“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” - Confucius
Qufu, a city within the Shandong province, is known largely for being the birthplace of the legendary Confucius. Confucius was a philosopher and teacher who by his death in 478BC had influenced and changed the way of thinking of a great deal of people. His thoughts were developed into what is known as Confucianism and strived to revive Chinese civilization into a harmonious and humanistic society.
Confucius, or Kong Qiu, still has a large family presence in Qufu with a fifth of its residents claiming the last name Kong. The Kong family, known as the First Family under Heaven, is responsible for the Kong Family Mansion, the largest of its kind in China. Although not quite in the league of the Forbidden City, it possesses several hundred buildings with lavish furnishings and decorations. The mansion, along with Confucius’ grave and temple are now protected as World Cultural Heritage sites.
The artefacts and buildings surrounding the life of Confucius are the main reason foreigners visit Qufu. One of the first things you will notice is the lack of high rise buildings, and this is no coincidence. The locals keep their buildings under the height of the Dacheng Hall, the main hall of Confucius’ Temple as a sign of respect.
Once you are within the city walls you have the Temple of Confucius, the Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion to wonder through.
The Temple of Confucius is a large complex full of courtyards, halls, temples and shrines making it China’s largest historical complex, second to the famous Forbidden City. While the temple has endured copious renovations and repairs, it stands just as elegant as before for visitors to experience.
The Cemetery of Confucius is located in Confucius Forest where his grave stands amongst the trees. Graves of others belonging to the Kong Clan and also those of Confucianism are also found here. It is believed to have the longest line of ancestors in the world dating over two thousand years already.
In between visiting the famous Confucius sites, take a wonder to the edge of the city to admire the city walls. During the evenings, the walls light up with ornamental decorations, making it a pleasant and rather romantic stroll especially with their reflections gleaming off the moat below. Finding the bar literally located within the wall is something you should try to achieve. Stopping in for a drink will not be disappointing as many expatriates choose to drink here while the bartenders usually pick up some English.
For good deals on food and drink elsewhere, head straight for the International Youth Hostel; though mind your taxi driver doesn’t convince you otherwise. Many taxi drivers receive compensation for advising foreigners to go to specific places, places where they are likely to charge you exuberant fees. The Hostel will give you a standard meal for a standard price (even some western food is available). It is also a great place to stay the night, charging a very reasonable price.
Arriving in September will bring you in amongst the festivities for the celebration of Confucius’ birthday. It is a festival usually taken on with much anticipation as the locals go all out for the celebration making it a fantastic cultural experience for visitors.
Getting to Qufu can be done one of many ways. There is an airport in the neighbouring city of Jining where you can land and take a taxi or bus into Qufu. Otherwise you can take the bus from Jinan which is the most popular route or travel by train from one of the main cities such as Beijing and get off at Yanzhou which lies a mere 15km from Qufu.