There was a sultry air hanging over the Four Beasts this morning, almost as if spring had passed by in the blink of an eye and summer had arrived. For the first time, I was able to capture a close-up of a butterfly along a hillside trail. A symbol of hope for the future perhaps. Or more likely just a lucky break. Continue reading Notes from the field: a sultry air hanging over the Four Beasts
Book 5 is a very different beast to the previous four books of the Analects. Rather than talk directly about the key values and principles of his teachings, Confucius focuses his attention on evaluating how well a dozen of his followers, four of his contemporaries, and eleven figures from the past live up to them.
There was plenty of action this morning at the weekly Sunday book market held at the Shanghai Confucius Temple. Plenty of blasts from the revolutionary past piled on the vendors’ tables as well. As I browsed through the books, comics, magazines, and other mementos, I felt like I was back in China as a student in the mid-1980s. There’s nothing like a touch of nostalgia to rejuvenate the body and mind.
Although the origins the Shanghai Confucius Temple go as far back as 1294, the complex has been moved to a number of different sites and undergone multiple reconstructions since that time. The current incarnation has a charming southern Chinese architectural style that’s easy on the eye. The graceful curves of its russet halls and pavilions stand in stark contrast to the towering steel and concrete blocks surrounding it. Continue reading Notes from the field: Sunday Book Market at Shanghai Confucius Temple
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. Continue reading 2019 Highlights: on the trail of the Duke of Zhou and the Yellow Emperor
From Wuzhen, I took a five-hour high speed train ride via the Shanghai Hongqiao station to Qufu in order to see the sights I missed during my first trip there a couple of years ago and visit the recently opened Confucius Museum.
The museum was impressive in architectural terms and had a fine collection of Shang and Zhou dynasty ritual vessels, but the scarcity of English language descriptions of the exhibits makes it hard work for overseas visitors who are unable to read Chinese. Continue reading 2019 highlights: Qufu Confucius Museum and LSEVs
No trip 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
The Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents has none of the stunning natural beauty of the ones dedicated to Mencius and his redoubtable mother. The tree count stands at a mere 467 compared to around 10,000 and 12,000 for the other two locations.
The cemetery is also nowhere near as old either. Construction on the main Sacrificial Hall began in 1179 and the complex only reached its current scale in 1755. Naturally, the main structures have also undergone extensive reconstruction and refurbishment over the centuries. Continue reading Notes from the field: the Cemetery of Confucius’s Parents
Read this new English translation of the Analects of Confucius Book 8 to learn more about the teachings of China’s most famous philosopher, including his thoughts on the qualities of the ancient sage kings who laid the foundations of Chinese civilization.
Confucius said: “It can truly be said of Tai Bo that he was a man of supreme virtue. Three times he gave up the throne of his state without giving the people the opportunity to praise him.”
Continue reading Analects of Confucius Book 8: new English translation
Shun (舜) was one of the five legendary sage kings of ancient China in the 23rd or 22nd century BCE. He reportedly ruled for nearly fifty years after the previous ruler Yao (堯) had abdicated in favor of him because of his higher virtue. Prior to his death, reputedly at the age of 100, he is said to have relinquished his throne to his successor, Yu (禹), who went on to establish the first recorded dynasty in China’s history, the Xia (夏朝). Continue reading Historical figures in the Analects of Confucius: Sage King Shun