Walking around the center of modern-day Qufu, it can be difficult to appreciate the influence that this small city had on the early political and cultural development of China. Not only is it said to be the home of the legendary Yellow Emperor, one of the mythical five Emperors who is regarded by some as the creator of Chinese culture. It also wielded tremendous soft power during the Zhou dynasty as the capital of the state of Lu, which was granted to Confucius’s great hero, the Duke of Zhou, as a fiefdom by the grateful young King Cheng for the dedication he showed in building the foundations of the nascent dynasty during his regency.
Although the duke never actually visited Qufu because he had far more important affairs at the Zhou court to take care of, his association with the city elevated its importance to previously unimaginable heights. The construction of a magnificent temple to honor him further helped to promote the image of Qufu throughout the land and to enable the state of Lu to punch above its weight on the Zhou dynasty political and cultural stage.
Not surprisingly, Confucius was a regular visitor to the temple, soaking up the grand rituals held there. In Chapter 15 of Book 3 and Chapter 21 of Book 10 of the Analects, he is described as constantly asking questions about what was happening around him whenever he went there.
It’s not just the historical importance of the Duke of Zhou Temple that make it a must-see when you visit Qufu. Its splendid architecture and beautiful grounds give you a sense of the solemnity and grandeur that once attracted Confucius and host of other Zhou dynasty notables to honor the legacy of one of the greatest heroes in China’s long history. You can read more about the temple here.
If you’re interested in exploring even deeper into Qufu’s – and indeed China’s – past, you should also fit in an excursion to Shouqiu, an arresting stone-clad pyramid honoring the Yellow Emperor, and the nearby tomb of his son or nephew Shaohao. This complex is located in the village of Jiuxian on the outskirts of the city, less than half-an-hour from the center. You can read more about it here.