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It's easy to spend a few days in Qufu exploring the three major sights related to Confucius: the Confucius Mansions, where the sage and some 70 generations of his descendents once lived; the Confucius Temple, and the Confucius Cemetery, a forest cemetery where Confucius and many of his deceased clan members rest.
Qufu's history is directly linked to Confucius. Legend states that he was born in a cave 60km to the east of Qufu in 551BC, during the Spring and Autumn Period. Confucius settled in modern day Qufu, after years of unsuccessfully wandering through various kingdoms in hopes of influencing rulers to adopt his teachings. It was only after his death in 479 BC, that his ideas gained prominence.
The mansion and temple areas were only open to the Confucius family and visiting emperors; it was forbidden ground for commoners. As a measure of how much prestige the Kong family held, they were given the right to make laws and pass ordinances in Qufu. Over time the Kong family's statue grew to the point where they were considered equal to the imperial family.
Over the years, the mansion and temple saw substantial expansions, turning the complex into a sprawling spectacle that occupies nearly 20 per cent of modern Qufu. Ming and Qing Dynasties architecture abound throughout the city, making strolls along Qufu's clean streets ascetically pleasing, as well as adding to the historic charm of the city. The architecture will transport you to another time. Buildings with beautiful red and yellow tiled roofs and striking pointed eaves greet the eye.
The main south gate marks the beginning of the temple. The square just beyond the gate features a bustling market packed with vendors selling vegetable pancakes and various trinkets, it makes you wonder how good of a bargainer Confucius was.
Apricot Altar: where Confucius teaches his students
Upon entering the temple grounds, the noise of the market subsides and the tranquillity of the temple brings out the scholar in us all. Quiet courtyards are home to withered pines so old that they require support from metal poles. Numerous steles, honouring Confucius and his disciples, are found throughout the temple. Many of the steles, bearing dedications carved into the stone face, were dedicated by past emperors. Most of the steles are in the south and central portion of the temple, the steles are supported by a fabled creature akin to a tortoise. If you can't read Chinese, a highly-recommended booklet introducing the most important steles and buildings is available throughout the temple.
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