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Hangzhou Confucius Temple (Hangzhou Stele Forest)

The huge Chinese characters of Hangzhou Confucius Temple
The huge Chinese characters
written on the wall of
Hangzhou Confucius Temple

Hangzhou Confucius Temple including Hangzhou Stele Forest is a newly-established and freely-opened memorial building in memory of Confucius, the founder of Confucianism. Hangzhou Confucius Temple located on Laodong Road, the northwest of Wushan Square, Shangcheng District, Downtown Hangzhou. Approximately, Hangzhou Confucius Temple was built in the period ranging from 1023 to 1063. At the area of foot of Fenghuang Hill, exactly where Hangzhou Confucius Temple was situated. In 1131, the officially-built local educational institute moved to today’s site, and the Temple of Confucius was moved here as well. Since South Song Dynasty, Hangzhou Confucius Temple experienced several dynasties, and roughly has a history of more than 800 years. In history of Hangzhou, the Confucius Temple is an important historical landmark. It is also the study center or the classroom of Chinese traditional literature and ancient history. Chen Genmin, a famous professor of ancient culture and calligraphy in Hangzhou Normal University, usually leads his students to learning the ancient great calligraphic masterpieces and Confucian history here.

Dacheng Hall(The Hall of Huge Achievements)

The Huge Statue of Confucius in Hangzhou Confucius Temple
Children Reading Classics
of Confucianism in Ceremony
of Sacrificing to Confucius

The total area of Hangzhou Confucius Temple is 1.32 hectares, and the layout and the architectural style is absolutely traditional and strongly featured with the Jiangnan’s gardening arts. The whole temple is comprised of two parts, the west section and east section. The west section is the axis of Hangzhou Confucius Temple highlighted with the culture essence of Confucius Temple; it consists of Dacheng Hall, Lingxing Gate, Ban Lake, Dacheng Gate, East and West Subordinate Buildings and Stele Forest. The most attractive building in west section is Dacheng Hall(大成殿, The Hall of Huge Achievements), which is the main building of Hangzhou Confucius Temple and the only well-preserved building of Qing Dynasty featuring gable and hip roofs with double eaves. The interior of the hall is full of the color paintings on ceiling and beans created in late Qing Dynasty, and the color painting is quite vivid and eye-catching, and generally themed with dragons, phoenixes , kylins, sacred cranes, peonies, pine trees and figures. The highlights of the whole hall is the huge Sitting Statue of Confucius, and two sides of Confucius’ statue are the statues of Yan Hui(颜回, crowned to be The Sage of Repeating Confucius’ Virtue and the most talented and Confucius’ favorite student), Kong Ji(孔伋, Crowned to be The Sage of Extending Confucius’ Virtue and the grandson of Confucius), Zeng Can(曾参, Crowned to be The Sage of Following Confucius’s Virtue and famous for his filial piety) and Mencius(孟轲, Crowned to be The Inferior Sage to Confucius and the second greatest master of Confucianism), three sides are the colored paintings of Confucius’ 72 famous students, also some famous rite utensils like bronze bianzhong, stone-made bianqin, bronze ding and gui. These displays show the significance of ancient rites of Confucianism. The whole architecture is quite grand, sacred and impressive. The big-size couplets are also quite full of thoughts of Confucianism. By the way, maybe, some readers ask why it is called Dacheng Hall, actually, The Dacheng means Confucius collected the essences of ancient saints. In the hall, visitors can see the three sacred sacrificial offerings comprised of beef, mutton and pork. This is the largest and top level of sacrifice indeed.

The Ceremony of Sacrificing to Confucius

According to the lunar calendar, Confucius’ birthday was August. 27, and all the students and local famous figures gather in Confucius temple to sacrifice to Confucius . They generally set up the sacrificing hall and lay the memorial tablet written with“大成至圣先师孔宣王”(Master Kong and King Xuanwang of Huge Achievement, Great Teacher and Supreme Sage). The local famous figures standing in order and ranks to burn the incense and worship on bended knees. The speakers read out the rule of ceremony in public, the process includes: play the classic music, fire a salute, offer the sacrifice, read the sacrificing article, burn the incense. Generally, the figure who has a superior status in the society acts as the officiant. The characters of Lingxing Gate were written by Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty. It has two meanings, first, Lingxing is a star in the heaven, so comparing Confucius to Lingxing Star is to express that Confucius is as respectable as the heaven, second, it also means that Confucianism attaches importance to gather all the talents of the world.

The Statues of Confucius and his students and grandson
The huge statues of Confucius and his students in Dacheng Hall, Hangzhou Confucius Temple

The east and west subordinate buildings are strongly featured of the local history and culture of Hangzhou, and it thoroughly embodies the rich information of ancient Confucius Temples. In interiority of west subordinate building exhibits 22 paintings themed with Confucius and his life experiences. It in the form of picture-story book shows the life experience of Confucius and briefly expresses the history of Confucianism. The east is the displaying room of Hangzhou Keju Culture, mainly exhibits the name list of Zhuangyuan and Jinshi of different dynasties. In total, 15 zhuangyuan and 3,036 jingshi’s life experience are displayed here, and it systematically exhibits the famous Jinshi and families of Jinshi. Also, it also displays many folk cultural relics and documents related to ancient Keju educational and imperial examination mechanism

The Stele Forests of Hangzhou Confucius Temple

bixi bearing the stele of Wencheng
Bixi(赑屃)superficially looks
like a turtle but is the
ninth son of dragon in fact,
and the picture shows it
bears the Stele of Wencheng
in Confucius Temple

The east part of Confucius Temple is a garden-style building complex. Hangzhou Stele Forest was built in 1978 and opened in 1989. It is the largest and comprehensive stone inscription museum in Zhejiang province. It is quite classic and traditional in atmosphere. Among the rockeries, there are pavilion of stone-engraved thirteen classics of Confucianism, hall of ancient astronomy and pavilion of wenchang. The Pavilion of Stone Classics of Confucianism is the highlights. It has the stone steles exhibitions themed with thirteen classics of Confucianism: The Analects of Confucius, Three Versions of Spring and Autumn Annals, The Book of Changes, The Book of Songs, The Book of History, Three Versions of Book of Rites, The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, The Analects of Mencius. The buildings are connected with corridors, on the walls of corridors exhibit many famous calligraphic steles embedded in the walls. These calligraphic classics range from Tang Dynasties to The Republic of China. The content of steles can be divided into nine categories: Taixue Stone-Carved Confucian Classics of South Song Dynasties, The Royal Books, The Historical Documents, Science and Technology, Calligraphic Masterpieces, Paintings, Confucianism, Religions and Tomb Epigraph. Taixue Stone-Carved Confucian Classics of South Song Dynasties(南宋太学石经) is the only south stone-carved classics written by Emperors and the quintessence of Hangzhou Confucius Temple. The Stele of Wulin Misfortune Extinguishment is China’s earliest stone stele themed with the situation of fire disaster and experience of extinguishing fires so far. The Collection of Ancient and Modern Hall Couplets(古今楹联汇刻) is Chinese earliest stone stele of hall couplets up to now, the famous calligraphic masterpieces exhibited are mostly from the ancient great calligraphy masters like Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi, Su Dongpo, Mi Fu and Zhu Yunming The Stone-Carved Star Image of Qian Yuanguan’s Tomb is one of Chinese earliest stone star images. Stone Painting of Sixteen Arhats(十六罗汉像刻石)is the masterpiece of line and strike painting carved on stones. Stone Statues of Confucius and Seventy-Two Students is the highlights of Chinese ancient painting. Hangzhou Confucius Temple is a stone library of history, science and arts.  

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