After a tour of the peony garden in Heze (菏澤) (a date with peonies), we continued our journey and headed to Qufu (曲阜), the birthplace of the old Chinese sage Confucius for some literary exposure.
After a good night’s rest, we woke up to a pleasant sunny day on 27 April with temperature at around 20⁰C, much warmer than the day before at Heze. We planned to visit only 2 out of the 3 Kong/San Kong (三孔)/3 Confucian [sites] that have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, i.e. the Temple of Confucius (孔廟) followed by the Kong Family Mansion (孔府), and would forego the Cemetery of Confucius (孔林).
The journey began…
(None of us shares the same surname Kong (孔) as Confucius so no one got a free pass to the sites!)
Temple of Confucius (孔廟)
Once we went through the entrance to the ground of the Temple, it was one gate after the other with every one of them bearing a name and meaning different from the one before. As we walked along and tried to absorb as much as possible, we soon found ourselves running out of memory space to upload all of what our knowledgeable guide tried to impart to us.
Confucius taught his students under an apricot tree which was found common at the site and to commemorate that, the Apricot Platform Pavillion (杏壇) was built.
The original shabby 3-room house of Confucius was removed not long after he passed on and the area was consecrated into a temple to worship Confucius. The temple complex is the second largest historical building complex in China after the Forbidden City and in fact, it was modeled after it and resembles it in many ways but in a smaller scale. The complex covers an area of 16,000 square metres and has a total of 460 rooms. Massive indeed!
Through the centuries and many dynasties, the temple complex was salvaged and renovated many time due to fire and vandalism before it was enlisted together with the Kong Family Mansion and Cemetery of Confucius to form the San Kong (三孔)/3 Confucian [sites] as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.
There were so much to see and to learn, and we tried hard to take in as much as possible of the history and the ethics that Confucianism promotes and be good students…
After the ancient building, we moved on to the ancient trees…
Apart from the buildings spread throughout the vast area and the various impressive ancient trees, there were the many steles situated prominently throughout the complex too. The steles are large stone tablets with inscriptions written by various emperors and out of the many, I only took this one as it was famous for its beautiful script.
There was one more sight to see — a wall!
After just over 3 hours we completed the tour of the Temple of Confucius and we were ready to walk a short distance and through a lane littered with stalls to the nearby Kong Family Mansion.
Kong family Mansion (孔府)
The mansion is the historical residence of the direct descendants of Confucius. It comprises of 152 buildings with 480 rooms, which cover an area of around 13,000 sq. metres. Another massive site for us to explore.
Two hours later we were done with the tour of the old mansion. By then our stomachs were giving out urgent alarm that it was due time to look for sustenance. The walk of the two expansive sites and the intensive learning had definitely tired us out.
In Qufu, even the partaking of food was yet another literary experience for us as the dishes of the Kong family cuisine (孔府菜) were all literary-inspired with fancy names.
After the lunch we hopped on to a horse-drawn carriage as after walking around the two sites we had moved a long way away from where we parked our car.
We spent two nights in Qufu and in a nice hotel…
When you have a Chinese host it is utterly impossible to escape his/her genuine hospitality to want to feed you with an incredible amount of food, and this was one of such ocassions…
and there was more…
It all started with my big mouth and foolish action —
And guess what happened next… Host JH ordered one portion for us since none of us had tried it before, oops!
What did I do? Well… I just had to be brave!
After all that food, bizarre or otherwise it certainly was only right for us to walk it off and we had just the right thing planned — we were going to conquer Taishan/Mt. Tai (泰山), our next and final destination the following day! We were more than ready for some fresh mountain air, good exercise and a bird’s eye view of some amazing scenery!
(Trip to Shandong – end of Part 2 of 3)