The Temples of Beijing - Confucius Temple
off the beaten path in Beijing
Not far from the much larger and more frequently visited Yonghegong (Lama) Temple, down a narrow, tree-lined street known as Guozijian, lies one of Beijing's lesser-known gems, the Confucius Temple. Built in 1302, it is supposedly the second largest temple devoted to Confucius in all of China, behind only the Confucius Temple in Confucius' birthplace of Qufu, Shandong Province. Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a statue of Confucius, and the numerous old buildings and ancient trees give the place a peaceful feeling of tranquility in contrast to the bustling street just outside the entrance gate.
Among the many ancient trees, one 700-hundred year old cypress stands out. Known as the "Chujian Bai" (Touch Evil Cypress), according to legend, this tree knocked the hat off of a corrupt official as he walked beneath it, which supposedly meant that the tree was able to distinguish good people from bad people.
There are also numerous stone tablets that stand on the grounds as permanent markers of those who passed the old "Imperial Examinations" at the Imperial College located just across the street from the Confucius Temple. These rigorous 3-day examinations were so difficult that supposedly they drove some exam takers insane or to commit suicide. There are also several huge engraved stone tablets that sit on top of giant stone tortoises that for some reason are there to somewhat confusingly commemorate various riots in Chinese history. There are also historical exhibits in the long halls that line either side of the temple grounds that detail the history of Confucius and Confucianism throughout the world, as well as the history of the temple itself.
The Confucius Temple is a pleasant place to visit over an hour or two for those with spare time while visiting Beijing. It makes a nice addition to a visit to the nearby Yongegong (Lama) Temple on a full-day or half-day Beijing tour.