.
Each year for more than half a century Kung led the island's main official ceremony honoring Confucius on the sage's birthday, only giving up the role three years ago due to growing infirmity.
China's greatest sage and teacher was born in 551 B.C. in what is now Shandong province. He laid down firm precepts on governmental morality, and codified the complex series of relationships in Chinese society, including those between rulers and subjects and between parents and children.
Reporting by Doug Young; editing by Roger Crabb