Our visit to Confucius-related sites continued when we walked back into Qufu to the Kong Family Mansion. The Chinese name for Confucius is Kong Qui, thus the Kong Family mansion. This complex was inhabited by direct descendants of Confucius from 1000 A.D. to 1937. They ruled over the largest rural private estate in China, looked after the Confucian sites in the area, and organized the elaborate offerings held at various times during the year. The current buildings are mostly from the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1917 A.D.) The last direct descendant to live in the mansion fled in 1937 after the start of the second Sino-Japanese war, and then moved on to Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. Confucian ideals were not very popular during that time.
The layout of the family compound includes administrative offices in the front, closest to the front gate, with residential buildings in the back, opening up into large, lush gardens. Near the front, Landon checked out the Gate of Double Glory- a special ceremonial gate only opened for special holidays, visits from the emperor, or the imperial edicts. It was very ornate and colorful, but we thought it was quite odd that this smallish gate was just hanging out in the middle of the courtyard. Next up, the Great Hall was set up to receive visitors with the pavilion where the duke would sit. We passed the tall tower, built for family members to hide in during civil unrest (but never used). Unfortunately it was not open for visitors. Parts of the complex were undergoing renovations, and so we opted to take the path for handicapped visitors- it just works better with the stroller. Going along this path, we passed a few auxiliary meeting and study rooms in side courtyards before finding ourselves out in the gardens.
I love the interesting shapes of doors and arches in China. Poor Austin would rather they make them a little taller because he hits his head sometimes, but it’s a great architectural feature! The gardens were extensive, and we explored parts of them as we chased the boys around. We let Owen out of the stroller to stretch his legs and get some energy out, and he took it upon himself to drag his backpack around all over the place. The gardens were added during the Ming Dynasty in the 1500s. I loved all the greenery and variety of flowers in the garden. It was really beautiful!
With Owen’s wanderings we found some way-out buildings that were not quite as well maintained. Parts of the mansion not open to the public are not restored and just look like dilapidated, abandoned buildings. We bribed him back into the pretty parts of the garden with ice cream! Confession: As a perpetual traveling family, we have a really hard time with lunch. We try to eat a big (usually free) breakfast at the hotel, and then go out and explore. If we’re at our home base, we usually bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, and other snacks for the kiddos, so lunch is covered. But when we travel away from the home base, we rarely sit down and eat lunch somewhere. We just let the kids snack up and eventually it gets late enough that we settle on an early dinner. That being said, I thought I read that there was a restaurant at the Kong Family Mansion, but we did not find it. Instead, we had ice creams, which certainly hit the spot on a hot day.
After ice cream, we found a big koi pond. Some visitors were feeding the koi snacks, so they were swarming the area near the bridge. Owen and Landon liked watching the fish, so Austin stayed with them while I appreciated the other parts of the garden, including a large flower bed full of lily pads and lotus flowers. So pretty!
After thoroughly exploring the garden, we tried to return back to the entrance through the residential part of the complex. We checked out a few residences with furniture and clothing reflecting the time period of the last major duke to live here. It was a little odd that there was one viewing area at the door, and then steps so that we could peek in the windows of the long buildings. I was excited to see some of the side buildings open, only to find that most of them housed little shops with things for sale. Breakable things. So, with the boys, we did not linger long in these shops, and started avoiding them all together! We found that some areas of the residential section were not stroller friendly, and so we decided to turn around and return the way we came to the front after seeing a few of the residences. What floored me is that the last descendant to live here was Confucius’ 77th grandson! That’s a lot of grandsons, and it’s incredible that the family history has been kept for that long!
Even with a map, the Kong Family mansion was a little difficult to navigate, especially with construction/restoration going on. I think we managed to see most of the buildings, and got a sense of how people lived here in the past. Although there is a snack area in the garden with chips, ice cream, instant noodles and cigarettes, I would recommend eating before coming and bringing other snacks. Pack water and sun protection as well, because most of our time at the mansion was spent outside. There are wheelchair accessible paths (read stroller accessible as well) but they skip some of the buildings along the main path through the complex. When traveling to Qufu to see the historical sites, Kong Family Mansion should certainly be on the itinerary!