Excursion to Qufu

In June 2017 students from Denmark and Germany went on a two-day excursion to Confucius' hometown Qufu in Shandong province. Below you will find three accounts from students who took part in the excursion.

Some students also wrote Chinese essays on the excursion, which you find linked below:
卢 威,《印象最深的是中国画》
魏 婧,《我加深了对中国传统文化的了解》

Group photo in the entrance hall

Qufu Excursion

by Rasmus Thy

In June 2017, students who were taking classes on Chinese culture as a part of the ECLC program, had the opportunity to go on a two-days excursion to Qufu, the home city of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius, who is still a very important figure in China today.

We took the train from Beijing Friday morning and arrived in Qufu just before lunchtime. After checking in at our hotel we went to a restaurant where we had the experience of trying the famous Confucius cuisine consisting of a number of dishes that are not only delicious, but also very pleasing for the eye. I’m personally very happy that I had this opportunity, since this kind of food is very different from what I usually come across during my stay in Beijing.

After lunch we took the bus to a place where we had the chance to try on Han clothing, which is the type clothing that Han people have been wearing throughout all dynasties up until the last dynasty Qing. Han clothing is also a topic we have learned about in our culture classes at ECLC, so it was fun to try wearing it for yourself, even though I’m sure that the clothes we wear were far from the best quality Han clothes that you will be able to find.

Teachers and students practice calligraphy

While still wearing the Han clothes we participated in a simulated traditional ceremony, where we as students, had to pay our respect to our teacher and Confucius. From my understanding, this kind of ceremony was one that students in ancient times had to go through, as a way of formally becoming a pupil or an apprentice to a master. The ceremony included students writing calligraphy, burning incense, bowing and paying respect to our teacher. The ceremony was very formal, and it was interesting to experience how different the teacher-student relationship in traditional China is to the teacher-student relationship we see today.

Teachers and students take part in a Confucius appreciation ceremony

In the evening, our teacher had invited a professor from Peking University to tell us about traditional Chinese painting. Although most of us were not able to understand everything he said, I personally enjoyed the talk a lot, especially because we also had the opportunity to try to paint for ourselves, while the professor was giving instructions on how to do it properly. It was great learning a few simple painting techniques to get a better idea of how traditional Chinese paintings are made and composed. I feel like next time I see a traditional Chinese painting, I will be looking at it differently than I did before this short lecture.

Saturday morning we went to Confucius’ temple, where we had an English-speaking guide showing us around. Since we had learned about traditional Chinese architecture in our culture classes, it was very interesting to see some architecture and traditional buildings with our own eyes. After Confucius’ temple, we drove through Confucius’ family graveyard, which is located in a forest. This is where Confucius as well as his descendants are buried. During the Cultural Revolution the Red Guards put fire to parts of the forest, and even dug up Confucius’ grave and removed his corpse. Although in my opinion it’s a shame what the Red Guards did, it added to the experience, knowing that something like that had happened not that many years ago. The graveyard holds parts of both ancient and recent history.
Saturday afternoon we were taught how to make books the way they did in ancient times and had the chance to try printing with movable type, one of the four great Chinese inventions. This way of printing is something I’ve learned about in my early Chinese history classes, but it wasn’t until I tried it for myself, that I really understood how it works.

Afterwards we got a short lecture on Guqin, which is a traditional seven-stringed plucked instrument that you must be able to play as a real Confucian gentleman. We were told about the Guqin as an instrument and heard it being played for us. Once again we had the opportunity to try it out for ourselves, which was fun, but just as with the Chinese painting, I found out that what might seem very simple is actually incredible difficult.

Saturday evening we took the train back to Beijing, and that was the end of a short but very interesting trip to Qufu. Having stayed in Beijing for a few months, it was nice to get a trip out of town and see something different. Besides the visit to Confucius’ temple, the activities we participated in were all something that I probably wouldn’t have managed to arrange by myself. All in all I had a great trip with my classmates and teachers, and with a good deal of educational value as well.

Qufu Experience

by Julia

Qufu 曲阜 is a city in the Southwest of Shandong province. It is home to 60.000 people and close to Tai Mountain 泰山 which is one of the five holy mountains in China. But why is a town as little as this so important to China? Why is Qufu worth a trip? To answer this question, one must know that Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are the three main beliefs of China. Since Confucius 孔子 was born in Qufu, Qufu is basically the origin of Confucianism. If one wants to understand what Confucius’ hometown is like, where he grew up and where he got buried, one must go to Qufu. Since Confucianism is such a big part of Chinese culture, our culture class teacher Mu Laoshi 穆老师 organized a trip for us. In the following paragraphs, we would like to depict how we spent the trip, where we went, and what we learned.

Students practicing archery

At nine o’clock in the morning of the June16th 2017 the Danish and German students of culture class, which is part of the ECLC program, met with our four teachers at the Beijing Southern Train Station to take the 高铁 to Qufu. After a two-hour train ride, we arrived in Qufu, Shandong province. A short bus ride later we reached our hotel, where we would spend the night. As soon as we went through the doors, we smelled the fumes of joss sticks that filled the air. A wooden Confucius statue made up the center of the lobby. After having brought our luggage to our rooms, we went out to eat at a Confucian restaurant. Not only were we enjoying a great tasting meal, but also did we learn about etiquette and manners that are deeply anchored in Chinese culture, since Confucius described, what is part of 礼俗 (lǐsú). After lunch, we went on to celebrate a thanking-the-teachers ceremony 拜师 礼. Before the ceremony all of us were given some information what role we should play in the ceremony. Wearing traditional Chinese clothes, one half of the students sat inside the hall, the other half walked down the aisle, following the rhythm of the drummer, carrying lanterns, fruit baskets, flower baskets and other items that belong to a traditional Confucian ceremony. While we were experiencing what the characteristics of a Confucian ceremony are and what it felt like to participate, we had the opportunity to thank our teachers for guiding us through our semester in Beijing, teaching us well, and helping us with any kinds of trouble. Secondly, we experienced a traditional archery presentation 射箭体验 and later, we got the chance to shoot some arrows ourselves. The teachers also discovered their liking of archery and the heat could not stop us from eagerly trying to hit the target. Thirdly, next to the ceremony and the archery experience, the calligraphy lesson 书画体验 was another highlight of the first day. The calligraphy teacher from Beijing University 北京大学 came to Shandong to teach us some basics. After some theoretical explanation, we got the chance to try ourselves. The next day after having breakfast at the hotel, we took a short bus ride to the southern gate of the Confucius temple 孔庙 to see the opening ceremony 开城仪式. The music and the actors, which included dancers and archery men, gave us an idea of what life must have been like in the earlier times. After they finished, we met our tourist guide that would lead us through the temple. The temple is made up of three parts. While walking through the different doors in between, we learned that women must go with the left leg at first, men with the right. The temple also included a little park, where we discovered a group singing and playing traditional Chinese instruments underneath a little pavilion. The woman who was singing was dressed up in traditional Chinese clothes called 汉服. After strolling through the park for a little longer, we left the temple in order to go to Confucius’ tomb 孔林. Since the area was quite big, we took a car to get there. During the ride through the forest, we discovered a lot more of other little tombs and learned that nowadays members of Confucius’ family are still buried around the area of Confucius’ tomb. The second half of the day, we went back to where the ceremony took place. There we had a handicraft lesson 手工体验 and got an insight in the art of binding of a traditional book, the so called 线装书. Except for book binding, we were also given the opportunity to print 活字印刷. After practicing a little while, we heard a private concert of an excellent Qin 古琴 player. Not only did he play the Qin and give us some general information about the instrument and its history, but also were we given the opportunity to try to play ourselves. At the end of the second day we went to the train station to take the train back to Beijing.

Students learn about traditional book binding techniques

Summarizing the above, we got insights in the Chinese culture at all levels. We enjoyed some typical food, participated in a traditional ceremony, had the opportunity to wear traditional Chinese clothes and saw the birthplace as well as the tomb of Confucius, which is one of the most important aspects in Chinese Culture. All of us students were thankful to have had the chance offered by Mu Laoshi.

Qufu Experience

by Asger Højlund

This year, for the first time in the history of ECLC, a trip to Qufu was arranged for the culture class students. The purpose was to let the students get a hands-on experience with a sample of traditional Chinese arts and crafts, to visit a few of the notable local sights, and to revel in the lingering atmosphere of Confucius’ days of yore.

After having been accommodated at our hotel (in itself reminiscent of a foregone China with its imperial era artefacts and décor), we were brought to a restaurant that, while we were there, was housing a rehearsal dinner for a wedding banquet. The rehearsal, although obnoxiously loud, served as a great form of entertainment as we were gorging on a range of all the best the Shandong province had to offer.

Teachers and students take part in a Confucius appreciation ceremony

Stuffed on “pig’s elbow” and other delicacies we moved on to the main event of the day: baishili, a Confucius appreciation ceremony, which was held at a Confucius remembrance center. The ceremony entailed wearing traditional hanfu clothes of the shenyi variety, bringing offerings to Confucius, performing a sequence of jugongs (bows), and writing the character 德 in calligraphy.

For the rest of the afternoon we tried our hands on archery with varying degrees of success, had dinner at a nearby restaurant, before finally retreating to our hotel chambers. However, the tight schedule left little room for free time, and we were soon ushered to the bus and back to the Confucius center. There we would be introduced to the art of traditional Chinese painting by an art teacher from Beijing. Having sat through half an hour of lecture of very specialized terminology pertaining to the quality of the brushstrokes, the concentration of the ink, and other aspects of this noble art, that even Mu laoshi at times seemed to have trouble translating, we got the chance to create our own little masterpieces. We were told to mimic our teacher’s every action and get the strokes’ lengths, widths and intersections exactly right. Overall, the experience provided us with a very good insight into the kind of balancing of discipline and creativity that seems to be particular to China.

The next day we watched the opening ceremony of the local Confucius temple, which unfolded in a spectacular flurry of dance and music. Armed with a (sort of) English-speaking guide, we walked through the temple complex, where we would find ourselves among ancient, gnarly trees, enormous tortoise-mounted stone tablets, beautifully decorated buildings and the occasional ayi determined to get herself a few laowai-pictures for the family album. From the temple complex, we continued to another one of the collectively coined “Three Confucian Sites”, The Cemetery of Confucius, which, apart from acting as Confucius final resting place, also contains numerous of his descendants’ graves. Sitting in an oversized golf cart, we followed a narrow road through what felt more like a primeval forest than a cemetery ground. The park has seemingly been left largely uncultivated through the last couple of millennia, and, coupled with the myriad of grave mounds shaping the landscape of the park this creates an eerie and contemplative atmosphere that starkly contrasts the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.

We returned to theConfucius center later in the day to try our hands on printing and bookbinding (we all got to keep our own book), and after a short intermezzo we were divided into small groups, each group being assigned a guqin, a traditional Chinese string instrument. A local Shandongese musician then gave a lecture on the significance of the instrument and its different features, all of it delivered in an almost unintelligible local dialect. He eventually performed a few songs on the guqin, demonstrating the instrument’s wide range of emotions. With this performance, we concluded our stay in Qufu. After a quick meal, we were once again on the bullet train headed for Beijing, enrichened with a newfound sense of how ancient arts and philosophy continue to contribute to modern Chinese society.