WHS: Temple of Confucius, Qufu, China

A special one for the culturally inquisitive today; we’re taking the high speed train (and by high, we mean 352 km/h — just taking the train is an experience of its own, in China!) a couple hours south to visit the holiest place of Confucianism, the home of K’ung Fu Tzu aka Confucius:

Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu

Confucius Temple


Confucius, a renowned philosopher, politician and educator in ancient China whose system of belief involving philosophy, politics and ethics (subsequently known as Confucianism) has exerted profound influence on Chinese culture, was revered as the Sacred Model Teacher for Ten Thousand Generations by Chinese emperors. Located in his birthplace, Qufu City of Shandong Province, China, the Temple of Confucius was built to commemorate and offer sacrifices to Confucius in 478 BC. Having been destroyed and reconstructed over the centuries, it now covers 14 hectares, with 104 buildings dating from the Jin to Qing dynasties including the Dacheng Hall, Kuiwen Pavilion and Xing Altar, and over 1,250 ancient trees. The Temple houses more than 1,000 stelae made at different times, and precious objects such as Han stone reliefs, carved pictures depicting the life of Confucius, and the stone dragon carvings of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Temple is the prototype and model for all the Confucius temples widely distributed in countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia, particularly in terms of layout and style.

Located 1,100 meters to the north of Qufu City, the Cemetery of Confucius covers an area of 183 hectares. It contains Confucius’ tomb and more than 100,000 graves of his descendants.

Lying to the east of the Temple, the Kong Family Mansion developed from a small family house linked to the temple into an aristocratic mansion in which the male direct descendants of Confucius lived and worked.Following a fire and rebuilding of the temple with an enclosure wall on the model of an imperial palace in the 14th century, the mansion was rebuilt a short distance from the temple. Subsequently expanded, then destroyed again by fire and rebuilt in the late 19th century, it now covers 7 hectares with a total of some 170 buildings. Over 100,000 collections are kept in the Mansion; among them the ten ceremonial utensils of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the portraits of Confucius made in different periods and clothes and caps dating to the Ming and Qing dynasties are the most famous. Furthermore, the more than 60,000 files and archives of the Ming and Qing dynasties collected in the Mansion not only provide a credible record of all kinds of activities in the Mansion for more than 400 years, but are highly valuable for studying the history of the Ming and Qing period…

There’s some philosophical debate over whether Confucianism technically qualifies as a religion at all — since uniquely among major belief systems, it takes an agnostic approach to the afterlife — but it takes very little observation indeed to conclude that the worshippers at the Temple of Confucius are just as religious in their devotions as the adherents of any other religion, and more so than most!

Confucius Temple

The layout of the Temple unsurprisingly strongly resembles Chinese palaces, with a series of gates and courtyards and temples to pass through,

Confucius Temple

particularly notable for the rather remarkable dragon columns:

Confucius Temple

That’s Biyong Hall, which contains the throne from which the Emperor would make his annual address to the Temple scholars:

Confucius Temple

That’s pretty much the high point as spectacle goes here, there’s more buildings and lovely manicured grounds to walk around in,

Confucius Temple

but if you don’t speak Chinese the meaning of the various teachings on display are going to be mostly lost on you!

The Mansion of Confucius is conveniently next door to the Temple, and the third of the San Kong (三孔), “The Three Confucian [sites]” is the Cemetery a couple kilometers to the north:

Confucius Cemetery

It’s a rather large — 42,000 trees — botanical garden as well as a cemetery, so you’re well advised to take the shuttles that drive past the most notable tombs and stop for worship at the actual Confucius tomb and stelae:

Confucius Cemetery

Around here we figure that any site important to a major religion gets automatic A++ status on the World Heritage bucket list, as religion is universally fundamental to culture wherever you go…


p dir=”ltr”>… and as essentially the only place that’s venerated in Confucianism, Qufu should definitely be worked into your China visit list!

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  1. […] up for a very long and tiring day you can just barely do what we did: catch the 5 AM train out to Qufu, be off on the bus to get to the Peach Blossom Ravine Route by mid-afternoon, and be done there […]

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