After checking out of our hotel, we headed to the closest of the trifecta of Confucius-related sights in Qufu, the Confucius Family Cemetery. I mentioned in a previous post that although there are not very many signs, the road to the cemetery is pretty clear. We headed north from the center of town, and a walking path on the median of the main road leads the way all the way to the cemetery gates. We thought we had arrived when we reached the gates, but we realized that we were only about half way to the start of the cemetery! We bought our combination tickets for the cemetery, Kong Family Mansion and Confucius Temple here- just remember to keep your ticket safe for entrance into the other attractions! After the ticket booth was another ticket booth, this one was for an electric car ride around the cemetery. We opted to walk, but if visitors want to see around the whole cemetery, the electric car is definitely the way to go, because this cemetery is HUGE! Confucius, his sons, prominent followers, and hundreds of thousands of descendants are buried in this cemetery.
Once inside the red cemetery gate, we took a left down the first path that led to Confucius’ tomb. Visitors could take all day wandering the paths of this large park-like cemetery, but we had one day to see everything, so we went straight for the grave of Confucius. Burial mounds dotted the landscape along the sides of the path. Each section of the cemetery included graves from different dynasties/time periods. The earliest graves were from the Zhou dynasty (1046-771 B.C.)! That’s OLD! Sign posts led the way to the entrance path of Confucius’ grave.
The way leading up to Confucius’ grave was multi-layered. First, a gate, with guardian statues on either side of the walkway. A side building was built next to the walkway for the descendants of Confucius to cleanse themselves before going to bring offerings to the grave. I thought for sure that the first grand temple-like building was the place where he was buried, but I was wrong!
In Qufu, we noticed that artistic renderings of Confucius were not very flattering. Austin wondered aloud if Confucius was really this ugly in real life! Most pictures showed him fat, with lots of wrinkles and buck teeth. After stopping by the graves of some of his sons and followers, we finally made it to his grave. There was a small altar for people to pray and leave offerings of food or flowers. A booth nearby sold placards for writing prayers to leave at the grave. After all of the guardians and gates and pavilions along the way, I guess I was expecting something more grand from Confucius’ grave. It was still neat to see it, since Confucius lived in 500 B.C.
After seeing the tomb, a side exit led out to another forest path. It was hot, and time to move on to the next site, so we headed back to the main gate and on to the Kong Family Mansion. If we had more time, I would have loved to wander around a bit more, as there were prominent and very old sculptures and stelae around the cemetery that would have been cool to see. We did NOT want to walk any more in the heat, though. Because we walked everywhere in Qufu, we brought our stroller, and found the cemetery to be mostly stroller friendly. Going into the grave of Confucius, we had to lift the stroller up stairs at times, but it was worth it to have a place to park the kids and walk. Visitors with kids should plan on either bringing a stroller/carrier or taking the electric cars around the park. The distances here are too long for most young children! Bring snacks, water, sunscreen, hats, etc. There are some restaurants outside of the gate, but no amenities inside the gates for tourists. We did find some ladies inside that were offering tours in Chinese. They even tried to offer us a tour in Chinese, but we turned her down. So, impromptu tours are available for Chinese speakers!
Together with the other two Confucius- related sites, the cemetery is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I would recommend spending at least an hour here taking in the scenery and history. After living in the hustle and bustle of the city, the peaceful greenery of the cemetery is exactly what I needed!