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THE ROOTS OF WISDOM: EXPERIENCE CHINESE THOUGHT AND TRADITION AT THE HOME OF CONFUCIUS

By JI XIANG

jixiang@chinadaily.com.cn

Qufu, a city in East China’s Shandong province, is the birthplace of Confucius (551-479 BC). The city has been associated with the Chinese sage for centuries, but it was also the capital of the ancient Lu Kingdom, which survived upheaval and unrest during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). Qufu represents the heart of Confucianism and time has left it with a large number of  historical sites that are thoroughly infused with the Chinese way of life, emphasizing social relations, sincerity and morality.

“It is important for people to know that there are not only ‘the Three Kongs’ (Temple, Mansion and Cemetery of Confucius), but also the many soft sides of the city which have been keeping faith with Confucianism,” says Kong Deming, a member of the 77th generation of Confucius, who now serves as head of the Confucius Lineage Research Center in Qufu. “Given more time, tourists can pay more attention to the cultural heritage of Confucius, such as the inscriptions on the tombstones and the local customs.”

Qufu Tourism Bureau recommends the following attractions:

1. Temple, Mansion and Cemetery of Confucius
The “Three Kongs” are a must in travel books about Qufu and history is the order of the day. “The temples have been built and rebuilt many times, but they show you that the reverence for Confucius has survived through history, through all the changes in society,” Persson says. The Temple of Confucius was built as a place to worship Confucius as a saint. Among the many such temples, this is the oldest and largest in the world. There are more than 100 structures of eight types and more than 460 rooms. The temple was built and rebuilt in the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties as well as during the Republic of China era. The 1,172 stone tablets with inscriptions form an important part of the temple. There are more than 1,200 well-preserved old trees in the temple. The site is used for ceremonies and other events.

The Mansion of Confucius had been home to Confucius’ descendants since the Song Dynasty (AD 420-479). It was originally named Yanshenggong Mansion, a title given to Kong Zongyuan (Confucius’ 46th generation) by the Ren Emperor in the Song Dynasty. The title was then used by another 42 descendants. The current structure was built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and has three main sections. The eastern wing is used for ancestral worship, while the western wing is used for studying and hosting guests. The middle part of the building is the primary area, with a court, living quarters and back garden lined from south to north. Gates, memorial arches, paths, bridges, halls, temples, pavilions and other details reflect the solemnity of the Cemetery of Confucius, making it more than an area of tombs. The privileged few have been able to carve their names on stone
tablets. “The cemetery is for all those surnamed Kong, but it is not possible for everyone to have a stone tablet … even the size of the tablet tells of the importance of the person,” says Kong Yan, who works for the Qufu Tourism Bureau and is a member of Confucius’ 77th generation.

2. Nishan Hill, Shouqiu, and Mausoleum of Shaohao
Nishan Hill is about 30 kilometers southeast of Qufu. At its foot lies the Kunling Cave and, according to one legend, Confucius was born in it. There is a temple on the hill in honor of Confucius, and the Academy of Nishan Hill was set up to promote his teachings. Shouqiu is considered to be the birthplace of the Yellow Emperor, founder of the Chinese nation. Today Shouqiu is paved with 2,662 slab stones and is also known as Hill of Ten Thousand
Stones. The grandeur of the ancient palaces and altars has long faded but many visitors still commemorate the times when the Yellow Emperor led the ancestors of the Chinese people to overcome their difficulties. Shaohao is one of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors of ancient China, and son of the Yellow Emperor. The tomb seen today resembles an Egyptian pyramid, and some call it the “Oriental Pyramid”.

3. Six-talent City of Confucius and Confucius Hometown Park
This city was launched in 1993 and the six talents represent the aspects that Confucius held dearest in his life: ritual, music, archery, charioteering, literacy and numbers.

The city is divided into six sections:
• Ritual: Visitors fi rst encounter huge bronze statues of Confucius traveling with some of his favorite students to diff erent kingdoms. Behind the statues are the models of the ancient kingdoms’
rituals. There are two different types of models, representing a wartime parade and a coronation ceremony.
• Music: This section has a theater for Confucius-era singing and dancing and offers an opportunity to reflect on the many ideas evoked by Confucius’ love for music.
• Archery: Confucius’ time was marked by warring factions and as such he believed that military enterprises were very important, with archery forming one of the many military skills. Tourists at this site can try real bows and
arrows. There are also simulated hunting scenes.
• Charioteering: Confucius traveled to many kingdoms and witnessed prosperous and impoverished times. His many experiences are summarized and refl ected in the man-made scenes in this hall.
• Literacy: Confucius’ teaching place is called the “Apricot Altar”. In this hall of literacy, there are exhibitions of ancient calligraphy and statues of Confucius together with his 72 famous pupils.
• Numbers: Confucius was known to be fond of the sciences such as mathematics and astronomy. A “modern maze” here will challenge visitors to work out questions on their climb to the top.

Confucius Hometown Park is a miniature of the hometown of Confucius, showcasing various aspects of life during his time. Highlights include ancient court styles, teahouses, restaurants, pharmacies and courtyard houses. Many events and performances are held here during Chinese festivals.

From C H I N A D A I L Y  E U R O P E A N  W E E K L Y  MARCH 9 – 1 5 , 2 0 1 2

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