Thursday, October 27, 2011
China - Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu
The Tomb of Confucius.
Sent by Zheng, a postcrosser from China.
The Qufu complex of monuments has retained its outstanding artistic and historic character owing to the devotion of successive Chinese emperors over more than 2,000 years. The system of belief that Confucius (551-479 BC) created was adopted as the pre-eminent ideology in feudal Chinese society for more than 2,000 years. Two years after the death of Confucius, Duke Gun of Lu consecrated his former house in Qufu as a temple, within which were preserved his clothing, musical instruments, carriage and books. The temple was rebuilt in AD 153, and it was repaired and renovated several times in subsequent centuries. In AD 611 the temple was again rebuilt, and this time the original three-room house effectively disappeared as a component of the complex. In 1012 during the Song dynasty it was expanded into three sections with four courtyards, containing over 300 rooms. It was devastated by fire and vandalism in 1214, but rebuilding was commenced, so that by 1302 it had attained its former scale. An enclosure wall was built in 1331, on the model of an imperial palace. Following another disastrous fire in 1499 it was rebuilt once again, to its present scale.
The gateway to the temple is flanked by cypresses and pines on either side. The main part is arranged on a central axis and has nine courtyards. The first three, with their small gates and tall pines, lead the visitor into the heart of the religious complex. From the fourth courtyard onwards, the buildings are stately structures with yellow-tiled roofs and red-painted walls, set off by dark green pines, epitomizing the profundity and harmony of Confucianism. Over 1,000 stelae recording imperial donations and sacrifices from the Han dynasty onwards are preserved within the temple, along with outstanding examples of calligraphy and other forms of documentation, all priceless examples of Chinese art. There are many fine carved stones, among the most important being the Han stone reliefs (206 BC-AD 220) and the stone pillars and carved pictures depicting the life of Confucius of the Ming dynasty.
When Confucius died in 479 BC he was buried on the bank of the Si River, beneath a tomb in the form of an axe, with a brick platform for sacrifices. When Emperor Wu Di of the Western Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 24) accepted proposals to 'eliminate the hundred schools of thought and respect only Confucianism', the tomb became an important place of veneration and pilgrimage. By the 2nd century AD more than 50 tombs of Confucius's descendants had accumulated around the main tomb, and stelae commemorating him began to be erected in 1244. In 1331 Kong Sihui began building the wall and gate of the Cemetery, and this work continued with the addition of gate towers, arches, pavilions, and the access road from the north gate of the city of Qufu (1594). The exterior gate of the Cemetery is connected with the north gate of Qufu by a straight road lined with cypresses and pines. There is a narrow walled enclosure leading to the second gate, which gives access to an open area containing grass, trees and a river; to the west, after crossing the Zhu River Bridge, the visitor comes upon the tomb of Confucius.
The descendants of Confucius lived and worked in the Kong Family Mansion, guarding and tending the temple and cemetery, and were given titles of nobility by successive emperors. The hereditary title of Duke Yan Sheng granted by Emperor Ren Zhong of the Song dynasty (960-1279) was borne by successive direct male descendants until 1935, when the title was changed to State Master of Sacrifice and First Teacher. The mansion follows the traditional Chinese layout, with the official rooms at the front and residential quarters at the rear. At its apogee in the 16th century, the mansion was made up of 170 buildings with 560 rooms, but only 152 buildings with 480 rooms survive. Many important cultural relics are preserved within the Mansion, including scrolls and paintings. The interior decor is that of the later Qing dynasty and the Republic of China (1912-49). (Source)