Every year the legacy of Confucius is celebrated throughout China on the day of the great philosopher’s birth. But of all of the celebrations, the most famous one takes place in the town of Qufu, Shandong, where Confucius was born.
Born in 551BC, Confucius was a thinker, political figure and teacher. His influence on Chinese thought and philosophy is comparable to the influence that Socrates had on Western philosophy, meaning that his teachings are highly revered throughout Asia -especially in his native China – and have had a significant influence on Chinese life for thousands of years.
Although it’s difficult to separate fact from legend in many of the accounts that are given of Confucius’ life, it is thought that he grew up in a poverty-stricken household. It was much later on in Confucius’ life that his talents were eventually recognised, and he was appointed Minister of Public Works, and then Minister of Crime before he was forced to leave office for offending the nobility and enter a life of exile. It was at this point that he is thought to have gathered a large number of disciples around him, before eventually returning from exile, and from around 484 BC he spent the remainder of his life teaching, writing and forming some of the great philosophies that he is now known for.
During the Confucius Festival in Qufu commemorating Confucius’ birth, there are many cultural events that take place including dances, musical performances and theatre pieces celebrating his life and teachings. Sacrificial rites are staged daily in front of the Confucius temple and there are exhibitions of calligraphy, traditional crafts and authentic Shandong cuisine on offer.
Qufu is off the beaten tourist track – for the typical western tourist anyway – so this is the place to really get a sense of true traditional Chinese culture. You certainly won’t find a fork in any of the restaurants around here! And what better time to see the place than during the celebrations of the man whose philosophies shaped the culture as we know it?