Qufu lies in Shandong Province of China. As the birthplace of China’s most revered sage, Qufu occupies a hallowed place in the minds of not only the Chinese, but also the legions of Japanese and Koreans who come here on pilgrimage. In September the city comes alive during the annual festival that celebrates Confucius’s birthday. Although the sage lived in relative obscurity, his descendents dwelt in the grand Confucius Mansion in the heart of city. Wielding immense political authority and wealth, the Kong family – referred to by the Chinese as the First Family Under Heaven – built a palatial mansion occupying over 40 acres. Arranged on a traditional north-south axis, the mansion is divided into residential and administrative quarters, with a temple in the east and a garden at the rear. Most of the halls date from the Ming era. The Gate of Double Glory in the north was used for the emperor’s visits, while to the east stands the Tower of Refuge, where the family assembled in times of strife.
Next to the mansion, the Confucius Temple is a lengthy complex of memorial gateways, courtyards, halls, stele pavilions, auxiliary temples, gnarled cypresses, and ancestral shrines. Originally a simple shrine in 478 BC, the year after Confucius’s death, the temple grew gradually over the centuries before suddenly expanding during the Ming and Qing eras. Beyond the entrance stand 198 stone steles, listing the names of as many as 50,000 successful candidates in the imperial examinations, during the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Some are supported on the backs of mighty bixi, primitive, turtle-like Loong. A long succession of gateways leads to the 11th century Kuiwen Pavilion, a triple-roofed building. Confucius instructed his disciples from the Apricot Pavilion, accessed through the Great Achievements Gate. On top of a marble terrace with columns that are elaborately carved with dragons, the Great Achievements Hall (Dacheng Dian) forms the temple’s splendid nucleus. Beyond, the Hall of the Sage’s Relics houses carved stone plates with scenes from the sage’s life. The Lu Wall in the eastern section is where one of his descendents hid his books to save them from Qin Shi Huang (The first emperor of Qin Dynasty, 259-210 BC), who wished to burn them. The books were rediscovered during the Han era.
In the north of city, the walled Confucius Forest contains the grave of Confucius and other members of the Kong clan. The forest is mostly pines and cypresses interspersed with shrines and tombstones.
Not far south of Qufu, Zoucheng (now a city), is the hometown of Mencius (372 – 289 BC), the Confucian philosopher, second in importance only to Confucius himself. The tranquil Mencius Temple consists of 64 halls set around five large courtyards. As in Qufu, the philosopher has a Mansion and Graveyard.