Exploring Qufu, Home of Confucius…走进曲阜

Posted in Travel Log (Asia) at 10:18 am by Benjamin Ross

My first taste of Qufu (both literally and figuratively) arrived in tortilla form.  Qufu residents often prefer to eat their food wrapped up in flour tortillas, called 单饼 (dan1 bing3) as opposed to consuming other staples such as rice, noodles, or mantou.
For a more detailed explanation on the 单饼 making process, check out this post on Ji Village News.
Qufu is also known for its 孔府菜, or Confucius family food.  This is the Confucius tofu.  I wasn’t particularly impressed.
Qufu is famous for being the home of the Confucius Family Mansion, Confucius Forest, and the Confucius Temple.  It is also one of the most well-preserved ancient Chinese wall cities I have ever visited.  However, I must say Pingyao still takes the cake in this department.
Aside from the historical relics, Qufu has a lively downtown walking street chalked full of excellent dive restaurants and street vendors.  Everything goes for dirt cheap prices, even by Chinese standards.
I wasn’t particularly impressed by the Confucius Family Mansion.
As the name indicates, it wasn’t Confucius himself who lived here. but rather his descendants who for many years were one of the most wealthy aristocratic families in China.
One theme I felt throughout my entire visit to Qufu was an abnormally vast amount of greenery for a Chinese city.  This is the garden in the back of the Confucius Mansion.
For the most part, Qufu’s city wall is almost entirely still intact.  The wall and the moat surround the entire perimeter of the city.
more wall
The highlight of my Qufu trip was the drizzly afternoon I spent in the Confucius Forest.
The Confucius Forest has functioned as the cemetery for the Kong family for over 2000 years.
Members of the Kong clan are still buried in the Confucius Forest today.  When I asked locals what percentage of the population of Qufu are Kongs, I heard estimates ranging anywhere from one fifth to sixty percent.
Throughout the forest are scattered clusters of gravestones.  Each cluster is demarked by generations of Confucius’ progeny.  So for example, one cluster might contain only members of the 71st generation of Confucius’ descendants.
tombs from the Ming Dynasty
The Confucius Forest is certainly one of the more spooky places I have seen in the Middle Kingdom. Wandering off the main road, and meandering through overgrown, forested paths, I didn’t encounter another human for about an hour.
In the center of the Confucius Forest is the grave of Confucius.  Allegedly, when red guards pillaged the site in the 60’s, they found the tomb to be empty already.
Qufu’s third main attraction is the Confucius Temple.  In the front of the temple, is a large courtyard.  Keeping with the theme of Qufu, is another long expanse of grass and foliage.
Since I have already seen enough Chinese temples to last my entire life, and probably the next few lives as well, I was a little hesitant to fork over the cash to see the Confucius Temple.  However, my hesitations evaporated as soon as I stepped inside Qufu’s temple for the Master Kong.
Moreso than your typical Chinese temple, the Confucius Temple is a collection of ancient buildings enclosed together by a wall.  It’s almost like a scaled-down version of the Forbidden City.
The crowds are scaled down as well.  The whole experience in Qufu was pretty touristy, but not quite “I am going to kill the next person who tries to sell me damn T-shirt” touristy like you get at most major Chinese tourist attractions.
On the south side of the old city, you can climb up on the old city wall and take a walk.
Part of the southern leg of the wall has been restored for tourists to walk along.  I wanted to hike around the entire length of the wall, but the ticket attendant told me that it hadn’t all been restored, and walking the entire length would be impossible.  I decided to try to hike it anyway.
The best part about city walls are the views you get of the city looking down from them.
After about twenty mintes of hiking, the restored wall gave way to weeds.  I figured this was what the attendant had meant when he said that the wall was “unrestored.”  The weeds got higher and higher, until about an hour later when I reached the drum tower on the north face of the city.  After passing the Drum Tower, the weeds came back.  I continued heading east until I suddenly realized what the attendant meant when he had said the wall wasn’t completely restored.  A small sction of the wall had completely collapsed, leaving a 30 foot gap.  Had I been Indiana Jones, I probably could have figured out an easy way across.  But being Ben the humble blogger with limited athletic/roap swinging ability, I had to head back.  The whole journey took about two hours, and my legs itched for days from all the grass and weeds.
After a hot afternoon panting atop the city wall with no water, I came across this stature when I got back to the restored wall area where I started. Did China invent the Golden Rule as well?  Or does this just reinforce the idea that most major religions and value systems are geared towards the same core principles?

Regardless, Confucius certainly had a great enough impact on the Chinese civilization (and the world as a whole) to warrant such monuments built to honor him in his hometown.  Qufu is an excellent locale to spend a day or two learing about the Master Kong, as well as soak up the environs of a intriguing little Northern Chinese town.


  1. waxline United States said,

    September 11, 2008 at 10:51 am

    Analects XV:23
    Tzu Kung asked: “Is there any one word that can serve as a principle for the conduct of life?” Confucius said: “Perhaps the word ‘reciprocity’: Do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you.”

  2. maxiewawa China said,

    September 11, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Matthew 7:120

    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    (Matthew was one of Jesus’ disciples. He’s quoting Jesus in this part. Sorry if you already know, I never know how much general knowledge Jews have about Christianity. You’re Jewish, right?)

  3. Jiang China said,

    September 11, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Nice pictures.

  4. NJD China said,

    September 11, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Wow, almost 90% of your pictures had no other people in them at all, I don’t think I’ve seen such an interesting AND empty place in China before, definitely on my list of places to go now.

  5. Josh China said,

    September 11, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Great pics, Ben.

    You mentioned how you had been to Pingyao before to see the ancient walled city there. I’m just curious if you would recommend somebody to visit Qufu who has already visited Pingyao and seen his fair share of temples all throughout China.

    Do you think this place was sufficiently unique and captivating to warrant it’s own visit?

  6. Vincent United States said,

    September 11, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    Ah, but it’s not the Golden Rule! It’s in the negative. Some call it the Silver Rule. When you mine it a bit, you find that the implications and underlying assumptions are different. It’s passive. The Golden Rule compels you to be hospitable and charitable to your fellow human being. Confucius’ saying does not. Unless you want to get all meta and double-negative-y – i.e. “I do -not- want others to -not- give me a hundred dollars.” Heh heh.


  7. Alan United States said,

    September 11, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    As other folks have commented above, Confucius’s Silver Rule (I like that label) is similar to the biblical Golden Rule, but their implications are vastly different. I totally agree. Some biblical scholars believe Chinese ancestors were a lost tribe of the Israelites. Ben, have you ever read anything about that? I have read a book (maybe semi scholarly, not exactly religious) on how Chinese ancestors passed the stories of Genesis (before they were written) on to their descendants and how the meaning of some Chinese characters have reflected these stories. I think I have the book. If you are interested, I can find it and give you some more information. I think it’s written by a Hong Kong pastor and an American linguist.

  8. Jet So China said,

    September 12, 2008 at 9:37 am

    I just recall “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s T-shirt motto: “Do undo others!” …. Hmm, no wonder he omitted the 2nd part, hehe.

    Yes, I heard that lost ten tribes of Israel are also in Persia (Iran), India, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and even in Japan & Native Americans!


  9. Benjamin Ross China said,

    September 12, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    @ Maxiewawa

    Wow, I never thought I’d see the day when people were making liturgical citations on my blog. I am in fact Jewish. I’ve read most of the New Testament, but am by no means an expert (or even well-read for that matter) on Christianity.


    My pictures are probably a bit misleading in terms of crowding. When I take pictures, I intentionally wait for gaps in the tourist herds and take shots then. Therefore my pictures usually end up coming out giving the impression that there are less tourists than are actually there. Qufu isn’t too bad though. Nothing like going to the Forbidden City or the Badaling Great Wall, but there is still a pretty substantial amount of tourism.


    I would say that both Pingyao and Qufu are worth a visit, but I am also a connoisseur of small Chinese towns. Purely in terms of architecture, Pingyao has more to offer than Qufu, but Qufu also has the whole Confucian aspect. Neither one of them requires more than two days. I think it would actually be a pretty interesting trip to do the two of them back to back.

  10. joe Malaysia said,

    April 19, 2009 at 11:28 am

    hi there, i am very interested in the place! and planning to have a visit there coming july.. would u pls send me an email regarding how to go there from beijing/tianjin? also the accommodation in qufu thanks in advance! joe yee8607@yahoo.com

  11. Jenny China said,

    April 24, 2009 at 12:37 am


    Can I check with you the Qu Fu that you went is it in Shandong or Xuzhou?



  12. Benjamin Ross United States said,

    April 24, 2009 at 8:21 am

    @ Jenny

    Qufu is in Shandong.

  13. estabien esteban United States said,

    September 6, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    As life is coming to an end, why not get along and just help out a friend?

    Aka observer just kiking back

  14. Joseph Prendergast United States said,

    October 30, 2011 at 7:35 am


    I just found your web site, and I wanted you to know that I’ll be following it, and especially reading about your China experiences.
    Thanks for all of this!

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