Confucius is one of histories greatest philosophers and teachers and in the same league as famous western philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras and Socrates.
Born in 551BC, Confucius is China’s most influential philosopher and educator. The morals and principles of his philosophy are an integral part of values and ideology of modern Chinese society. He has been revered by the common people, emperors and leaders alike for thousands of years and a number of temples have been built all over China in his name.
The Confucian Temple in Beijing is the second largest Confucian temple in the world and only surpassed by a larger temple in Qufu, the home town of Confucius. Located near the center of Beijing, the Confucius Temple provides a marvellous insight into the world of Confucius and his influence on modern China.
Construction on the temple began in 1302, the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Dade of the Yuan Dynasty and was completed in 1306. The temple was enlarged, restored and rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty and again during the Ming Dynasty.
Grounds and Layout
The grounds of the Confucius Temple cover 22,000 square meters and are a made up of several courtyards and buildings laid out on a central axis. The main buildings on the central axis are the Xian Shi Gate, Da Cheng Gate, Da Cheng Hall and Chong Sheng Memorial Temple. There are also two rows of smaller buildings on the left and right side of the grounds.
Xian Shi Gate (Gate of the Master) – This gate houses the ticket office and the security checkpoint that tourist pass through to enter the temple.
Da Cheng Gate (Gate of Great Success) – This gate is also called the Halberd Gate because 24 of the ancient Halberd weapons that are displayed inside.
Da Cheng Hall (Hall of Great Success) – The main building in the temple and it is in this building that Confucius was enshrined and worshiped by China’s Emperors.
Chong Sheng Memorial Temple – This hall was not built until 1531 during the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty. The hall was used for offering sacrifices to five generations of Confucius’s ancestors. The Confucius Temple performances are given on the steps of this temple.
History of Confucius Display Room – This is a long narrow building on the right side of the second courtyard. The room displays extensive information on the life and history of Confucius, his family, his accomplishments and his back ground. I found a display of his family tree very interesting because it only shows male descendants. This simple omission says a lot about Confucian philosophy and values.
Development of Confucianism Display Room – On the left hand side of the second courtyard is a room displaying information on the development and state of Confucianism in China and around the world in past and present times. There is a lot of information on the importance in the modern world of the values and ideas taught by Confucius.
There were several congratulatory references to compliments and praise made by Nobel Prize winners to Confucianism. Very ironic considering the current status the 2011 Nobel Peace price winner has in China.
I saw at least three primary school groups in the Confucius Temple when I was there and over heard one teacher lecturing his students on the values of Confucius in their studies. The Chinese education system clearly places a lot of emphasis on a 2,500 year old philosophy and its teachings.
Classical Chinese Music House – This is a small building to the left of Da Cheng Hall that has been converted to a shop selling food, ornaments and jade furniture. I found a lovely jade table and chairs in the shop that would have been great to take back home.
Jin Shi Stone Tablets – Jin Shi is a name for scholars who successfully passed the examination system in Imperial China. The examinations were a prerequisite for work in the government’s vast bureaucracy and passing these exams was considered a great honour and accomplishment.
198 stone tablets have been erected at the front and rear of the temple’s entrance courtyard that list examination results of 51,624 Jin Shi from the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Interestingly this examination and selection process continued until 1905.
Stone Stele Pavilions – 14 pavilions have been built in the temple’s first and second courtyards that house stone steles (tablets) recording historical information on ancient China. Some examples of these records are the successful suppression of a riot in Qinghai in 1725 and the completion of a renovation in the Confucius Temple in 1769.
Performances are often held in the front of the Chong Cheng Memorial Temple that last for around 20 minutes. I’m not sure what relationship if any the performances have with the teachings or life of Confucius but they are enjoyable to watch and the period costumes are very cute.
Unlike most travel spots in Beijing, the performances are not shown at regular times to all tourists. The performances are only held for large tour groups who purchase VIP tickets to the Confucius Temple. If you are keen on watching a performance, I suggest you discretely tag long with a large tour group when they enter the Chong Cheng Memorial Hall. This is how I accidentally crashed a performance.
Take the subway to Yonghegong station which is at the intersection of subway lines 5 and lines 2. Leave the station using the C exit, turn left and walk several hundred meters. You will know if you have gone to far if you reach the entrance of Lama Temple.
After several hundred meters you will see a road on the right called Guozijian street. Go down that road and the temple will be on the right had side. If you have trouble finding the temple, ask a local where the “kong miao” is. You will have no problem finding people who will point you in the right direction.
Tickets and Times
The tickets are 30rmb each and the opening times are 8:30 to 6:00pm with no tickets sold after 5:30pm.