Confucius Temple

Last updated by lala at 2013-11-4

Qufu Confucius Temple is the original one for sacrificing Confucius and as the god route and model of the other 2000 Confucius temples in China, Korea, Japan,Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and America, it was built in 478 B.C. and kept its sacrifice for over 2400 years. It is the temple with the longest history in China and also one of the most famous ancient architectural complexes existent now. In front of it there is divinity Road, with pine trees planted on the two sides, very solemn; the main body of the temple runs through an axile wire, symmetrical and precise in design. Among the nine courtyards, the first three are leading ones, only with some small lanes, lined with rows of bushy pines, very pleasing. A deep and serene passage, cut by tall and straight pines, not only shows the history of Confucius Temple, but also sets off the deep thought of Confucius. The rest courtyards are with grand architectures, yellow tiles, red walls and green trees adding radiance and beauty to each other, which is just the reflection of both the broadness and profoundness of Confucius’ thought as well as great achievement of him. 

Jingsheng Yuzhen Workshop

Mencius ever appraised Confucius as follows: “Confucius advocates Jingsheng and Yuzhen which means the whole process of musical performance (it starts from Jinsheng and ends in Yuzhen). This stands for the integration of Confucius’ thought and also extols the great contribution towards culture by Confucius. Thus, the later generations named the first stone workshop “Jinsheng Yuzhen”. Jinsheng Yuzhen workshop has four stone inscriptions, with four octagonal stone columns decorated with lotus flower platforms on which there is plainly engraved unicorn in each side, called “ roaring towards sky”. In each side are the engraved dragons playing legendary luminous pearl” on E’fang, with four characters “Jin Sheng Yu Zhen” on it, which were written by the famous calligrapher Hu Zuanzong in Ming Dynasty Jiaqing17th year (1538) whose calligraphy was very powerful. Behind the workshop is a single-arched stone bridge, with stone stages on its surface and under it runs Panshui. There are two steles behind it, which was set in Jingmingchang 2nd year (1191) and was engraved with “officials are supposed to come down from their horses here”, thus it got the name “Dismounting Stele”. In the past, common people were supposed to dismount here to show respect and even the emperor should do the same to sacrifice, which was a reflection of Confucius Temple’s reverence. 

Lingxing Gate

Lingxing, also called Tiantian Star, which was supposed to be sacrificed first when offering sacrifice to the gods, so the gate set in Confucius is called Lingxing to show the same importance of Confucius and gods. Lingxing Gate is behind Panshui Bridge, with stone pillar and iron girder on which there are 12 dragon-head valves; on the four round stone pillars painted Xiangyun and on the top is the general from heaven glowering to sit. Efang is made up with two flagstones engraved with Emperor Qianlong’s writing “Ling Xing Men”. Coming into Lingxing Gate, you can see two workshops, and the south one is Taihe Yuanqi workshop, with similar shape as Jinsheng Yuzhen workshop. The grand coordinator of Shandong, Zeng Xian wrote the inscription here to extol Confucius’ thought. The north one is Zhishengmiao workshop, made of white marble, with three rooms and four columns decorated with Xiangyun. The later generations chose “Virtue in the Universe”, “Doctrine at all times” to extol the profound influence of Confucius’ thought to our society. Thus, two symmetrical wooden memorial archways have been built on the two sides within the first courtyard of Confucius Temple.

Shengshi Gate

According to Mencius’ record, Confucius was the one most adaptable to the trend of the time among saints. Shengshi Gate was built in Ming Dynasty Yongle 13th year (1415), with three rooms and was enlarged into five ones, with three arches in it. It has bluish-tiled top, deep-red wall around and apricot pink inside, with engraved dragons on the stone stages. Looking into the archway, you will feel how deep and mysterious it is. Passing through Shengshi Gate, you can find thick ancient cypresses and green lawn. In the front are three archways, and a river running through it, with blue waves and lotus leaves in it as well as exquisitely engraved stone railings around. The bridge was called “Bishui Bridge” and has got two doors in the east and west: the east one is called “ Kuaidu Door”, which came from the meaning that “feeling delighted to see it as the first one”; the west one is “Yanggao Gate”, which came from the Analects to extol the profoundness of Confucius’ thought. This is the second door in Confucius Temple and in the past only the emperor was allowed to enter it from the front door while the common people can only come into the temple from Yanggao Gate.

Hongdao Gate

Hongdao Gate, to the north of Bishui Bridge, was the front door of Confucius Temple in Ming Dynasty Hongwu 10th year (1377) and got this name according to the Analects in Qing Dynasty Yongzheng 7th year to extol what Confucius did for expounding the doctrines of Yao, Shun, Yu, Tang as well as Civil and Military Mr. Zhou. Below the gate are two Yuan Steles: the east one, written with “evolution annals of previous dynasties in Qufu County”, has very high value as historical data; the west one is “Emperor Chushi’s gravestone” and has some value in calligraphy.

Dazhong Gate

Passing Dazhong Gate, you can enter No.4 courtyard in Confucius Temple. Dazhong Gate, originally called Zhonghe Gate, longer and narrower than Hongdao Gate, has five rooms in all and was the entrance gate of Confucius Temple in Song Dynasty. Afterwards, it got rebuilt and today’s gate was built in Qing Dynasty. There are two buildings on the corners with green tiles on two sides of the gate, which was built in Yuan Dynasty Zhishun 2nd year (1331) to make Confucius Temple as august as an imperial palace and has three rooms. These two imperial palaces together with two buildings in the north-east and north-west corner-building, are used for guarding.

Kuiwen Pavilion

Entering Dazhong Gate, you can see Tongwen Gate in the front, which has 7 rooms, with yellow tiles on the top and comfortable Dougong design. Coming through Tongwen Gate, you can see a tall pavilion rising up, and a wooden plaque under the eaves was written with “Kui Wen Pavilion”, which is the famous building of collected books in Confucius Temple, well-known for its rich books collected and unique architecture. It was built in Song Dynasty Tianxi 2nd year (1018) and called “Building of Collected Books”. In Mingchang 2nd year, Jin Zhangzong changed it into “Kuiwen Pavilion” while it was rebuilt. In Qing Dynasty Qianlong gave a new inscription. “Kui” is the name of the star, and the feudalism emperors in later dynasties named the building of collected books in Confucius Temple Kuiwen Pavilion for extolling Confucius. It is 23.35 meters high, 30.1 meters wide and 17.62 meters deep, with yellow tiles on the top, three-layer eaves and four-layer Dougong. It has reasonable structure and is extremely solid, which has been proved by many attacks and earthquake for hundreds of years since it was rebuilt in Ming Dynasty Hongzhi 17th year (1504). The big earthquake in Qianlong time had brought considerate destruction in Qufu, but Kuiwen Pavilion stood firmly, which had been recorded in Xibei Pavilion there. In front of the pavilion are two steles: the east one is “Ode of Kuiwen Pavilion”, which was composed by Li Dongyang, a famous poet in Ming Dynasty and written by famous calligrapher Qiao Zong; the west one is “Record of Rebuilding Kuiwen Pavilion”, which is about the things that emperor in Ming Dynasty Zhengde ordered the Ministry of Rites to rebuild the building of collected books.

Two imperial stele pavilions are in front of Kuiwen Pavilion and there are four altogether here, each of which is 6 meters high and 2 meters wide, with some exquisitely engraved dragons on the top, very lifelike. The epitaph is mainly about the reverence to Confucius. The outdoor “Stele for Rebuilding Confucius Temple” in the south-east was set up by Xianzong Zhu Jianshen in Ming Dynasty and its epitaph was also written to highly praise Confucius’ thought and was regular script, with dignified style and precise structure, thus well-known for its exquisite calligraphy. It was set in Chenghua 4th year (1468) and called “Chenghua Stele”. There are two unattached courtyards in the east and west part of the court here, called “Zhai Su”, and used to fast and bathe before sacrificing Confucius. The east yard is where “Mr. Yansheng” fasted and rested. In Qing Dynasty, emperors like Kangxi and Qianlong had bathed here before sacrificing Confucius; the west yard was where officials bathed and rested, who accompanied the emperor to sacrifice here and it had been disused in mid-Qing Dynasty, with the yard left only. In Qing Dynasty Daoguang period, Kong Zhaoxun, the 71st generation of Confucius collected over 130 steles from Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties and inlayed them into the wall of the courtyard, and changed its name into “ Stele Yard”. Some steles are fluent, and unrestrained whike some others are elegant and unvarnished, with quite a lot of high-quality ones.

Thirteen-stele Pavilion

Passing through Kuiwen Pavilion is the No.6 courtyard of Confucius Temple. Here stand 13 stele pavilions, 8 in the south and 5 in the north, with flying Dougong and Yanya, as well as yellow tiles. Thirteen-stele Pavilion was built specially for preserving imperial steles of feudalism emperors, and called “Pavilion of Imperial Steles”. It has 55 steles inside, which were engraved in Tang, Song, jin, Yuan, Ming, Qing dynasties and the Republic of China, mainly about the records like the condolence to Confucius, refit of the temple, etc. and were engraved Characters like Han, Basiba, Man, etc. The five stele pavilions in the south were built in Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong Period; the eight ones in the south were the architectures in Jin and Yuan dynasties; No. 3 and No. 6 from the east were built in Jin Dynasty Mingchang 6th year (1195) while No. 4 in Yuan Dynasty Yuanzhi 5th year (1268).

The two square stele pavilions of Jin Dynasty were the existent earliest architectures of Confucius Temple, very unrestrained and broad. The steles in each pavilion are mainly about a tortoise-like animal, called Bixi, which was said to be the son of the dragon. It is said that the dragon had nine sons altogether, and each is talented in some aspect. Bixi was good at bearing a heavy burden, so it was assigned to carry steles. The earliest steles in stele pavilion are two steles of Tang Dynasty: one was set in Tang Gaozong Zhangyuan year (688) while another in Tang Xuanzong Kaiyuan 7th year (719). The biggest one was set in Qing Dynasty Kangxi 25th year (1686) and is located in No. 3 stele pavilion from the east of the north row, which was with a weight of 35 tons and altogether about 65 tons if Bixi under the stele and drip pan were added.

This stone came from the Xishan Mountain of Beijing and it is quite amazing that in the technical condition of the time this stele could be transported to Qufu (1000 kilometers faraway) safely. In the south-east and south-west parts of this yard is a patch of jungle-like stele respectively. And inside the rails of the north wall is a large quantity of stones inscriptions, which were engraved when the emperors and ministers in past dynasties repaired and sacrificed the temples and were very distinctive from the point of calligraphy art. Some other steles recorded the situation about the Red-headband army in the end of Yuan Dynasty and some peasant revolt in the middle of Ming Dynasty, which offered very rare historical data for the research of peasant revolt. In the two side of the pavilion are East and West Hua Gate, which are also No.3 side-door of Confucius Temple.

Dacheng Gate

In the north of Thirteen-stele Pavilion is Dacheng Gate, which is No.7 Gate of Confucius Temple, with five paratactic doors inside. “Dacheng” was what Mencius commented on Confucius. He said: “Confucius can be said to be the one who has all the important achievements.” In this way, he extolled that Confucius had reached the highest state of ancient wisdom. With five doors open widely, the temple was divided into three routes: the east is Chengxian Gate, where the ancestors five generations earlier than Confucius were consecrated inside; the west is Qisheng Gate, with Confucius’ parents consecrated inside. The middle route was mainly used for offering sacrifice to Confucius and his wife, as well as people of virtue in previous dynasties. Thirteen-stele Pavilion was built gradually from Jin Dynasty, and skillful craftsmen made a full use of traditional architecture technique to solve the problem of structural space smartly.

Apricot Altar

“Apricot Altar” was said to be where Confucius gave lectures, which was recorded in “Fisherman chapter” of “Zhuangzi” first, “Confucius visited Ziwei and sat on Apricot Altar. He played the musical instrument while the students reading.” In Song Dynasty Tianxi 2nd year (1018), Kong Daofu, the 45th offspring of Confucius supervised the further building of Confucius Temple: to extend the main hall. In JinDynasty, the pavilion was first built on the altar and Dang Huaiying, the famous scholar at that time, wrote “Aprocot Altar” for it.

Liangwu

Liangwu, the houses in two sides of Dacheng Hall, was where the later generations consecrated the wisdoms and Confucianists of the ancestors, who were mainly famous characters of Confucian school, like Dong Zhongshu, Han Yu, Wang Yangming. There were over 20 of these people in Tang Dynasty, and until the Republic of China the number has reached 156. They were originally figures, and in Jin Dynasty were changed into statues; till Ming Dynasty Chenghua year all were changed into the wooden memorial tablets with name on it, consecrated in one and another shrines. Nowadays, stone inscriptions of previous dynasties are displayed in Liangwu. In East Wu over 40 inscriptions of Han, Wei, Sui, Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties have been preserved, among which the most precious are “ Inscriptions of Han, Wei and Beichao Dynaties”, 22 in all. The most famous West Han Inscription is “Wufeng”; the precious West Han inscriptions go to “Liqi”, “Yiying”, “Kongmiao”, and “Shichen”; among Beichao inscriptions, “Zhang Menglong” is the best one. In West Wu, over 100 “inscriptions of Han figures” are displayed, which are all well-known art treasures. These inscriptions have very rich stories, including not only Blue Dragon, White Tiger, Rosefinch, and Tortoise in mythology, but fishing, singing and dancing, acrobatics, doctoring as well as hunting which were the reflections of the contemporary social life. As to its technique, some are exquisite while others are bold and unconstrained. The 584 “Yuhong Building Inscriptions” in the north of Liangwu was done by the posterity of Confucius in Qing Dynasty Qianlong year: they collected the scripts of previous famous calligraphers and then copied them. 

Dacheng Hall

From the north of Apricot Altar, you can see a golden big hall high up on the stage of two-layer stone railing, with three golden characters “Da Cheng Hall” surrounded by gilded wooden engraved dragons on the blue erect plaque. The characters were written by Emperor Yongzheng of Qing Dynasty, with a diameter of one meter. Dacheng Hall is the main hall of Confucius Temple, 24.8 meter high, 45.78 meters wide and 24.89 meters deep, with grand eaves and yellow tiles, which, together with Taihe Hall in the Imperial Palace and Songtiankuang Hall in Dai Temple, were called “Three Great Halls in the East”. The big hall has neat and concise structure, with grand eaves and interlaced Dougongs, as well as pictures and sculptures on the walls and girder, resplendent and magnificent. Under the corrider, 28 stone pillars stand around, which were all made by the whole stones, with a height of 5.98 meters tall and an diameter of 0.81 meter, and were made by Huizhou craftsmen in Ming Dynasty Hongzhi 13th year (1500). In Qing Dynasty Yongzheng 2nd year it got re-engraved because of a fire. And 18 eight-ridge stone pillars in Liangshan and eaves behind are decorated with Yunlong, each side with 9 dragons and each pillar 72 ones. According to some circumspective craftsman, there were 1296 engraved dragons altogether. On the eaves in front are 10 pillars of deep relievo, two dragons on each pillar, hovering and with genuine pearl in its mouth. Ten dragon pillars are different from one to another, with each two face to face, which have very beautiful modelling and exquisite carving, very lifelike. This is the unique engraved art treasure in Qufu, and it was said that in Qing Dynasty when Emperor Qianlong came to Qufu to offer sacrifice to Confucius, the stone pillars were wrapped with red cloth for fear that it would be found by emperor and got punished. The architectural art of Dacheng Hall demonstrates the talent and wisdom of working people in our country, and got high praise from Guo Moruo, a very famous writer in modern times.

In the middle of Dacheng Hall is consecrated with Confucius statue, whose sitting height is 3.35 meters tall, with twelve-liu coronet on his head, and in twelve-zhang imperial costume. In the two sides are four supporting characters: in the east are Fu saint Yanhui and Shu saint Kong Ji while in the west are Zong saint Ceng Can and Ya Saint Meng Ke, whose sitting height are all 2.6 meters. Besides, there are 12 sages outside, i.e. Min Sun, Ran Yong, Duan Muci, Zhong You, Bu Shang, You Ruo, Ran Gen, Zai Yu, Ran Qiu, Yan Yan, Zhuan Sunshi and Zhu Xi, with a sitting height of 2 meters each. All the statues are put in the gilded wooden shrines. Confucius statue uses one shrine alone, with 13-cai Dougong, and one dragon engraved in front of each pillar, which is hovering around the pillar, with vivid gesture and exquisite carving, very beautiful. As to the four supporting characters and 12 sages, each two share a shrine, with 9-cai Dougong. In front of each shrine are altars and incense burner tables, on which are filled with some sacrificial vessels. In addition, some musical and dancing instruments for offering sacrificing to Confucius are displayed. Outside the hall are 10 plaques and three couplets, among which the middle one outside the door are “Sheng Min Wei You” inscribed by Emperor Yongzheng; the middle ones inside are “Wan Shi Shi Biao” by Emperor Kangxi and “Si Wen Zai Zi” by Emperor Guangxu; the one on the south wall is “Shi Zhong Li Ji” by Emperor Qianlong.
Every plaque is 6 meters long and 2.6 meters high, with gilded engraved dragons, exquisite and beautiful. The hall was built on two-layer base, connected with a terrace which is around 2 meters tall and 4.5 meters wide from east to west and 35 meters deep from south to north. The terrace was where singing and dancing during sacrifice were held, and now it is used for the performance of Baqiao Dancing at the time of Confucius’ birthday anniversary.

Resting Hall

Along the winding corridor of Dacheng Hall, you can find another big hall behind, surrounded by many railings, which is “Resting Hall”, one of the three great buildings of Confucius Temple and where Confucius’ wife was consecrated. It has 11 rooms in all, with gilded dragons and phoenixes on the walls. In the winding corridor, 22 stone pillars were engraved with phoenixes and peony, which just reflected the royal concubines system. In the hall, there are shrines, wooden engraved dragons and phoenixes, very exquisite, and in the shrines is a wooden memorial tablet on which was written with “memorial tablet of Confucius’ wife”.

Shengji Hall

Shengji Hall is a big hall where the stone-carved comic strip about Confucius’ whole life is preserved. It is located behind Sleeping Hall and is No. 9 courtyard of Confucius Temple. It was built in Ming Dynasty 20th year (1529) according to perpetual calendar under the charge of the censor He Chuguang. According to his advice, the original wood-carved pictures, which reflected Confucius’ story, were changed into stone inscriptions inlayed in the walls inside, which were “Shengji Drawing”, with 120 pictures altogether.

Each picture in Shengji Drawing is around 60 centimeters long and 38 centimeters wide, mainly about Confucius’ life, from his birth to his death, and 20 of which are about the sacrifice to Confucius by Han Gaozu Liubang and Song Zhenzong Zhao Hengyi. In this drawing, there are also well-known activities and sayings of Confucius, like “lumbering of Song people”, “tyranny is even more horrible than savage tiger”. It is the first comic strip of complete story in China, thus has very high historical and art values.

 

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