There’s a lot more to see than the usual stops on the standard Qufu tourist circuit of the Temple of Confucius, the Kong Mansion, and the Kong Forest. Not surprisingly, many of these sights are related to the Confucius, but if you’ve already imbibed too much sagely wisdom and history you can simply relax and enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the surrounding countryside.
Two spots that immediately spring to mind are the cemeteries of Mencius, second only to the sage himself in the Confucian pantheon, and his formidable mother, which I visited in October this year. Cemetery is probably the wrong word to describe these two places. Forest, the literal meaning of the Chinese word (林/lín), is a much more appropriate name because the graves of son and mother and a few other notables and relatives are surrounded by pristine woods comprising cypress, oak, elm, and maple trees that go back as far as two thousand years.
Even though the Mencius Cemetery and the Cemetery of Mencius’s Mother are only a thirty-minute ride from the center of Qufu, neither location attracts many visitors. I had both places virtually to myself when I went there. You can read more about them here.
Nearby the Mencius Cemetery is the mysterious Hanlu Mausoleum (汉鲁王墓) on Jiulongshan/Nine Dragon Mountain (九龙山) that features cliffside tombs of the kings of the ancient state of Hanlu. According to the limited information available, there are a number of such sites scattered around the area housing the graves of ten or perhaps twelve of the state’s fourteen monarchs. They are believed to have been built during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE to 9 AD).
The Jiulongshan site is home to four of the tombs, two of which were blocked off because they were undergoing excavation/restoration. There were no artifacts to see in the two that were open to visitors, but there was plenty to admire in terms of the amazing engineering that must have been required to build them. Not to mention, of course, the blood, sweat, and tears of the slave or conscripted labor tasked with completing the project.
The climb up to the tombs by a stone staircase takes around twenty minutes. It was definitely worth the effort.