Chinese name: Qufu Kong Miao, Kong Lin, Kong Fu
English name: Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu
Approval Date: December 1994
Category: Cultural heritage
Selection criteria: According to cultural and natural heritage selection criteria C(I)(IV)(VI), the Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu was included in the World Heritage List.
Portrait of Confucius
Assessment of the World Heritage Committee:
Confucius was a great philosopher, statesman and educator during the Spring and Autumn Period of China between the 6th to 5th century B.C., and his temple, cemetery, and house are located in Qufu, Shandong Province. To commemorate him, the Temple of Confucius was built in 478 B.C. Over the centuries, the Temple of Confucius was destroyed and re-established many times, and today it has been developed into an architectural complex of more than 100 temples. The Cemetery of Confucius is not only where Confucius is buried, but also the final resting place of over 100,000 of his descendants. Confucius' original house has now been expanded into a large and celebrated mansion, with 152 temples. The distinctive artistic and historical features of the ancient architectural complex in Qufu should be attributed to the Chinese emperors’ great esteem for Confucius in the past 2,000 years.
The Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion is located in Qufu of Shandong Province in northern China, and is also known as the "Three Kong." The "Three Kong" includes the temples, tombs and mansions of Confucius and his descendants, and covers a total area of about 3,500 mu. It is a large architectural complex with nearly 1,000 buildings.
The Temple of Confucius lies at the south gate of Qufu, and is the temple enshrining Confucius. The temple is the model of over 2,000 Confucian temples across China, North Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and the United States. It is said that the Temple of Confucius was first built in 478 B.C. and there were only three houses at that time. Through continual construction, it was gradually developed into a large architectural complex with over 100 temples and 460 rooms, covering an area of about 95,000 square meters. In terms of scale, the Temple of Confucius is the second largest ancient architectural complex that exists in China, next to the Imperial Palace, and it can also be called the model of large-scale ancient temple architecture in China.
The overall design of the Temple of Confucius is very successful. A road was paved in front of the temple, with Chinese junipers planted on both sides, giving people a solemn atmosphere and feeling of great reverence. The main body of the temple runs through a central axis, creating a symmetrical and rigorous layout. There are nine interlinking courtyards from the front to back, and the first three are guiding courtyards, which only have a few small rooms. The pines and cypresses grow in the courtyards in rows, creating a clear and tranquil atmosphere with the shade. The deep and quiet aisles between the towering pines and cypresses not only gives people a feeling of the temple’s long history, but also reflects the profoundness of Confucius’s sayings. There are also writings on horizontal inscribed boards on the archways that highly praise Confucius' great achievements, giving people strong impressions and inspiring great reverence for Confucius. Beginning from the fourth courtyard, the buildings are majestic with yellow tiles, red walls, and green trees that complement each other beautifully, reflecting the broad and profound feeling of Confucianism and Confucius’ great achievements. The two buildings to the east and west, which are 166 meters long and used for worshipping famous Confucian philosophers, shows the long history of Confucianism.
The Temple of Confucius has over 100 buildings which contain over 460 rooms in total, and the total area of the ancient architectural complex is about 16,000 square meters. The key buildings include the stone-tablet pavilions of the Jin and Yuan dynasties, the Library of the Confucian Family, Apricot Pavilion, Deyang Tiandi Pavilion of the Ming Dynasty, and the Hall of Great Achievements and Resting Hall re-constructed in the Qing Dynasty. The design of the Gold-Tablet Pavilion inherited many architectural traditions from the Song Dynasty. The arches are thinly scattered, with the length decreasing from oval arches to Ling arches to regular arches. The arches in different areas have similar appearances. The design of the Temple’s main hall is a rare example of the regular architectural designs of the Song and Jin dynasties. Buildings including the Hall of Great Achievements, the Resting Hall, Library of the Confucian Family, Apricot Pavilion, and Dacheng Gate are mixed structures of stone and wood. The layout and details of the arches are very delicate and the number of arches varies in different areas. The distance between every two arches and the length of these arches vary as well. In order to remedy the sense of vacancy, even the regular arms, long arms and oval arms have been lengthened. These are the unique features of the architecture in the Temple of Confucius.
The Temple of Confucius has a collection of 1,044 tablets from various dynasties including the records of emperors granting titles to Confucius after his death, the records of emperors repairing the temple, and the poems, articles and inscriptions written by ancient emperors, officials and scholars. The languages of these tablets include Chinese, Mongolian, the Phags-pa script, and the Manchu language. In addition, the styles of calligraphy include regular script, cursive script, official script and seal script. The tablets are precious historic materials for studying the politics, economy, culture and art of feudal society. The tablets include over 20 inscribed in the Han Dynasty, and the Temple of Confucius is also the place with the largest collection of tablets from the Han Dynasty. The Yi Ying Tablet, Li Qi Tablet, Kong Qi Tablet and Shi Chen Tablet are masterpieces of the Han Dynasty’s official script, and the Zhang Menglong Tablet and Jia Shijun Tablet are masterpieces of the Wei style of calligraphy. The temple also has the calligraphy works of great artistic merits written by Sun Shifan, Mi Fu, Dang Huaiying, Zhao Meng, Zhang Qiyan, Li Dongyang, Dong Qichang and Weng Fanggang, the inscriptions written by Yuan Haowen and Guo Zijing, and the “Yu Hong Tower” calligraphy works written by Kong Jisu and later inscribed on 584 tablets. The tablets of the Temple of Confucius are priceless treasures of China’s ancient calligraphy.
The famous stone artworks in the Temple of Confucius include the stone reliefs from the Han Dynasty, the carved stone columns from the Ming and Qing dynasties, and the Pictorial Biography of Confucius carved in the Ming Dynasty. Among them, there are more than 90 stone reliefs from the Han Dynasty that contain rich and extensive themes, including both the records of people's social lives and the historical stories and tales of legends. There is a variety of carving techniques, including the relief and carving of painted lines. The reliefs were carved deeply or shallowly and have smooth or rough surfaces. Some have strict and refined styles and some have rough and bold styles. In addition to natural and smooth lines, the design of the sculptures is also graceful and beautiful.
There are a total of 74 carved stone columns from Ming and Qing dynasties including 56 carved using the painted line carving technique and 18 high reliefs. The patterns on the 56 stone sculptures are mostly small pictures of clouds and dragons, phoenixes, and peonies that were carved in the seventh year of the reign of Emperor Yongzheng during the Qing Dynasty. The peonies, pomegranates, lotuses and other flowers were carved on the Shrine of the Great Wise Men, which honored the ancestors of Confucius. It has a perfect composition, and dates from the 17th year of reign of Emperor Hongzhi in the Ming Dynasty. The finest stone sculptures are the columns embossed with the design of dragons. The 10 columns in front of the Dacheng Hall are very tall, with each being six meters high. The two columns of the Shrine of the Great Wise Men have high artistic value, with the dragons looking vigorous and vivid and the clouds looking lively. In addition, the stone steps carved in low relief in front of the Shengshi Gate, Dacheng Gate and Dacheng Hall also have very high artistic value.
The Pictorial Biography of Confucius was finished in the 20th year of the reign of Emperor Wanli in the Ming Dynasty. It was collated by Mao Fengji, a student of the Confucius Institute in Qufu, illustrated by Yang Zhi, an artist from Yangzhou, and carved on the stone by stonecutters from Suzhou in cursive script. There are a total of 120 pictures, vividly describing Confucius' life. It is one of the oldest picture-and-story books in China and has very high historical and artistic value. In 2,000 years, the Temple of Confucius has been destroyed and rebuilt many times but never abandoned. With the government's protection, it was developed from Confucius’s house into a large architectural complex which can match imperial palaces. The long history and abundant historical records concerning the architectural complex are incomparable in the entire world.