The Temple of Confucius at Beijing
is the second largest Confucian Temple in China after
the one in Confucius' hometown of Qufu. It was built
in 1302, and imperial officials used it to pay their
respects to Confucius until 1911.
The compound was enlarged twice, during
the Ming and Qing dynasties and now occupies some 20,000
square meters. From 1981 until 2005, the Temple of Confucius
also housed part of the art collection of the Capital
Museum. It stands on Guozijian Street near the Imperial
The complex includes four courtyards
aligned along a central axis. From south to north, noteworthy
structures includes the Xianshi Gate, Dacheng Gate,
Dacheng Hall and Chongshengci. Inside the temple there
are 198 stone tablets positioned on either side of the
front courtyard, containing more than 51,624 names of
Jinshi (the advanced scholars) of the Yuan, Ming and
Qing dynasties, and 14 stone stele pavilions of the
Ming and Qing dynasties that hold the precious historical
information of ancient China.
The temple also contains stone tablets
recording the names of many generations of scholars
who passed the Imperial Examination, a reproduction
of a Western Zhou period stone drum made during the
reign of Qianlong (1735-96), and 189 stone steles containing
the Thirteen Confucian Classics, presented by the city
of Jintan in Jiangsu Province.
The Temple has many old trees, including
one Cypress tree known as the "Touch Evil Cypress"
(Chu Jian Bai). Its name derives from a story that when
a famously corrupt official passed by, the tree knocked
off his hat.
The Confucian Temple is part of the
Imperial College. Originally, it was called Confucian
Temple of Imperial College or Capital Confucian Temple.
Actually, the Beijing Confucius Temple is not the only
Confucius Temple in China. There is one in Qufu, Shandong
Province, which is Confucius' hometown. The Confucius
Temple in Qufu is much larger in size, yet the Social
position of Confucius Temple in Beijing was much higher
than the Confucius Temple in Qufu. This is because the
Emperors of the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties all came
to Beijing Confucius Temple to pay homage to the ancient
sage Confucius. So in hierarchical ancient feudal society,
no other Confucius Temple could equal this one.
From 1906 to 1916, ten years were
spent to enlarge and renovate the temple to make it
what we see today. The Confucius Temple houses many
precious historical and cultural relics including the
Qian Long stone drums, the inscribed boards, stone tablets
inscribed with the full texts of the thirteen Confucian
classics, and stone tablets bearing the names and origins
of scholars who passed the palace examination. To better
protect and utilize this historical site, in 1981, the
Confucius Temple was turned into the Capital Museum,
and in 1988, it was designated as one of the major national
historical and cultural sites under the national protection
of the State Council.