The third place on my list goes to the town of Qufu, in Shandong region in China. It is the home town of famous Confusius (Kǒngfūzǐ or K’ung fu-tze.) Before falling in love with Qufu, my experiences of China were a lot more grey and foggy.
I visited China in June 2008. My primary destinations in that huge country were the Shandong region and Beijing area up north. First we stayed several days in Chengyang, near Qingdao. About Chengyang I don’t have much more to say. But it was a grey, foggy town, with a little awkward athmosphere towards us young western women and a place, where you had to run for your life to cross the street. All the local men were trying to get our attention to them in numerous ways. It wasn’t the nicest experience on my travels. The close-by city of Qingdao with some Imperial German influences was much more intresting, and more used to foreigners than its smaller neighbour, but we only made a day trip there. Later that year they organized the summer Olympics’ sailing competitions there, and in early June we saw the workers cleaning up the sea shores from seaweed near the Zhan Bridge. By the way, the official beer of Qingdao, Tsingtao, is also found in the western supermarkets.
Even though I suppose China wasn’t so much ment for me and my mentality with love for freedom of speach, it is such a huge country worth giving a new change or even several. I will definately go back some day! I’m intrested in exploring some natural attractions in China, but also Shanghai and Hong Kong are on the list. In Shandong I missed the legendary Mountains of Laoshan and Mount Tai with their long ’steps to heaven’, and several famous buddhist temples. That’s something for the next time then!
Road trip to Qufu – an adventure in the Shandongese countryside
Can’t say that the historical Beijing wasn’t intresting aswell, but it didn’t end up as high on my list as the pittoresque Qufu where one could really sense the Ancient China without getting exhausted of the size of the place!
We headed for Qufu for a weekend trip with some Chinese friends. We drove there over 350 km to the west from Qingdao. It was supposed to be 5 hour ride with a car plus some pitstops on the way, but it turned into atleast 12 hours… well… So to say, the distances in China are enormous and you really can’t trust the conditions of the roads outside the road-tax-funded highways. We had a few pit-stops on the way, like the Yiyuan Rong Limestone Caves and a smaller buddhist temple somewhere on the way, but because of the Chinese writing I’ve unfortunately forgot the name of the buddhist temple and couldn’t find familiar looking one from the internet either.
What an adventure it was! On our way to Qufu we got happily lost in the Chinese countryside, and saw some really sad places on the way when trying to take a shortcut along some smaller roads. 😦 Eventually, despite the GPS, we ended up to several roads leading nowhere and even some roads litterally breaking down to death ends. We had to give up and head back to the new and shiny highways bordered with hundred-kilometres long flower plantings. The controversity compared to the misery and poverty we saw in the countryside around was really distracting. But well, the disturbing things about China is a subject for a completely different post.
Well, finally in the middle of the night, several hours after our planned schedule, we arrived to Qufu. We stayed the night in the first hotel we found, which was a big and relatively communist styled hotel outside of downtown. In the morning we headed to the old town for breakfast. Here in the downtown of Qufu, especially inside the city walls, you can see also the traditional chinese wooden architecture, you know, like houses with beautiful sweeping rooftops.
Maybe because of the beautiful historical setting around, the breakfast was one of the really memorable ones in my life this far. We had some dumblings in a casual chinese bar. As a sidenote, I have to mention the delicious NORTHERN Chinese Cuisine, which is something totally different from the deep-fried-everything of the Kantonese kitchen, which is, in my opinnion, way too well-represented in Western countries. I really miss the variety of the spicy flavours and less oily and greasy options of the northern chinese kitchen. We had some awesome and very social meals in China, ordering loads of different kind of stews and sauces, fish etc to the round, rotary table, to share with the whole dinner crew. Lovely tradition! But about dumblings, compared to other not-so ’breakfasty’ breakfasts we had in China, I really liked these light, boiled or steamed jiaozi dumblings with different fillings. I remember trying also some egg dumplings.
After the breakfast we explored this town of 60 000 habitants. Qufu is the hometown of the famous Confucius. It also served as the capital of the State of Lu during the Spring and Autumn Period, in approximately from 771 to 476 BC. The town, as well as some of its surroundings were surrounded by a town wall, which mostly still remains.
Confusius was a famous Chinese moral philosopher, politician, law scholar, editor and teacher who lived during in 551–479 BC. He is traditionally believed to have been born at nearby Mount Ni. His descendants used to rule Qufu for centuries.
The city contains numerous historic palaces, temples and cemeteries. The most famous of which is San Kong, a complex of three attractions forming a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1994). It contains the Temple of Confusius, The Cemetery of Confusius and the Kong Family Mansion. In the big temple area there are also other temples like the temple of Confusious’ favourite student Yan Hui.
In the Cemetery of Confusius you can find the tombstones of Confusius and 70 generations of his descendants from the Kong family. The cemetary forest is filled with tombstones and animal-shaped grave statues from Ming and Qing Dynasties! The quietness of this forest is really something you thought you couldn’t come across while travelling in the crowded China. Or atleast, so it felt like when we happened to visit Qufu. In June, it was already warm and agreeable, but despite the other (Chinese) tourists, I didn’t feel it was too crowded at all. There might be more touristic times later in the summer though, when it’s not as agreeable to tour in the area.
The historical Qufu was an intresting place, where, once again one can feel being in the middle of the History itself! The Chinese modernisation hasn’t yet ruined the city. You propably will be one of the only few non-Chinese tourists there. Might end up as a destination of several touristical photos yourself, too, like we did… Don’t forget to try the rickshaw ride if you happen to visit Qufu. Here, by being part of the ugly white trash pulled by another human being, you can still help people to earn their living.