The Confucian Temple (Kong Miao) is located in the old part of Beijing, where family compounds called, Hutongs, still exist, and the old style architecture is being preserved. The Beijing Confucian Temple is not as well preserved as the one at Qufu in Shandong Province Confucius' birthplace.
It is not nearly as large, elaborate, or has as many rooms yet it is far more important in the strictly hierarchical feudal society of the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. It was here that the Emperors came to show their respect during the last 3 Dynasties.
The Beijing Confucian Temple was built in 1302, and now has 3 sets of buildings. It reached the size it is today in 1916, after more than 6 centuries of expansion.
As you pass through the Dacheng Gate (Great Achievement Gate), there is a straight path leading to the 2 sets of steps leading to the Dacheng Hall (Great Achievement Hall). Between the 2 sets of steps leading to the Hall there is an amazingly huge piece of Turquoise Rock, sculptured with dragons flying through the mist, water, and fire. The marble railings that surround the hall are elegantly carved with forming clouds. It was here at this temple that Emperors had sacrificial rites and showed homage to Confucius.
There are 14 pavilions in the temple, all having the golden tiles of Royalty on the 2-tiered, arched roofs. The small sculptures near the edge of the corners of the roof indicate the rank and importance of the buildings. Inside these pavilions are stone sculptures and exquisite calligraphy, telling of important events, achievements, and conquests of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It was here that those aspiring to public service would come for long and vigorous training. Testing was offered once a year, or sometimes only once every 3 years. The highest achieving candidate was called Jin Shi, and was selected to work with the Emperor. The remaining candidates would become county officials, city officials, or provincial leaders.
Each of the Jin Shi had his name placed on huge tablets of stone called steles. 1,674 scholars, over 600 years had their names placed on these steles.
In the courtyard are beautiful, old cypress trees that are between 300 and 700 years old. The most famous tree named, Evil Eliminator has a legend about it.
An infamous and devious minister Yan Hao, of the Ming Dynasty, came to the temple to show his respect to Confucius. As he passed beneath the tree, a burst of wind aided one of the branches to knock off the hat of the now humiliated Minister. This act sealed his fate, thus, the name "Evil Eliminator".
In one of the buildings there is an amazing site to see. The Qian Long stone scriptures are inscribed into these huge stone steles. The steles contain the Thirteen Classics, which entail a lot of the Confucian philosophy. There are 630,000 Chinese characters written by Jiang Heng (1672-1742). He started work on the steles in 1726, and finished 12 years later.
This is now considered one of the greatest works in Chinese history, and is a treasure of the Chinese culture. The total number of steles is 190. 189 have the Thirteen Classics, and the 190th contains the Emperors orders. The calligraphy is neat and beautiful and refers to the works between Confucius and his students during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC), and The Western Han dynasty. These steles were in the 6th classroom of the Imperial College, and held up as examples for standard handwriting for students to learn. The steles were moved to the Confucian Temple in 1956 for restoration and preservation and have remained here protected from the elements.
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