To the east of the Temple of Confucius is the Kong Family Mansion, a sprawling residential complex that was home to the direct descendants of the sage since it was first built in 1038.
The mansion was relocated to its current site in 1377 under the instructions of the first Ming Dynasty emperor, and since then has undergone multiple renovations and expansions, most notably in 1503, 1838, and 1886. The last member of the Kong Family to live there moved to Chongqing in 1937 to escape from the invading Japanese and subsequently fled in Taiwan during the civil war.
The Kong family received generous financial support from successive Chinese emperors for the upkeep of the mansion and for carrying out various ceremonies at the temple honoring the sage. It enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle not just as a result of its imperial connections but also the wealth it accumulated from its extensive landholdings and the prestige conferred by its name.
After being repressed during the Cultural Revolution, the Kong family has made quite a comeback over the past few years as China has sought to revive the teachings of Confucius. At the last count, there have been over two million names recorded in the Kong family genealogy spanning 83 generations – making it the world’s the world’s largest documented family tree. That’s quite an achievement for a man who had only one son and two daughters, one of whom probably died at a very early age.
The Kong Family Mansion is pleasant enough to poke around in and provides an interesting glimpse into the gilded lifestyle led by the landed Chinese gentry. Whether Confucius himself would have approved of the extravagance of his descendants is quite another story!