Travel Report: Qufu – Shandong Province, China.
July 2009. The Chinese town of Qufu is one of the top sights in Shandong Province. After all, this is the hometown of Confucius, arguably the world’s most revered philosopher. As a result, thousands of people flock here every day to pay their respects to the old sage. Consequently, this pocket-sized town, with a population of just sixty thousand, can barely cope with the strain. Still, away from the madness of Qufu’s Confucius attractions, one can still seek out a taste of local life. Work your way into the city’s back streets and you’ll find restaurant owners fanning barbecues and circles of chain-smoking men playing cards.
“Chinese people so crazy for Confucius!”
giggled the receptionist at Qufu International Youth Hostel. She wasn’t kidding. The real reason, the only reason one might argue, for coming to Qufu was to check out San Kong, the town’s three hallowed Confucius sights.
Spread out across a walled complex of 16000 square meters, Confucius World (as I like to call it), is so vast it actually takes up one fifth of Qufu’s total land mass! This is the temple area, a wondrous mix of stone courtyards, towering trees, crumbling bridges and a green, algae-infested stream.
I remember the leaflet that came with my ticket telling me that there were 466 buildings and pavilions dotted around San Kong. I think I ducked into around a dozen or so, the most memorable of which served as an old man’s art studio. Among the paintings and bric-a-brac sat a bunch of handmade fans. They were simplistic but handsome things and with a sudden rush of blood to the head I decided to purchase one.
Qufu, Shandong Province, China.
To my delight, the old man proceeded to decorate my fan with a handwritten Confucius quote in black ink. He then asked me my name and dipped his calligrapher’s pen back into the pot. And so he proceeded to apply the word Leighton across the breadth of the fan in both English and Chinese. Finally, satisfied with his penmanship, he applied his official stamp and the job was done.
The forest section of San Kong features a wonderful nature trail that eventually takes you far away from the maddening crowds. Before escaping, you should at least check out Confucius’ tomb, where the salivating masses push and shove each other around as they jostle for prime photo positions.
Aside from Confucius mania, there wasn’t much to do in Qufu. Nevertheless, I did hire a rickshaw for a one hour tour around the town and its outskirts. The driver was really friendly and, God bless him, seemed intent on trying to teach me some Chinese.
For more on my adventures in Qufu, have a look at my short story Take No Notice.
You can also leaf through my other reports from around Shandong Province.
Like these? Then why not check out my zillion articles from across China.
And I’ve written a short story series called Challenged In China.
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