Nanjing Confucius Temple
Nanjing Confucius Temple, a shrine to Confucius, the famous thinker and educator during China"s ancient Spring and Autumn Period, is both a historical building, and a museum that reflects the local customs and the ancient Chinese culture. In contrast, the recently developed surrounding commercial area has developed into a weekend and holiday resort, as during the year there are different culture galas, such as a spring lantern exhibition, a summer folk-custom cultural fair and an autumn food festival.
The temple was built in the Song Dynasty (A.D 1034) to complement the Jiangnan Examination School (Jiangnan Gong Yuan), site of the imperial examinations. Scholars came to the temple to pray for success and to show their humble respect for Confucius.
In 1984, to protect the ancient capital"s cultural heritage, Nanjing"s municipal and district governments granted funds to resurrect the temple. After years of repair and renovation, the temple was finally completed.. Nowadays, Nanjing Confucius Temple, as a characteristic scenic spot of old Nanjing city, has developed into a famous tourist resort with a high reputation both home and abroad. In 1991, it was listed as one of the "40 best places to travel in China".
With Dacheng Hall (Hall of Great Achievements) at the center, all the buildings within the architectural complex are arranged symmetrically on each side of a south to north axis, covering an area of 26,300 square meters. The complex borrows from Ming and Qing styles the traditional sweeping eaves and archways.
The temple"s first entrance is called Jiuxing Entrance, followed by Dacheng Entrance, named for Confucius"s great contribution to Chinese culture. In front and on each side of the Dacheng Entrance is a pair of crouching stone lions.
Inside the entrance is the temple"s central courtyard, where eight ginkgo trees were planted and ancient lanterns are arranged in symmetrical order. In the middle is a stone pathway leading to a platform in front of the Dacheng Hall. The platform is where ancient sacrificing, dancing and singing were performed. At its center is a 4.18-meter-high bronze statue of Confucius, China"s largest bronze statue of Confucius with a weight of about 2500 kilograms. Along both sides of the pathway are white marble sculptures of Confucius" eight smart disciples who are paying tribute to the sage.
Inside Dacheng Hall, built on a 1.5-meter-high base and measuring 16.22 meters in height, 28.1 in width and 21.7 in length are another four white marble disciples flanking a huge center-hanging portrait of Confucius hung at the center, the largest of its kind in China. Replicas of fifteen musical instruments made 2500 years ago, including sets of bells and stone chimes, are also on display.
The temple"s most outstanding feature is a beautiful collection of 36 jade panels detailing the Sage"s life (551-479 BC) hanging on the walls of the main hall. Based on the famous set of Ming period paintings titled "Pictures of the Sage"s Traces," each panel is about two meters in height and one meter in width. These panels, however, are new, donated by a local company in 1998.
The best time to visit the temple as well as enjoy the delicious food is during the Lantern Festival (fifteen days after the Lunar New Year), when a special lantern exhibit themed around the lunar cycle"s twelve animals lends a festive air to the temple.