Posted by: 1of10boyz | October 28, 2011

Qufu – Home of Confucius

We have just completed a one day evolution of climbing and a subsequent decent via the tram from Tai Shan. We are really excited about what we have seen this far on our 3 day weekend. We have meet up with our driver, Hyrum, and his family, Rachael and Joseph. We are now ready to go to Qufu, the home of Confucius and the birth place of Confucianism.  Qufu is about is about 50 km to the south of the city of Tai’an and Mount Tai.

As we prepare to leave Tai’an we are utilizing Hyrum’s GPS and we are routed to the shortest route to the on ramp to the toll way. What GPS doesn’t know is that the road we are routed on also serves as the local farmers’ market/street bizarre. Getting onto the appropriate toll way proves to be interesting. We honk our way through it and emerge on the other side no worse for the wear but it is by no means the quickest way. We continue to follow the GPS directions and get onto the toll way.

It is a short drive, but we find that sitting in the sun we are tired and have the desire to doze. The fog is still heavy and visual distance is limited to less than a mile so I am not sure what exists outside of the toll way. We arrive in Qufu and make our way to downtown.

We proceed from parking toward the avenue leading to the walls and gate of the city of Confucius. I am asked as we walk down the avenue with its ancient trees if I need lunch and a tour by one of the Chinese tour guides. I defer to answer the question until Hyrum and the rest of the group arrives. We agree to a tour guide in English, it will cost us 300RMB for the 3 sites that we want to see. I believe that it will be worth it as I realize that the area cannot be appreciated without some interpretation. We are fortunate to get a guide that is quite fluent in English.

It is also time to eat. We eat while we are waiting for our guide. It is the standard Chinese fare. I have noticed that Hyrum has become conservative on what he will order; we are starting to see the same dishes over and over again. I will have to encourage him to help us experience a greater variety whenever possible.

We begin the tour and walk the temple complex that appears to be the heart of Qufu. The area is full of beautiful temples and the grounds and trees are well cared for. There are many trees that are believed to be over 500 yrs old. We learn about the significance of the paths we walk and the significance of the three lines within the cobblestone. They represent the path that would be walked when the Emperor and his assistants would have visited, LaDawna walks the middle path, the path of the Emperor.

I marvel at the unique stels and stone carvings. There are some very large ones that were moved here from great distances. The guide indicates that they were moved in the winter and were actually frozen into a block of ice and the required route was also an ice path so that the move could be completed.

I had always thought that many of these carvings looked like toads. I learn that they are actually a specific kind or form of dragon. It is interesting to learn that there is something like seven types of dragons. I will have to do some more study on the dragons as there are some unique pros and cons to each of these phases of a dragon.

I am most interested in observing the columns on the central temple as it is stated that these columns are so elaborate that when the Emperor of China visited that these columns were covered so that he would not be envious of them.

I learn that the cultural revolution of the late 1960s took a toll on this location. There are many of the stels and carvings that have been damaged. It reminds me that this country has not so long ago been a much different place than it is today. What would possess someone to destroy an ancient stel that talked about some philosophy or religion? What kind of government would feel that it is necessary to encourage its young people to destroy its historical heritage? I am glad that the country has progressed since then and the leadership has recognized that these kinds of things make up the fabric of the society. You don’t have to agree with them but you should at least acknowledge their existence.

While at one of the temples we noted that it looked like they had some expensive type robes and an opportunity to take some pictures. We learned that it was only 75RMB each for the pictures and we could have our own pictures as well as one together. What a bargain. I enjoyed the attempt to make me look like a Chinese Emperor. I struggled to keep a straight face and look as solemn as I could. I don’t think I was very successful and we ended up choosing the only picture where I was not smiling. It was more like a smirk, my eyes were really wide, not quite the look I was going for. Had I known the I wasn’t going to like any of the pictures I would have gone for the goofy stereotypical look just for fun.

As we make our way to the “home” of Confucius, it is actually from his descendants by several hundred years later, it begins to drizzle. It is interesting that almost everything that we see has been created many hundreds of years after Confucius. It appears to be one of those situations where the original dude never had the intent of becoming the icon that later generations made him to be. He was just a teacher and the students and followers really kind of blew it out of proportion.

We walk in the rain to the home. It is like so many other extravagant homes from the early Chinese history. There are many, many, rooms. The talk about a story regarding multiple wives and concubines and I can see in my mind’s eye a movie I have seen that reflects the story told. I don’t remember the name and I don’t remember why I watched it. It talks of the jealousies between the wives and how they destroy each other. I wonder if the movie was made at this location or if it were a sound stage as the similarities are eerie.

I look at the thresholds of the door ways. Many of the stones used in the locations are obviously the originals. I can see the curvature of the stone where millions upon millions of feet have worn the stone away. I am fascinated by the age of the stone in that location for so many hundreds or thousands of years. Fascinating to imagine something remaining functional and useful in the same spot for so long.

We exit the home to the garden and pass through the garden quickly. It isn’t spectacular and it is crowded. We make our way to the street exit and pass a mural on the garden wall. It is one of those illusions as the road or path depicted is always pointing toward you no matter where you are in the garden. I wonder if the artist intended it to be that way or if it was just luck. I don’t know enough about art to know if that can be done on purpose or not.

We have the option of taking an electric taxi (fancy golf cart) or a horse drawn carriage (covered box on wheels). I feel a little nostalgic and opt for the carriage to see if I can get a better feel for the pace that would have existed not so long ago in this country. It is worth it, actually it is cheaper for the group that we have to take the carriage as we can get everyone into the same conveyance instead of the two that would have been required with the taxi. I enjoy the slower pace through the city gates towards the “cemetery”. I get a better feel for the significance of the walls as I realize that the city walls are quite thick and very substantial.

We get to the cemetery and are shuttled on a large electric tour cart though it. It is said to have 100,000 Kangs buried here. Kang is the family name for Confucius. There is also supposed to be a tree in this cemetery for every person buried there. There are a lot of trees here.

I learn that there is some significance to the shape of headstones in China. The tops of a stone has reference to the occupation of the remembered. A square stone is for a farmer. A rounded stone is for a business person. A stone with a dragon or similar is for the official or dignitary. The more important the dignitary, the bigger the stone.

I also learn that there is importance to the size of the dirt mound associated with the “spot”. The bigger the mound of dirt the more important the person was said to be.

Importance is also provided by the “guardians” of the path to the “spot”. The more important the deceased the greater the size of the guardians. We see a number of spots in the cemetery where the avenue has statues guarding the way. These are typically also provided with the arched entry gate which is not really a gate as I have yet to see one with something that could be closed. It is more a monument to indicate the beginning of the avenue.

We reach the main attraction of the cemetery, Confucius’ “spot”. I have seen in many books where the avenue to the gates and spot are quite crowded and only in the 1970s is the path clear of people. The drizzle has been to our advantage. We have the place nearly to ourselves. We get some nice unobstructed pictures of the avenue guardians.

We learn that there are some that are said to be endowed with mystical powers. One when its rump is touched will provide you with intestinal health. We have pictures of LaDawna with her had appropriately placed to document her desire to put that mystical power to the test.

We see many items of historic significance, but can’t help but notice that there are evidences here of the cultural revolution and its destruction.

I am impressed by the size of the mounds within this area. There are three mounds, Confucius, his son, and another relative. The mounds are at least 40-50 cubic yards of material and the avenues and related cover nearly 5 acres. We are nearly alone when we arrive but as we are leaving there are several hundred people now in the area. We feel fortunate to have had the place to ourselves.

It has been an interesting visit. I have learned much that I didn’t know. I leave saddened by the destruction that occurred during the cultural revolution and disappointed that in most cases we found the temples to be slightly run down. Most of the restorations to the beautiful colors that existed in the roofs of these structures are nearly 200-300 yrs old and they show it. I can imagine that at the height of their beauty they would have been magnificent. The colors used would have been vivid and vibrant as reflected by the remaining paint that we can see.

It is worthy of its designation as a World Heritage site but I doubt that I would return to see it on my own. I can check it off the list as “been there done that”. That is enough.


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