Qufu #1: Confucian Temple

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February 21st 2019
Published: August 2nd 2020
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I had been wanting to visit Qufu for a while as it is only a couple of hours or so by High Speed Rail from Beijing. The train journey was uneventful and the smog outside got progressively worse the further we got from the capital. I alighted at Qufu East Station and headed over to the bus station next door as that is where both the long distance buses and the local city buses depart from. I think I took the K19 bus and it took around half an hour to get near the old city walls. I decided to scope out where my hostel was first and I was pleasantly surprised at how close it was the main attractions. I took a bit of a wander around. Qufu seems like quite a quiet place. Definitely, not somewhere I would want to live, a visit would be enough for me. Qufu probably isn't on many foreigners' Chinese tour itineraries, but since I had found out that it was the birthplace of Confucius, I been wanting to visit.

In the centre of the old town are two of the three main attractions in Qufu. I headed towards the temple and tried to find the ticket office, there didn't seem to be one about. I found what Could be the ticket office, Bur was told that it was in a separate location. It was on the main street, I saw it and there were a few people outside trying to entice me in. Being a cynical person, it didn't really seem legit. The main ticket office was next door but there was zero English. Bugger, I had to speak to the vultures. They were trying to sell me a ticket for all three attractions, which does work out cheaper, but it is only valid for one day (I don't know whether I believe them on that as I read conflicting information on the internet), but I didn't think I would have enough time to do them all. The women were like you can do all the sights in three hours, not how I operate ladies. They also wanted to sell some kind of shuttle bus or tour ticket. They looked a bit peeved when I rejected it all, and directed me to a counter in the main office. If only that place had clear or any English signs I could have saved myself the hassle of talking to the saleswomen. I bought a ticket for the Confucius Temple, which was 90 RMB, a bit steep in my opinion.

I headed back over to the temple and I passed through the Golden Sound and Jade Vibration Gateway. This was built in during the reign of Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty. There were quite a few gateways to pass through. I came to the Gate of Lofty Virtue and Great Way, I love these names, they sound really grand. This gate was built in 1415 and eulogises the Sage's (Confucius) virtue as the greatest in the world and his way as the greatest of all ages. The foot of the gate is surrounded by four carved animals to ward off evil. The Temple of Confucius has also been called the Temple of the Supreme Saint. Confucius was born in 551 BC and died in 479 BC. He is considered a famous ancient thinker, statesman and educator. It is not just in China where Confucius thought is/was popular, but his influence has spread to neighbouring countries. After heading through the gate, I came to Bishui Bridge. It had originally been built in the 13th century during Hongzhi's reign during the Ming Dynasty. It was later rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. Bishui refers to the water encircling the imperial palace, which looks like Bi, which is a round flat piece of jade with a hole in the centre. It signifies everlasting education.

Just over the bridge, I came to Hongdao Gate. It was the main entrance gate of the temple during the Ming Dynasty. It was given its name by Emperor Shizong of the Qing Dynasty. After walking further along the path, I came to another gate. This temple certainly likes its gates and there were style differences between the two gates. This gate was Dazhong Gate and it was first built in the Song Dynasty and then later rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty. After walking through the gate I came to the stone tablet of Emperor Hongzhi. The tablet was pretty cool, I liked the marble effect on it, although I think that had been caused by the elements rather than an intentional design. I also came to the pavilion housing the tablet of Emperor Yongle. This pavilion is a recent reconstruction although the tablet is the original. This areas was pretty nice, the grounds were quite big and peaceful. It was nice to wander around and not just be following the crowds going through each gate to reach the centre of the temple. The next gate was Tongwen Gate, which had its name inscribed beautifully on a plaque above the entrance. An interesting feature here were the turrets in the corners of the surrounding walls. They had been built in 1331 and were modelled on the turrets of the Imperial Palace to make the temple look more awe inspiring. It would have been good if the turrets had been open to the general public as I would have liked to have climbed it to check out the view.

After passing more stone tablets I came to the Kui Wen Pavilion. This was originally built in 1018. It's amazing to think it has been here in some shape or form for over 1,000 years. I had a look around the pavilion, the inside of these buildings are absolutely freezing. I don't know how the staff manage to stay there, it's so much colder than outside and outside isn't particularly warm either. The pavilion contained some storyboards that gave an overview of Confucius' life. I made my way deeper into the temple complex and came across a tree that had fallen over. Instead of removing it, the tree had been propped up by a stone pillar. Behind the tree, there were lots of pavilions that held tablets in them. I came to the Gate of Qisheng next. This was the main gate to the western section of the western section of the temple. It leads to the King Qisheng Hall and the Hall of Lady Yan. I think the sign was trying to say that these halls were for sacrifices to Confucius' parents, so I presume the halls are named after them. I wandered among mire tablet filled pavilions. I liked that there were ones had been brightly painted and that the paint was starting to fade, it gave them a look of faded grandeur, which really fitted the surroundings. The main gate for the eastern section of the temple is Chengsheng Gate. It means succeeding to the throne. The gate dates back to the Northern Song Dynasty, which is when the original gate was built. It was later rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty, but it got its current name during the reign of Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing Dynasty.

Continuing on, I came to Dacheng Gate. This was first built during the Song Dynasty and was later destroyed by a fire so was rebuilt during the Qing Dynasty. I really liked this gate and was able to take some great red filtered pictures of the gate and the bell in front of it. There was also some dragons carved into the woodwork, which I really liked. Through the gate, there was a nice courtyard, with a leaning tree that was propped up. The orange leaves on the trees gave the place an autumnal feel even though it was a winter's day. There were some beautiful stone carvings on the stairs leading up to Xingtan Pavilion. The pavilion was a gorgeous building. It is said to be the place where Confucius gave lectures to his disciples. It would be a very aesthetically pleasing place to learn in. Next I came to Dacheng Pavilion, which is the major construction in the temple complex. It is the main place where sacrifices are offered to Confucius. It was nice to walk around and see the things such as the drum and flames burning. I really liked the roof of the temple as there were some small but intricately carved ornaments. The Living Palace was a beautiful shade of red and I loved the doors on the building. The Living Palace had first been built in the Song Dynasty and had been rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty. It was where Qiguan, the wife of Confucius, had worshipped.

The next part of the temple complex was the Palaces of Sage's Trace during Wanli's reign in the Ming Dynasty. I liked that the building looked a bit worn out and hadn't been renovated or given a fresh lick of paint. Round the back of the building, there were some traditional brooms lined up and hanging in front of one of the gates, it made a great photo op. There was also a small temple here called the Temple of the Local God of the Land. Originally built in the Jin Dynasty, it was where people enshrined and worshipped the local God of the land that the Confucian Temple is on. I was surprised to read that the present building only dates back to the late eighties. I headed along the East Road of the Confucian Temple. I came to the Memorial Hall for Worshipping the Sage, which was all locked up, so I walked around the grounds. It had originally been the Family Temple. I saw the Family Tablet, which wasn't anything special for me. It was a bit damage and the Chinese characters inscribed on it. The last place I visited in the temple complex was the Lu Wall. This wall had been used to hide copies of Confucian texts, when Qinshihunag, the first Emperor of China persecuted the followers of Confucius and staged book burnings.

When I came out of the temple, the street around the exit was filled with little stalls selling knick-knacks and snacks. I came to another entrance, which I presume was the entrance for the Kong Family Mansion. I wish I'd been a bit more thorough in my research before this trip as if I'd known the two attractions were next to each other I would have bought the tickets for both. Anyway, I decided to head to my hostel and get checked in. That didn't take very long. The hostel is undergoing a lot of renovation work so the courtyard area was pretty noisy. The owner assured me that the noise would stop before bedtime. I chilled in the room for a bit before venturing out again.

Just across the road from the hostel, there was another smaller temple, Yanmiao temple. So I headed over to take a look. The entrance fee was rather steep at 50 RMB, in reality I probably won't return to Qufu, so it made sense to see it while I was here. I really like how quiet this place was in comparison to the Confucius Temple. I entered through the Gate of Fusheng, which was rebuilt in 1507. The temple is dedicated to Yan Hui, one of Confucius' favourite disciples and one of the most revered figures of Confucianism. He was posthumously given the title of Duke of the State of Yan for his 'subduing himself and returning to propriety' in 1330, during the Yuan Dynasty. As I walked along the main path, I came to the 'Well in the Shabby Lane', I love the name. This was where Yanhui got his drinking water from. The pavilion around the well was rather cute. I headed down the path and came to the Gate of Returning to Prosperity. This gate was rebuilt in 1507 and took the name of a famous saying from the Analects of Confucius. The gate was beautifully ornate and wad obviously well cared for. I passed through and came to another gate, the Gate of Yangsheng. Now I appeared to be in the main part of the temple. There were a few very ornate tablets here and I came to the Pavilion of Joy, this had been located nearer to the Shabby Lane Well, but was moved to its current location in 1507. There were more tablets here, which had old Chinese characters painted on the in bright red paint. These characters looked almost like hieroglyphics.

In the centre of the temple complex, there is the Hall of Fusheng. It was first built in the Yuan Dynasty and later rebuilt in the Ming Dynasty to offer sacrifices to Yan Hui. Next to the temple, there were stands which were covered with small red painted covered blocks, on which people cold write their wishes and hopes for the future. I wandered around the grounds and came to the Hal of Lady Dai, Which had originally been built to offer sacrifices to Lady Dai, Yan Hui's wife. She was posthumously given the title Madam of the State of Yan in 1335 and was given the title Madam of Fusheng in the Ming Dynasty. From there, my wandering took Me to the Reflection Hall. This building appeared on the temple map during the Zhengde period of the Ming Dynasty, but the hall been built before that period. Over the years, the hall had been rebuilt.and renovated, the last time was in the 1980s. It was all closed up so I couldn't go inside. By this point I had seen pretty much everything the temple complex had to offer, so I headed back to the entrance to now find it closed. I was trapped in the temple. There were still a few other people about and I saw some of the staff leaving through a side door so I followed them and exited on to the main street, just across from my hostel.

I wandered around the quiet streets trying to find something to eat. The map on my phone had said that there was a supermarket/mart near to the old city wall, but I couldn't find it. So I ended up at the grocery store/gift shop close to the back of the temple and my hostel. Since I hadn't eaten since breakfast I was rather hungry and ended up buying a right pile of crap. I had passed a few restaurants, but they looked deserted and I couldn't tell if they were open or not. I went back to the hostel and ate my cup of noodles and the other stuff I bought. I chilled for a while under the duvet and heater, the room was pretty cold, but at least the air con was blowing out warm air. I had read online that a nice thing to do in the evening in Qufu was to take a walk around the old city walls, so once it got dark and I summoned up the energy to leave my nice warm cocoon, I headed out. I came to the wall and passed under the entrance and started to walk along the perimeter. Although the top of the wall was lit up, I didn't find it that impressive and after a while, the lights stopped. I felt a bit dejected so turned around and decided to take a walk down the main street. It was okay, nothing really amazing to see. I headed over to the other side of the city wall to give it another try. This side was a bit better as the lights hadn't gone out and there was water around, too. I had kind of hoped that it would be a bit more lit up as if there had been lights in the trees or by the water, it would have looked so much prettier. At least the walk gave me a chance to stretch my legs before retiring for the night.

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8th August 2020

Confucian Temple
Your blog brings back great memories of Qufu that was a must visit on my self-planned second China trip in 2006. The highlight of the Confucian Temple were the Han Dynasty Stone Tablets found in a couple of locked pavilions in the out of the way ancient kitchen areas off to the right side of the complex. They were pictorials of medical issues, ball games, village life, chariots & ors that were stacked like dominoes and not on display. A defective lock let us slip in. An Emperor made the Confucian Temple a Repository for Han Stone Tablets from all over China centuries ago and they were then forgotten. They were highlights of our China trip. I asked a professor why they were not on display and his reply has stuck with me ever since: "Were they inlaid with gold?" "No." "China has so many treasures...it is hard to choose which to put on display".
9th August 2020

Wow, the pictorials sound really interesting. I can see why his response has stuck with you. China has a lot of gems. I keep finding more and more places and things I want to visit. There are so many places well known within China, that aren't known internationally.

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