Today an article in The Sunday Age said:
During the Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, Confucius - "Kong Fuzi" in Chinese - was reviled as a "stinking corpse" by Chairman Mao, whose Red Guards were ordered to destroy Confucian artefacts and persecute his ancestors as symbols of feudal oppression.I did a mental double-take when I read it, wondering if perhaps Confucian family corpses had been dug up and desecrated.
But on a second reading I think the writer has used the wrong word.
A while ago I watched an episode of the British televsion series, Who Do You Think You Are, a wonderful programme, and I'm reasonably sure I remember one of the speakers using the word ancestor incorrectly.
English Common Errors mentions that in an earlier edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J K Rowling made this error. (It was corrected in a later edition after many people commented on it.)
Language Log, in a discussion of the linearity of English, suggests that people might use ancestor as a word that covers both directions in time, ie those who were born before and those who were born after.
This sounds reasonable to me, since I've never heard anyone confuse the two words in the opposite way.