Situated in southeast Shangdong, Qufu is a famous historical and cultural city best known as the hometown of Confucius (551-479BC).
For over 2000 years, Confucius's teachings have significantly influenced many Chinese and Asian countries and Confucianism is still the root of many cultures.
Confucius was born in Qufu and also spent many years here in the company of his pupils and followers giving lectures on his ideology. Confucianism did not have a large following until after the death of Confucius, when many believers flocked to Qufu to listen to Confucius's disciples explain the doctrine. The number of believers swelled and a year after Confucius's death, the Duke Ai of Lu ordered the philosopher's home to be turned into a temple.
Today, the Confucius Temple is a grand complex that covers an area of 22 hectares. On the orders of the imperial court, magnificent mansions, almost as fine as those in Beijing, were built to house Confucius's descendents. Much of the architecture in town is testament to the high esteem in which successive dynasties and generations have regarded Confucius.
Qufu is a quiet rural town with little traffic and unpolluted streets. However, it does come alive in September each year when the town hosts a festival to celebrate the birthday of Confucius, complete with reconstructions of the original rituals at the Confucius Temple.
Confucianism has had the most enduring and profound effect over Chinese culture. As time went on, Confucius became respected as a sage, and the temples to Confucius were built as a landmark for all of China. Among them, the Temple in Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, is the most famous and the largest.
Located inside the south gate of Qufu, the Temple of Confucius is a group of buildings built in oriental style. Together with the Summer Palace in Beijing and the Mountain Resort of Chengde, the Temple of Confucius in Qufu is one of the 3 largest ancient architectural complexes in China. The Temple started as 3 houses in the year of 478 BC, the second year after the death of Confucius. Each year as Confucianism became the standard of Chinese culture, the scale of the Temple was expanded accordingly. Sacrifices were often offered to the sage, either by Emperors themselves, or by emperor-appointed high officials. In the Qing dynasty, Emperor Qianlong offered sacrifices here 8 times.
The existing Temple of Confucius was rebuilt and renovated during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Patterned after a royal palace, it is divided into 9 courtyards. The main buildings run along a north to south axis, with the attached buildings symmetrically in line. The whole group includes 3 halls, 1 pavilion, 1 altar, and 3 ancestral temples.
Altogether there are 466 rooms and 54 gateways covering an area of 218,000 square m. The yellow tiles and red walls all covered with delicate decoration make the Temple extremely grand.
After Great Sage Gate (Dasheng Men), the buildings are divided into 3 parts. The central part is for offering sacrifices to Confucius and other scholars and sages while the eastern part is for sacrifices to the ancestors of Confucius. The west is for his parents.
However, the Temple wins its fame not only for its grandness, but also for the rich cultural relics found there. The 2,100 pieces of steles remaining from various dynasties make a fine exhibition of calligraphy and stone sculpture.
East of the Temple of Confucius, is the Kong Family Mansion. Kong is the family surname of Confucius and his descendants. The mansion is where the first son and the first grandson of Confucius lived. In scope, it is next only to the royal palaces of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Covering 39 acres, the mansion grounds house 463 buildings such as halls, pavilions, and towers that are divided into 3 parts. The Eastern part is the family temple, the Western institute and the Central main buildings. The Central part is then divided into 2 sections with the front being the office and the family residence behind. The garden is located at the back of the residence.
Though less splendid than the Forbidden City, the Mansion boasts luxury furnishings, exquisite decorations, and precious cultural relics. These relics, some given by emperors, some presented by high ranking officials and celebrities, and some purchased at a high price, are the most valuable resource for research on ancient Chinese history and culture.
The Kong Family Mansion is the largest of its kind in Chinese history. In 1994, the Mansion, the Confucius Cemetery and the Confucius Temple were listed as World Cultural Heritage buildings.
At a location 1 kilometer north of Qufu, Shandong, one can visit the Cemetery where the family and descendants of Confucianism are buried. This cemetery has the longest line of descendants in the world.
Record has it that this cemetery has already lasted 2340 years. At the time Confucius was buried there, the cemetery was about 6.67 hectares. It was continually expanded to over 200 hectares. The walls around the cemetery are 7 kilometer long enclosing more than 10,000 tombs.
The sacred way that leads up to the cemetery is 1,266 meter and is lined with verdant pines and cedars. At the end of the road stands a wooden memorial archway; called the Most Sacred Cemetery (Zhi Sheng Lin), and is the gate to the Cemetery of Confucius.
The evolution of the Cemetery reflects the role of Confucianism through history. During his eventful life, Confucius drifted from one place to another, trying to persuade the authorities to adopt his philosophy, but with little success. It was during later dynasties that Confucianism gained popularity among the authorities. Therefore, before the tomb of Confucius, a tombstone of the Master and the Most Sacred Wenxuan King was set up in 1443. To the east lies the tomb of his son, Kong Li, while to the south is the tomb of Kong Ji, his grandson. This configuration is called 'holding the son and hugging the grandson'; considered an ideal family pattern in China.
Beside the tombs stand steles inscribed with handwritings of the notable people of the times, and vibrant stone sculptures. The Cemetery is renowned for its natural botanical areas, largely owing to more than 1,000 mature trees. It is said that after Confucius's death, disciples planted rare trees from all over China. Some of the trees are so rare that their proper names are yet unknown.
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