Each time I am in Beijing I try to pay a visit to the Temple of Confucius. Since the late ’80 the temple has changed; the roofs after restoration are no longer covered by grass … but this didn’t change the spirit of the Temple. When the weather is sunny one can sit for hours between the century old cypresses reading a book or just listen to the silence.
During summer 2016 important changes were made offering new permanent exhibitions which I will decsribe below.
How to get there?
The Temple of Confucius and the Imperial College are in walking distance from the Lama Temple. During a one – day visit these places could be visit one after the other.
The best way to go there is to take the subway either Line 2 or 5.
Lines 2 (3 Exits) and 5 (4 Exits) have different Exits but can all be used through interchange passageways. In total there are thus 7 Exits which makes it not easier to find the right one. The most convenient Exit is Exit C (southeast) on Yonghegong Street.
Cross Yonghegong Street turn left and walk south about 300 meters, then at Guozijian Street turn right and walk 100 meters and at the right side of the street you will find the entrance of the Temple of Confucius.
The Temple of Confucius is the second largest Temple of Confucius. It was originally built in 1302 thereafter additions were made during the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Temple has been restored recently. It has a total area of 22.000 square meters. The largest Temple of Confucius is located in Qufu, Shandong Province where Confucius is buried.
When entering the Temple of Confucius (picture 1) we see at the right and left stone tablets containing 51,624 names of Jinshi (进士) successful candidates in the highest imperial examination Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.
Walking in front in the middle before the gate is a statue of Confucius (picture2).
The Qianlong Stone Stele Collection of the thirteen Classics
It is not evident to find the Qianlong Stele Collection Hall many people will miss the visit. The entrance is located at the left end side of the Temple of Confucius follow the toilet sign!
The stone stele collection consists of 189 stone steles. They stood originally in the 6th classroom of the imperial College for the students to read and copy the text for handwriting exercise.
These Stone Steles were chiseled by Jiang Heng (1672 – 1742) at the time of Emperor KangXi of the Qing Dynasty. It took him 12 years to complete the writing of the 630,000 characters.
The thirteen Classics comprise in particular: The Book of Changes (I Ching), The Rites of the Zhou, etc and three versions of the “Spring and Autumn Annals”, one annotated version by Tso, one by Kung Yang and one by Ku Liang.
Do not touch the steles seems to say Zilu 子路 (542-480) ready to use his sword!
Zilu 子路, actual name Zhong You仲由 (also sometimes referred to as Zhong Zilu仲子路 or Jilu 季路) was one of the ten wise disciples of Confucius (Kong men shi zhe 孔門十哲).
The yard has a number of very old cypresses. One of them has been planted 700 years ago by Xu Heng the President of Guo Zi Jian during the Yuan Dynasty (1206 – 1368).
The tree is called Chujian Bai (触奸柏):literal translation touch traitor cypress. Its name comes from an ancient legend. It is said that during the Ming Dynasty, one day an official called Yan Song came to worship Confucius on behalf of the emperor. When he passed by the cypress one of the branches was taken off by the wind and took his hat off. Yan Song was a treacherous official and from that moment people believed that the tree had the ability to distinguish treacherous from loyal officials.