No visit to Qufu should be complete without a visit to the Temple of the Duke of Zhou. The traditional Zhou dynasty rituals that were carried out at the temple in honor of Confucius’s great hero were the primary source of inspiration for the sage’s philosophy and teachings. They provided the living and breathing symbols that fueled his calls for a return to the golden age at the beginning of the Zhou dynasty when China reached its zenith under the duke’s wise and benign leadership.
The Duke of Zhou (周公) was the fourth son of King Wen of Zhou (周文王), the spiritual founder of the Zhou dynasty. He played an instrumental role in helping his second oldest brother, King Wu (周武王), to defeat the Shang dynasty (商朝) at the Battle of Muye (牧野之戰) in around 1046 BCE and formally establish the dynasty. Continue reading Notes from the field: the Temple of the Duke of Zhou→
Like the Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents, the Zhusi Academy probably isn’t on the must-see list for Qufu, but it’s worth checking out if you have the time.
The Zhusi Academy marks the place where Confucius is said to have taught and edited ancient canonical texts, including the so-called Five Classics (1) and the Book of Music, after returning to his home state of Lu in 484 BCE after spending fourteen years in exile. It provides an elegant and graceful symbol of the importance attached to learning in Chinese culture. Continue reading Notes from the field: Zhusi Academy→
Unable to find a taxi or bus to my hotel from the Confucius Museum in Qufu, I had just about reconciled myself to a long walk back when an old guy driving a small red contraption beeped his horn from behind and asked me if I wanted a ride.
It was only when I got inside the cramped rear of it that I realized I was sitting in a so-called LSEV (Low Speed Electric Vehicle). These small battery-powered vehicles are mainly manufactured in Shandong province, of which Qufu is the capital, and are touted by some observers such as David Li and Clayton Christenson for their disruptive potential because of their low cost (below $5,000), ease of design and manufacturing, and multiple potential last-mile mobility applications. It is estimated that 1.75 million LSEVs were sold in China in 2017. Continue reading Notes from the field: checking out the potential of LSEVs→
One of the most delightful surprises I had on my first trip to Qufu a couple of years ago was an unplanned visit to the Temple of Mencius, second only to Confucius in the Confucian Pantheon. This time I decided to double down by taking a trip out to see his tomb at the Mencius Cemetery and the tomb of his redoubtable mother at the Cemetery of Mencius’ Mother.
A great pleasure to visit the ancient water town of Wuzhen for the first time and take a brief stroll among the beautiful old buildings that line its picturesque lanes and charming canals.
Wuzhen owed its bustling prosperity during the Soong, Yuan, and Ming dynasties to its location along the Grand Canal, which was once the main trade route connecting Hangzhou and Beijing. Nowadays, much of its economy is dependent on the tourist industry. Following major renovations that were completed in 2013, it now reportedly receives over 1.5 million visitors per year. Continue reading Notes from the field: the ancient water town of Wuzhen→
曾子曰：「以能問於不能，以多問於寡，有若無，實若虛，犯而不校，昔者吾友，嘗從事於斯矣。」 Zengzi said: “Capable but willing to listen to those who are not capable; talented but willing to listen to those without talent; viewing having as the same as not having; viewing fullness as the same as emptiness; accepting insults without bearing a grudge: long ago, I had a friend who practiced these things.”
As much as I’ve enjoyed my regular trips to Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen this year, the real highlights of my travels to China have been visits to some of the country’s so-called Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, including Hangzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Huia’an, and Huzhou.
To say that I was impressed with the progress that these lesser-known hinterland cities are making in developing modern infrastructures and building new industries would be a gross understatement. No matter whether it’s electric vehicles, renewable energy, biotech, New Retail, or New Manufacturing, they are leading the way in driving innovation on a massive scale that is already starting to impact global markets. Continue reading 2018 China travels: New Retail and New Manufacturing in Hangzhou→
One very good reason to study the Analects of Confucius and the Daodejing is that, for all the archaic and in the latter case mystic language they feature, these two ancient works focus on providing practical solutions to real-world problems.
Unlike many of the works in the Western philosophical cannon, neither text features an agonized search for a universal “truth” or any promises of eternal salvation for ascribing to the “right” set of values or behaving in the “correct” manner. Instead, they are concerned with dealing with the challenges of the here and now, exploring how you can improve your character to make a greater contribution to the stability and prosperity of your family, community, and society overall. Continue reading Situational leadership in the Analects and the Daodejing→