Renowned as Confucius’ birthplace, Qufu offers insight into fascinating Chinese culture.
For much of his life, Confucius lived in poverty, and the original temple site was once home to a simple cottage and teaching area.
Qufu is small in size, yet big in heart. Best known as the hometown of Confucius, it also provides a sanctuary to recuperate the body and soul. Confucius might have been prophesising about himself when he said, “By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.” Despite having lived around 2,500 years ago, his ideas profoundly influenced not just China, but also Japan, Korea, Vietnam and indeed the world.
Situated on the bank of the Yi River in the city centre, Shangri-La Hotel, Qufu is the city’s first luxury hotel, providing a tasteful blend of modern amenities and traditional architecture, not to mention stunning views overlooking the old town. The main tourist sites are known locally as the ‘Three Kongs’ and enjoy UNESCO World Heritage status.
Early risers are greeted at the Confucius Temple with the daily opening ceremony held at 8 a.m. After a procession departs the temple down to the main thoroughfare, dancers perform a show that embodies Confucius’ ‘Six Arts’ that comprise rites, music, archery, chariot racing, calligraphy and mathematics.
For much of his life, Confucius lived in poverty, and the original temple site was once home to a simple cottage and teaching area. After his ideas gained state acceptance with the ascendance of the Han Dynasty in 206 BC, successive emperors stamped their mark and the complex mushroomed in size. A series of gates break the approach, followed by stone steles commemorating various emperors, including Kublai Khan, written in ancient Mongolian. Dacheng Hall is the main building used to worship Confucius, and in front lies the Apricot Pavilion where he is believed to have taught students.
Direct descendants of Confucius enjoyed royal patronage and its accompanying wealth and power. Originally, they lived within the Temple complex, the first mansion of which was built during the Song Dynasty. Hongwu, the first Ming emperor, ordered its relocation to the current site. Many of the 560 rooms and halls today are the result of the 1503 rebuild. The direct male Kong line lived in the mansion until 1937, when the 77th-generation descendants fled to Chongqing during the Sino-Japanese war.
Located outside the city wall, the Cemetery of Confucius contains the tomb of the great philosopher and more than 100,000 of his descendants. For those with time on their hands, it is a tranquil place to wander through, where in summer a veritable sea of flowers envelops the burial mounds. Electric carts are available to whiz visitors through the walled-in wooded grounds to the tomb of Confucius. It is approached, like the tomb of an emperor, along a spirit way flanked by stone statues of animals and officials. Accompanying him are the tombs of his son and grandson.
One must-try is the Kong family cuisine. Influenced by offerings served in the Confucius Mansion, the fare favoured by royals combines Shandong cooking with that of the southern Huaiyang School and imperial influences. Shang Palace at Shangri-La Hotel, Qufu lifts this art to new heights and embellishes it with modern flourishes.
Confucius said, “Food can never be too good and cooking can never be done too carefully.” This sentiment is embodied in dishes such as ‘Wisdom Frees Perplexity’, where bone-in succulent pork ribs are embellished with a scallion stalk. Legend says the dish was created to pass messages during the first emperor’s campaign against books and scholars.
The hotel’s interior reflects the three key principles of Confucian philosophy – order, harmony and hierarchy – and is based on the Six Arts. After enjoying the property’s world-class facilities and landscaped gardens, the nearby Confucius Six Arts City uses modern multimedia displays to showcase his teachings – a valuable experience for anyone interested in learning more about the legendary sage of sages.