Four Days in Qufu

posted in: Asia, China, Travel | 0

Located right in the middle of Shandong province is the esteemed city of Qufu, birthplace of Confucius and the bedrock of Chinese civilization and Eastern thought. This was the first place I traveled to in China and I was looking forward to getting a taste of authentic Chinese culture.

After a six and a half hour bus ride, we arrived in the city. We stayed at Qufu International Youth Hostel right in the center of town. The accommodations themselves were pretty standard, dorm-style rooms with bunk beds. The staff was very friendly and some spoke English pretty well, so we had very few problems communicating with the staff.

In my travels, I’ve come to find that no hostel experience is complete without a few quirks. For one, the air-conditioning in the rooms didn’t work, and we spent two nights being eaten alive by mosquitoes before the staff told us they had repellent in the rooms. “Didn’t you know?” The real selling point of this place, however, was the full service bar and restaurant. During the day, we would walk around the city and explore the sights, and at night we would hang out in the lounge, drink Tsingtao, and shoot pool. Itchiness and heat stroke aside, it wasn’t a bad set up.

The three main attractions in Qufu, Three Kongs., are all centered around Confucius. These include the Confucius family mansion, Confucius’ temple, and the cemetery where you can see his tomb. The weekend we happened to be in Qufu was actually a holiday celebrating his birthday. There was a huge city-wide celebration and hoards of people and tourists everywhere.

Early on Tuesday morning there was a celebration at the Temple of Confucius. We couldn’t attend, however; as we weren’t aware of it and didn’t have tickets. We did get to witness the prayer ceremony at the tomb of Confucius, where people were praying to him and writing messages of gratitude on little red medallions. It was actually very beautiful to witness. Although, without anyone around to really explain the context of the ceremony, the significance was lost on us.

My one regret is that I didn’t attempt to get a tour guide for any of the sites. I feel like Qufu isn’t a big destination for foreign tourists, so there isn’t much need for the city to have bilingual signs, or accommodations in the cultural sights for non Chinese speakers. We pretty much went into the different sights without the ability to learn the context or meaning behind what we were seeing. As an anthropology and world religion nerd, I was really disappointed by that. I didn’t learn anything new about Confucianism, or really gain as much from the experience as I would have liked. However, I think the fault rests more with us than with the city. I’m sure if we had planned in advance, we would have been able to find a tour guide, or the like.

If you do happen to be someone who is interested in Eastern religion and Confucianism, I would definitely recommend going with a tour or someone who can explain things to you.

This trip, like everything else I am discovering about China, was not the experience I thought it would be.This is just the first of many lessons I’ve been learning that expectations don’t always quite match reality. I am not saying I had a bad time, per se. It was quite the contrary. I felt like this was the first true glimpse of China I have gotten since I have been here. The architecture was beautiful and the people were interesting, albeit idiosyncratic. I think if I had planned ahead more, it could have been much more enjoyable.