Temple of Confucius
A Temple of Confucius or Confucian temple is a temple devoted to the memory of Confucius and the sages and philosophers of Confucianism.
The largest and oldest Temple of Confucius is found in Confucius"s hometown, present-day Qufu in Shandong Province. It was established in 478 BC, one year after Confucius"s death, at the order of the Duke Ai of the State of Lu, who commanded that the Confucian residence should be used to worship and offer sacrifice to Confucius. The temple was expanded repeatedly over a period of more than 2,000 years until it became the huge complex currently standing.
The development of state temples devoted to the cult of Confucius was an outcome of his gradual canonisation. In 195 BC, Han Gao Zu, founder of the Han Dynasty (r. 206芒鈧?95 BCE), offered a sacrifice to the spirit of Confucius at his tomb in Qufu. Sacrifices to the spirit of Confucius and that of Yan Hui, his most prominent disciple, began in the Imperial University (Biyong) as early as 241.
In 454, the first state Confucian temple was built by the Liu Song dynasty of south China (420 to 479). In 489, the Northern Wei constructed a Confucian temple in the capital, the first outside of Qufu in the north. In 630, the Tang Dynasty decreed that schools in all provinces and counties should have a Confucian temple, as a result of which temples spread throughout China. Well-known Confucian shrines include the Confucian Temple in Xi"an (now the Forest of Steles), the Fuzi Miao in Nanjing, and the Confucian Temple in Beijing, first built in 1302.
In addition to Confucian temples associated with the state cult of Confucius, there were also ancestral temples belonging to the Kong lineage, buildings commemorating Confucius"s deeds throughout China, and private temples within academies.
The Dachengmen inside the Confucius Temple in BeijingMost Confucianist temples were built in Confucian schools, either to the front of or on one side of the school. The front portal of the temple was called the Lingxing Gate. Inside there were normally three courtyards, although sometimes there were only two. However, the complex in Qufu has nine courtyards. The main building, situated in the inner courtyard with entry via the Dachengmen, was usually known as the Dachengdian , variously translated as "Hall of Great Achievement", "Hall of Great Accomplishment", or "Hall of Great Perfection". This hall housed the Confucius Ancestral Tablet and those of other important masters and sages. In front of the Dachengdian was the Apricot Pavilion or Xingtan . Another important building was the Shrine of the Great Wise Men , which honoured the ancestors of Confucius.
Unlike Daoist or Buddhist temples, Confucian temples do not normally have images. In the early years of the temple in Qufu, it appears that the spirits of Confucius and his disciples were represented with wall paintings and clay or wooden statues. Official temples also contained images of Confucius himself. However, there was opposition to this practice, which was seen as imitative of Buddhist temples. It was also argued that the point of the imperial temples was to honour Confucius"s teachings, not the man himself.
The lack of unity in likenesses in statues of Confucius first led Emperor Taizu of the Ming dynasty to decree that all new Confucian temples should contain only memorial tablets and no images. In 1530, it was decided that all existing images of Confucius should be replaced with memorial tablets in imperial temples in the capital and other bureaucratic locations, a rule still followed today. However, statues remained in temples operated by Confucius"s family descendants, such as that in Qufu.