SHANDONG PROVINCE is a mostly flat, densely populated and largely agricultural province with canals, drab cities, factories and cabbage fields fertilized with human excrement. Located on a fertile peninsula situated on the lower reaches of the Yellow River and is bordered by the Bohai and Yellow Seas, it is the second most populous province in China after Guangdong and is a major coal producing area. The region's fortunes have traditionally risen and fallen with the Yellow River, which these days is drained of so much water before it enters Shandong it sometimes doesn't have any water when it reaches the Yellow Sea.

Shandong Province is the second most populous province in China. It covers 157,100 square kilometers (60,700 square miles) has a population density of 640 people per square kilometer. According to the 2020 Chinese census the population was around 101 million. About 61 percent of the population lives in urban areas. Jinan is the capital and largest city, with about 7 million people. Qingdao is another large about the same size as Jinan, Over 99 percent of the province’s population is Han Chinese. Minority groups include Hui and Manchus. Shandong people are known for being the tallest in China.

The population of Shandong was 101,527,453 in 2020; 100,063,065 in 2010; 89,971,789 in 2000; 84,392,827 in 1990; 74,419,054 in 1982; 55,519,038 in 1964; 48,876,548 in 1954; 38,865,000 in 1947; 38,100,000 in 1936-37; 28,672,000 in 1928; 30,989,000 in 1912. [Source: Wikipedia, China Census]

Known as Lu for short, Shangdong (pinyin: Shāndōng; Wade–Giles: Shan-tung) has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization and is the home region of great Chinese luminaries such as Confucius, Sun Tzu (of The Art of War fame), Mencius and Mo-tse. Thanks to its rich resources and industrious people, Shandong’s economy has developed rapidly and attracted a fair amount of foreign investment, which hasn’t trickled down to everyone as a large number of migrant workers in Beijing and Shanghai are from rural areas of Shandong.

Shandong served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese Buddhism, and Confucianism. Shandong's Mount Tai is the most revered mountain of Taoism and had a strong connection with the Chinese Imperial government. The Buddhist temples in the mountains to the south of Jinan were once among the foremost Buddhist sites in China. The city of Qufu is the birthplace of Confucius, and was later established as the center of Confucianism. Shandong's location at the intersection of ancient as well as modern north-south and east-west trading routes have helped to establish it as an economic center. Qingdao in particular had a large European presence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In recent years, economic growth has been centered mostly in Jinan, the province's economic and cultural centre, the coastal cities of Qingdao, Weihai, and Yantai and in Weifang and Zaozhuang.

Mandarin dialects are spoken in Shandong. Linguists classify these dialects into three broad categories: Ji Lu Mandarin spoken in the northwest (as well as in neighbouring Hebei), such as the Jinan dialect; Zhongyuan Mandarin spoken in the southwest (as well as in neighbouring Henan); and Jiao Liao Mandarin spoken in the Shandong Peninsula. Shandong Bangzi and Lüju are popular types of Chinese opera in Shandong; both originated from southwestern Shandong.

Tourist Office: Shandong Tourism Bureau, 88 Jingshi Rd, 250014 Jinan, Shandong, China, tel. (0)-531-296-5858, fax: (0)-531-296-4284 Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; Maps of Jinan: ; Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Jinan is accessible by air and by bus and by train from Beijing (six hours) and Shanghai (12 hours) and other Chinese cities. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide

Maps of Shandong:

Geography and Climate of Shandong

Shandong map
Shandong is bordered by Hebei Province to the northwest, Henan Province to the west, Jiangsu Province and small piece of Anhui Provinces to the southwest, the Bohai Sea to the northeast and the Yellow Sea to the southeast. Shandong is mostly flat. The northwestern, western, and southwestern parts of the province are all part of the vast North China Plain. The center of the province is more mountainous, with Taishan (Mount Tai) being the most famous. The east of the province is the hilly Shandong Peninsula extending into the sea, separating the Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea. The highest point in Shandong is 1,545-meter (5,069 foot) -high Jade Emperor Peak on Taishan.

The Yellow River passes through Shandong's western areas, entering the sea along Shandong's northern coast; in its traversal of Shandong it flows on a levee, higher than the surrounding land, and dividing western Shandong into the Hai He watershed in the north and the Huai He watershed in the south. The Grand Canal of China enters Shandong from the northwest and leaves on the southwest. Weishan Lake is the largest lake of the province. Shandong's coastline is 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) long. Shandong Peninsula has a rocky coastline with cliffs, bays, and islands; the large Laizhou Bay, the southernmost of the three bays of Bohai Sea, is found to the north, between Dongying and Penglai; Jiaozhou Bay, which is much smaller, is found to the south, next to Qingdao. The Miaodao Islands extend northwards from the northern coast of the peninsula.

Shandong has a temperate climate, lying in the transition between the humid subtropical (Cwa under the Köppen climate classification) and humid continental (Köppen Dwa) zones with four distinct seasons. Summers are hot and rainy (except for a few coastal areas), while winters cold and dry. Average temperatures are −5 to 1 °C (23 to 34 °F) in January and 24 to 28 °C (75 to 82 °F) in July. Annual precipitation is 550 to 950 millimeters (22 to 37 inches), the vast majority of which occurs during summer, due to monsoonal influences.

Geology and Dinosaurs of Shandong

Geologically, Shandong is part of the Eastern Block of the North China craton. Beginning in the Mesozoic, Shandong has undergone a crustal thinning that is unusual for a craton and that has reduced the thickness of the crust from 200 kilometers (120 miles) to as little as 80 kilometers (50 miles). Shandong has hence experienced extensive volcanism in the Tertiary.

Some geological formations in Shandong are rich in fossils. In December 2008, Chinese scientists said they had discovered the world's largest dinosaur fossil site in the eastern province of Shandong. More than 7,600 fossils, including tyrannosaurus and ankylosaurus remains, had been taken from a 300-meter-long pit over seven months near Zhucheng. Known locally as China's Dinosaur City, Zhucheng has yielded fossils in about 30 sites.

Early History of Shandong and the Age of Philosophers

With its location on the eastern edge of the North China Plain, Shandong has felt the influence of Chinese civilization since remote antiquity. The earliest dynasties (the Shang dynasty and Zhou dynasty) exerted varying degrees of control over western Shandong, while eastern Shandong was inhabited by the Laiyi peoples who were considered as the "barbarians". Over subsequent centuries, the Laiyi were eventually sinicized. [Source: Wikipedia]

During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States period, regional states became increasingly powerful. At this time, Shandong was home to two powerful states: the state of Qi at Linzi and the state of Lu at Qufu. Confucius was a native of Lu, a patrician state founded by the Duke of Zhou. During Confucius's lifetime, Lu was in a state of political chaos. The ducal house had gradually lost power to three cadet branches of the ruling clan, and these branches, each led by a warlord strongman in a walled city, competed in the exploitation of the population of Lu to their own ends. These internal divisions weakened the state and Lu eventually succumbed to the powerful state of Chu from the south and later was absorbed into its much larger neighbor to the east, Qi. . The state of Qi was was a major power throughout this entire period. Cities it ruled included Linzi, Jimo (north of modern Qingdao) and Ju.

Confucianism and Taoism developed — in a large part in what is now Shandong — in a period of Chinese history from the sixth century to the third century B.C., described as "The Age of Philosophers," which in turn coincided with the Warring States Period. During the Age of Philosophers, theories about life and god were debated openly at the "Hundred Schools," and vagrant scholars went from town to town, like traveling salesmen, looking for supporters, opening up academies and schools, and using philosophy as a means of furthering their political ambitions. Chinese emperors employed court philosophers who sometimes competed in public debates and philosophy contests, similar to ones conducted by the ancient Greeks. The uncertainty of this period created a longing for a mythical period of peace and prosperity when it was said that people in China followed rules set by the ancestors and achieved a state of harmony and social stability. The Age of Philosophers ended when the city-states collapsed and China was reunited under Emperor Qin Shihuangdi.

Present-day Shandong was home of great Chinese figures Confucius, Sun Tzu (of The Art of War fame), Mozi and Mencius. Confucius was born and lived most of life in Qufu. The Spring and Autumn Annals states that Sun Tzu was born in Qi, while Sima Qian's later Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji) states that Sun Tzu was a native of Wu. Mencius, often described as the "second Sage" after Confucius, was born in the State of Zou in present-day Zoucheng, Shandong Province, only 30 kilometers south of Qufu. Mozi, he first man to offer a strong intellectual challenge to Confucianism, was a native of the State of Lu (today's Tengzhou, Shandong Province).

Dr. Robert Eno wrote: “China's Classical age was a tumultuous era, filled with the dangers of constant civil war, political disruptions, and unpredictable social change. The intellectual elite of that period, who are the authors of all the textual records of that time, were anxious to search the past looking for political and ethical models that could help them extricate society from this era of crisis and chaos. The human past was for them as promising a field of study as the world of the natural sciences much later became for the West. At the same time, there was an urgent desire to make out a glimpse of the future, an almost millennial urge to see a new age of order emerge. These interests in history and the millennium were connected because the literate elite looked to the past as the key to their future. [Source: Robert Eno, Indiana University /+/ ]

Modern History of Shandong

The modern province of Shandong was created by the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) but at the time included much of modern-day Liaoning. During Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) Shandong acquired (more or less) its current borders. During the nineteenth century, coastal China became increasingly exposed to Western influence. Qingdao was leased to Germany in 1897 and Weihai to Britain in 1898. The rest of Shandong was generally considered to be part of the German sphere of influence. At the same time the Qing Dynasty opened Manchuria to Han Chinese immigration and people from Shandong made up a large chunk of the migrants.

Shandong was one of the first places in which the Boxer Rebellion started and became one of the centers of the uprising. As a result of the First World War, Germany lost Qingdao and its sphere of influence in Shandong. The Treaty of Versailles transferred the German concessions in Shandong to Japan instead of giving it back to China. Discontent over terms of the Treaty of Versailles (Shandong Problem) led to the May Fourth Movement. Finally, Shandong reverted to Chinese control in 1922 after mediation by the United States during the Washington Naval Conference. Weihai followed in 1930. After that Shandong was ruled by a succession of warlords, including the "Dogmeat General" Shandong was occupied by Japan, during the World War II period when the a scorched earth policy ("Three Alls Policy": "kill all", "burn all", "loot all") was implemented by general Yasuji Okamura against resistance.

At the time Japan surrendered Japan in 1945, . communist forces already held some parts of Shandong. Over the next four years of the Chinese Civil War, they expanded their holdings, eventually driving the Kuomintang (government of the Republic of China) entirely out of Shandong by June 1949. The People's Republic of China was founded in October of the same year. Under the new government, after some territory and islands were given and then taken back, Shandong has for the most part maintained the same borders that it has today. In recent years Shandong, especially eastern Shandong, has enjoyed significant economic development, becoming one of the richest provinces in China.

Shandong Cuisine

Shandong cuisine is one of the eight great traditions and major cooking styles of Chinese cuisine. It can be divided into inland Shandong cuisine (e.g. Jinan cuisine); the seafood-centered Jiaodong cuisine in the peninsula; and Confucius's Mansion cuisine, an elaborate tradition originally intended for imperial and other important feasts.

Shandong Cuisine is salty and uses a lot of spring onions and garlic and soy sause. Seafood dishes, clear soups, offal dishes and sweet and sour flavorings are common. Popular dishes include stir-fried clams and braised abalone, bird's nest soup, shredded chicken and sea cucumber with meatballs The dish associated most with Shandong is Yellow River carp in sweet and sour sauce made with carp from the Zhengzhou region of the Yellow River. Shandong dumplings are fat and round. Qingdao, a city in Shandong, features dumplings with a slightly bitter taste produced by thistle tops.

Shandong Cuisine is regarded as the foundation for the cuisine of North China. Local chefs in Shandong are skilled at preparing delicious dishes by stir-frying, boiling, frying, braising and other cooking techniques, which feature overall excellence in color, smell, taste and shape. Jinan Cuisine, Jiaodong Cuisine, and Kong Family Cuisine are three major branches of Shandong Cuisine, each having its own unique characteristics.

"Lu cuisine" is an abbreviation for Shangdong dishes, mainly developed from the local dishes in Jinan and Jiaodong. It features careful selection of ingredients, fine cutting and slicing skills, and moderate flavor. The cooking methods include deep-frying, grilling, pan-frying, stir-frying, stewing and braising. The main flavors are salty, sour, hot, fragrant, with spring onions and garlic. The color of the cuisine is bright and usually yellow or purplish red. Traditional dishes include Jiuzhuan Large Intestine, Tang Bao Shuang Chui, Dezhou Braised Chicken, Milk Soup and Fish Maw. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, ~]

Jinan Cuisine is represented by a number of dishes, such as Pucai in Milky Soup, Sweet and Sour Carp from Daming Lake, and Stir-fried Kidneys Among the representative dishes of Jiao dong Cuisine are Steamed Red Snapper with Clear Soup, Tianjing Sea Cucumbers and Quick-fried Conches. Kong Family Cuisine includes things like “Going to Court with a Son” (a duck with a baby duck) and Immortal Duck.

Interesting food item and things to buy include: 1) In Jinan: Lotus roots from Daming Lake, pucai vegetable, carps from the Yellow River, Zhangqiu green Ghinese onions, Mingshui fragrant rice, donkey- hide geletin, Pingyin roses, Muyu stones and Jinan dough modeling; 2) In Tai’an: Yanzi stones, red glossy ganaderma, the tuber of multiflower knotweed, Feicheng peaches, gorgon fruit, furnishings with landscapes of Mt. Tai, Mt. Tai arts and crafts for offering sacrifices to the gods, and Dawenkou cultural color pottery; 3) In Jining: Rubbings from stone inscriptions, Kai woodcarvings, Nishan ink slabs, four: nose carps, mandarin fish and Lu brocade; 4) In Qingdao: Qingdao beer, Laoshan mineral spring water, shell mosaic, Laoshan green tea, bamboo leave tea, Laoshan green stones, and grapes from Daze Mountain; 5) In Yantai: Zhangyu wine, Polaris: brand clocks and wristwatches, Longkou vermicelli made from bean starch, Yantai apples, Laiyang pears, paper: cuts for window decoration, straw: plaited products, Dali stone carvings, Laizhou writing brushes, tea set inlaid with gold or tin, and Tuoji sotne potted landscapes; 6) In Weihai: Large peanuts, Weihai apples and Golden Monkey: brand leather products; 7) In Rizhao: Jingdong pickes, Rizhao liquor, screens and hanging fans of Juxian; 8) In Weifang: Kites of Weifang, woodcut New Year pictures of Yangjiabu, Niejiazhuang clay sculptures, and padauk containers inlaid with silver threads; 9) In Zibo: Zibo pottery and porcelain ware, Boshan glassware, Zhou Village silk, and copper musical instruments of Zhou Village; and 10 ) In Liaocheng: Crisp jujubes, fermented bean curd for the capital, and handicraft leather belts.


Jinan (in west Shandong, 500 kilometers south of Beijing) west Shandong) is the capital and largest city, with about 7 million people. With the shift of the Yellow River to a new bed right to the north of Jinan in 1852 and the establishment of a railroad hub, the city became a major market for agricultural products from the productive farming regions to the north. Under the Communists, the city became an industrial center in the 1950s. A focus on technology-intensive industries transformed Jinan from a city of heavy industry and textiles to a city with more diverse industrial structure. Information Technology, transportation tools, home appliances, and bio-engineered products. Jinan's IT-related economic output was ranked fourth in China in 2004.

Among its attractions are Baotu Jet Spring, with stone balustrades surrounding a square pool with a vigorously bubbling spring; Daming Lake (Great Light Lake), described by Marco Polo as a "beautiful garden" and today filled with pedal boats; and Thousand Buddha Hill, with scores of 6th century Buddhist statues carved into cliffs, temples, pine trees and cypresses. Daming Lake is located in the center of Jinan City. Covering an area of 46 hectares, the lake is fed by many artesian karst springs of the area and hence retains a constant water level through the entire year. The average depth of the lake is 2 meters and its deepest point is about 4 meters. In summer time, lotuses bloom on about half of the lake. Willows circle the lake on three sides.

Baotu Spring is an artesian karst spring declared the "Number One Spring Under the Heaven" by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Qianlong Emperor. A symbol of Jinan, Baotu Spring is part of a cluster of more than 30 named springs. The first mention of the spring can be traced back to Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.), which was more than 3500 years ago. The spring pool of the Baotu Spring is fed by underground limestone water through three outlets, and the volume of the water coming out of the spring can reach 240,000 cubic meters per day. Sometimes the water jets from the spring are said to reach as high as 26.49 meters (86.9 feet), making the site a real spectacle.The spring water, clear and transparent, is ideal drinking water. The water temperature remains constant at 18 (64.4) all year round; Admission: 40 yuan (US$6.3) per person. [Source:]

Tourist Office: Shandong Tourism Bureau, 88 Jingshi Rd, 250014 Jinan, Shandong, China, Tel. (0)-531-296-5858, fax: (0)-531-296-4284 Websites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Map: China Maps China Maps Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Jinan is accessible by air and by bus and by train from Beijing (six hours) and Shanghai (12 hours) and other Chinese cities. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide

Jinan Subway Map: Urban Rail


Qufu (15 kilometers east of Jining, 550 kilometers south of Beijing) is the home town of Confucius, arguably the most influential human being that ever lived. Known in China as Master Kong or Kong Qiu, he was born and died here and his descendants have continued to live here for 2,500 years after his death. About 20 percent of Qufu's population still bears the Kong surname. A taxi driver surnamed Kong who described himself as a descendant of Confucius says he has never read the Analects and regarded his ancestor as merely a great literary figure rather than a saint or a sage.

The Kong family cemetery in Qufu contains 78 generations of Confucius' relatives. The first born son of the 77th generation was driven out of China in 1948 by the Communists. The remaining family members survived the Red Guard attacks. One of the remaining direct descendants allows two competing alcoholic beverage companies to use the Confucius' family name.

Qufu (pronounced Chu-fu) is now a tourist attraction with signs identifying it as such on highways in Shandong. It is currently managed by the Shenzhen Overseas Chinese Town Economic Development Co., known mainly for running Disney-like theme parks in southern China. It has done a relatively good job sparing the town of reckless development that has spoiled other charming places.. Residents of Qufu are proud of their association with Confucius and don't want the town to compromise its dignity. Food stalls offer braised eels and crayfish, roast duck, fried dumplings, pineapple on a stick, and bowls of snails and chili peppers.

Qufu is a prefecture-level city in the heartland of Shandong Province. The old town is home to about 60,000 people. The entire city has about 650,000 people. During the tourism off season, old, gray Qufu seems a somewhat cheerless place, just like any other drab and dreary minor Chinese mainland tourism destination. National Highway 327 separates Qufu into two parts: To the north, five kilometers of stone wall, originally built in the 16th century, delineates the old city,. There are basically three places to visit: The Confucius Temple, the Kong Family Mansion and Confucius Cemetery, which lie at the center of the old city and together are called "San Kong".

Qufu is adjacent to Tai’an in the north, and to Zoucheng, the hometown of Mencius, in the south. Since ancient times, Qufu has had flourishing culture.. There are a few relics dating back to when Qufu was part of the ancient state of Lu . Every year tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourist descend on Qufu for Confucius’ birthday to observe rituals that are said to have been repeated for 2,500 years.

Web Sites: Wikipedia Wikipedia Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: is accessible by bus and train. The train station is six kilometers outside of town. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Admission: Joint ticket for Temple, Mansion and Cemetery of Confucius: 150 yuan (US$23.62) per person (from March 1-November 14); 130 yuan (from November 15-February 28); Confucian Temple: 90 yuan (US$14.18) per person (from March 1-November 14); 80 yuan (from November 15-February 28); Confucian Family Mansion: 60 yuan (US$9.45) per person; (March 1-November 14); 50 yuan (November 15-February 28); Confucian Cemetery: 40 yuan (US$6.3) per person (March 1-November 14); 30 yuan (from November 15-February 28);

Confucius and Qufu

Confucian Temple
Qufu is the birthplace of Confucius (551-479 B.C.), the great thinker, statesman, educator and founder of the Confucian school of philosophy. Confucius is believed to have been born at nearby Mount Ni when the town served as a capital of the State of Lu during the Spring and Autumn Period (722-476 B.C.). For periods of the past two millennia, Qufu was treated with the same reverence as the Forbidden City. In other times, it was cursed and destroyed, most recently of course when Red Guards targeted the city, its buildings and people during the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. Tour guides don't hesitate to explain to visitors how the stone steles at the Confucius Temple were smashed.

Educated Qufu people still feel close to Confucianism, according to locals. Women obey traditional Confucian ethics and cultivate "virtues," she says. Even as recently as 10 years ago, a remarried widow kowtowed to every household of her village as an apology. Many visitors are students who worship Confucius, because they want to succeed at school.

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times Qufu's “fortunes ebb and flow with the popularity of its most famous son. The place is half pilgrimage site, half theme park. Restaurants serve "Confucius duck" and "Confucius soup" — "just how the master liked it," says a waitress — and in souvenir stands, they sell Confucius' writings in little red books just like the quotations of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, along with an assortment of busts and figurines of Confucius and the Communist leader. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2011]

One Chinese traveler wrote in China Daily: My limited education in Confucianism was obtained in the 1970s when the ancient sage mysteriously turned into a target for Chairman Mao Zedong's wrath. Even then we were not taught the original text, only the Three-Character Classic, a limerick for kids. I learned that Confucius was accused of "self-restraint and attempt to restore old rituals". I didn't know what that meant. At home, my grandma told me Confucius had invented the writing system of the Chinese language. Later on, I found to my chagrin it was not true. But I was not aware how many quotes from him are on our lips and how much of his wisdom is in our genes. Like it or not, Confucius is the ultimate teacher for all Chinese. [Source: China Daily August 19, 2009]

“To sense the greatness of Confucius, you can simply glance in any direction in this city of 60,000, many of whom are his descendents. Everywhere are axioms enunciated by him and made popular by generations of schoolchildren who learned all his words by rote. This one appeared on the wall of the hotel where I was staying: "Isn't it a joy to have friends from afar?" It is the very first sentence from the Analects and a fitting phrase for the tourism business.”

Qufu: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 According to UNESCO: “Built to commemorate him in 478 B.C., the temple has been destroyed and reconstructed over the centuries; today it comprises more than 100 buildings. The cemetery contains Confucius' tomb and the remains of more than 100,000 of his descendants. The small house of the Kong family developed into a gigantic aristocratic residence, of which 152 buildings remain. The Qufu complex of monuments has retained its outstanding artistic and historic character due to the devotion of successive Chinese emperors over more than 2,000 years. UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: UNESCO

“Confucius, a renowned philosopher, politician and educator in ancient China whose system of belief involving philosophy, politics and ethics (subsequently known as Confucianism) has exerted profound influence on Chinese culture, was revered as the Sacred Model Teacher for Ten Thousand Generations by Chinese emperors.

“The buildings were designed and built with meticulous care according to the ideas of Confucianism regarding the hierarchy of disposition of the various components. In the Ming period many outstanding artists and craftsmen applied their skills in the adornment of the temple, and in the Qing period imperial craftsmen were assigned to build the Dacheng Hall and Gate and the Qin Hall, considered to represent the pinnacle of Qing art and architecture.

Confucianism has exerted a profound influence not only in China but also on the feudal societies of Korea, Japan and Vietnam and had a positive influence on the Enlightenment of 18th century Europe. The Temple of Confucius, the Cemetery of Confucius, and the Kong Family Mansion are not only outstanding representatives of oriental architectural skills, but they also have a deep historical content and are an important part of the cultural heritage of mankind.

The site is special because: 1) The group of monumental ensembles at Qufu is of outstanding artistic value because of the support given to them by Chinese Emperors over two millennia, ensuring that the finest artists and craftsmen were involved in the creation and reconstruction of the buildings and the landscape dedicated to Confucius. 2) The Qufu ensemble represents an outstanding architectural complex which demonstrates the evolution of Chinese material culture over a considerable period of time. 3) The contribution of Confucius to philosophical and political doctrine in the countries of the East for two thousand years, and also in Europe and the west in the 18th and 19th centuries, has been one of the most profound factors in the evolution of modem thought and government.

Confucius Temple

Confucius Temple (central Qufu) is the second largest historical building site in China after rhe Forbidden City. Originally built as a home for Confucius's oldest son, it covers 20 hectares (49 acres) and is a fine example of classical Chinese architecture. One traveler described it as a “magnificent sweep of lines, with eaves curving up towards the stars."All around are cypress trees, which symbolize the firmness of the Confucian character. One of the central courtyards features the Apricot Platform.

The halls are laid out along a symmetrical northwest axis. In the 22-acre temple grounds are many large trees and small gardens as well as 28 stone columns and bas-reliefs of clouds and dragons. The Terrace of Apricot, a tile-roofed platform, is where Confucius used to give lectures to his disciples. Offerings are regularly made at altars around the temple.

During the Cultural Revolution the temple was sacked as Confucius was denounced as a class enemy. An enormous statue of Confucius was dragged through the streets and smashed with sledge hammers. Corpses were dug up from their graves at the Kong family's cemetery and hung from trees. More than 6,000 artifacts were smashed or burned. The temple has since been restored and looks pretty good except statues and ancestral tablets destroyed by the Red Guards have not been replaced.

According to UNESCO: Located in his birthplace, Qufu City of Shandong Province, China, the Temple of Confucius was built to commemorate and offer sacrifices to Confucius in 478 B.C. Having been destroyed and reconstructed over the centuries, it now covers 14 hectares, with 104 buildings dating from the Jin to Qing dynasties including the Dacheng Hall, Kuiwen Pavilion and Xing Altar, and over 1,250 ancient trees. The Temple houses more than 1,000 stelae made at different times, and precious objects such as Han stone reliefs, carved pictures depicting the life of Confucius, and the stone dragon carvings of the Ming and Qing dynasties. The Temple is the prototype and model for all the Confucius temples widely distributed in countries in East Asia and Southeast Asia, particularly in terms of layout and style.”

Regarded as one of the three largest historical architectural complexes in China along with the Summer Palace in Beijing and the Mountain Resort of Chengde, the Confucian Temple contains 466 halls, pavilions and other rooms. area of 200 mu (13.3 hectares). The Great Accomplishment Hall, the major structure of the temple, is 33 meters tall. It is roofed with yellow glazed tiles and has octagonal eaves. In addition to a statue of Confucius, the hall also houses stone inscriptions of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), telling the life story of Confucius in 120 pictures as well as a host of stone tablets. There are also 2,100 steles with a fine exhibition of calligraphy and stone carving.

Visiting the Confucius Temple

Barbara Demick wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The atmosphere is reverential inside the walls of the Confucius Temple and the adjacent Confucius Mansion, labyrinthine compounds of dozens of buildings that once housed the Kong descendants in the style of the emperors. The properties were restored in the 1980s and attracted 3 million tourists last year. The religious side of Confucianism is in evidence here. [Source: Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2011]

“In front of a looming, painted statue of Confucius in a vaulted niche — in which the ancient sage looked a little like a skinny version of Buddha — visitors burn incense and bow their heads low three times. "Once for family, once for fortune and once for the future," intoned one of the temple custodians to the worshipers. For US$1.50, visitors write their wishes and prayers on strips of red paper to be hung next to the temple. "I want to pass the entrance exam for college and make my whole family happy," was a typical message; another read, "I want to lose weight in the future."

Li Gaimei, 57, a retired office worker who came with her daughter's family over the Chinese New Year's holiday, said she had been studying Confucianism for seven years. "I'm not religious, but I feel there is a lot I can learn from Confucius that is applicable in your modern life, whether it is at the job or at home," Li said. "Confucius helps us remember to conduct ourselves as moral people." Cui Donglei, a slouchy 18-year-old with dyed red hair and a rhinestone earring, said he had come with his parents to learn more about Confucius. "All that he wrote about setting goals in your life is very helpful to me," he said.

Admission: Joint ticket for Temple, Mansion and Cemetery of Confucius: 150 yuan (US$23.62) per person (from March 1-November 14); 130 yuan (from November 15-February 28); Confucian Temple: 90 yuan (US$14.18) per person (from March 1-November 14); 80 yuan (from November 15-February 28); Hours Open: 7:30am-4:30pm; Getting There: Take bus No. 1, 3

Kong Family Mansion

Kong Family Mansion (next to Confucius Temple) covers 16 hectares and has 463 rooms and halls and nine courtyards, one behind the other, and a maze of passageways. The whole complex is divided into three sections. The central section contains offices and the great halls. The eastern section houses the family shrine. In the western section there is a large collection of rare treasures and ancient books. At one time the mansion housed 500 family servants, including imperial appointees whose sole jobs was making sure the family dinners had sufficient supplies of bean sprouts.

In one courtyard there are rows of marble stelae, which mainly record visits and thoughts of important dignitaries. One reads: “Confucius is like food and clothes. Without him China can never prosper." Another reads: “We came here with a gentle breeze, and the members of the Kong family welcomed us with silk and incense." In the innermost courtyards is the central sanctum. It features marble columns with inscriptions of dragons. The double roof is adorned with yellow and green tiles. The Chinese tourists that come here light incense before a restored statue of the sage.

Confucius lived in a three-room house, but after he died he was made into a saint and the complex was rebuilt and expanded numerous times as emperors and aristocrats made pilgrimages to Qufu, adding structures. In one courtyard, there are so many pavilions housing steles the eaves almost touch one another. The Confucian Family Mansion was used as residence of Confucius' descendantss, which were quite numerous in themselves. Covering an area of 12 hectares, the family mansion now houses a large number of documents, files and cultural relics. The mansion was largely spared during the Cultural Revolution. Inside you can see canopied rosewood beds, carved with dragons and phoenixes, that the Kong family slept in, and jade and porcelain plates they ate off of. Other treasures include cloisonne ornaments, calligraphy, ivory screens, scroll paintings, ornamental trees

According to UNESCO: Lying to the east of the Temple, the Kong Family Mansion developed from a small family house linked to the temple into an aristocratic mansion in which the male direct descendants of Confucius lived and worked.Following a fire and rebuilding of the temple with an enclosure wall on the model of an imperial palace in the 14th century, the mansion was rebuilt a short distance from the temple. Subsequently expanded, then destroyed again by fire and rebuilt in the late 19th century, it now covers 7 hectares with a total of some 170 buildings. Over 100,000 collections are kept in the Mansion; among them the ten ceremonial utensils of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, the portraits of Confucius made in different periods and clothes and caps dating to the Ming and Qing dynasties are the most famous. Furthermore, the more than 60,000 files and archives of the Ming and Qing dynasties collected in the Mansion not only provide a credible record of all kinds of activities in the Mansion for more than 400 years, but are highly valuable for studying the history of the Ming and Qing period.”

Admission: Joint ticket for Temple, Mansion and Cemetery of Confucius: 150 yuan (US$23.62) per person (from March 1-November 14); 130 yuan (from November 15-February 28); Admission: Joint ticket: 150 yuan (US$23.62) per person; Confucian Family Mansion: 60 yuan (US$9.45) per person; (March 1-November 14); 50 yuan (November 15-February 28); Hours Open: 7:30am-4:30pm; Getting There: Take bus No. 1, 3

Cemetery of Confucius

The Cemetery of Confucius (one kilometers north of central Qufu) is a cemetery where the Kong family — Confucius's descendants — are buried. Over 100,000 people — the Kongs and their wives — are buried here among the cypress trees in a stone forest inside a tree forest. Some of the tombs are quite elaborate. Some have statues of horses, rams, lions and mandarins.

Also known as Confucius Wood The Cemetery of Confucius has the longest line of descendants in the world. Covers an area of 183 hectares, the cemetery is famous for its arboretum, with over 1,000 mature trees, and botanic garden. Confucius's grave is a simple mound of earth inside a simple brick wall, unadorned except for a stelae that says: “Perfect Sage, the Accumulator of Philosophy."

The Confucian Cemetery has served as the family graveyard of Confucius and his descendants for more than 2,300 years. The walls around the cemetery are 7 kilometers (4.35 miles) long. The stone memorial above Confucius's tomb is still cracked by vandalism from the Cultural Revolution. According to tour guards the grave was excavated by Red Guards and found to be empty,

Admission: Joint ticket for Temple, Mansion and Cemetery of Confucius: 150 yuan (US$23.62) per person (from March 1-November 14); 130 yuan (from November 15-February 28); Confucian Cemetery: 40 yuan (US$6.3) per person (March 1-November 14); 30 yuan (from November 15-February 28); Hours Open: 7:30am-4:30pm; Getting There: Take bus No. 1, 3


Mt. Tai
Taishan (north of Tai’an City, 25 kilometers south of Jinan and Qufu) is China's most sacred mountain and one of China's most popular tourist sites. Revered by Taoists and Confucians, it covers an area of 426 square kilometers, with its main peak rising to 1,545 meters (4,700 feet high). Many emperors came here to make offerings and pray to heaven. Poets and philosophers drew inspiration from it. Pilgrims prayed on an alter said to be the highest in China.

Taishan was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. According to UNESCO: “Mount Taishan is the most famous sacred mountain of China, with exceptional historic, cultural, aesthetic and scientific value... The sacred Mount Tai ('shan' means 'mountain') was the object of an imperial cult for nearly 2,000 years, and the artistic masterpieces found there are in perfect harmony with the natural landscape. It has always been a source of inspiration for Chinese artists and scholars and symbolizes ancient Chinese civilizations and beliefs.”

Taishan means “big mountain” or “exalted mountain” It is the eastern peak among the five holy mountains associated with the cult of Confucius. The five peaks represent the directions — north, south, east, west and central — and Taishan is considered the holiest because it is in the east, the direction from which the sun rises. For many Chinese it is like Mecca. Climbing it is as much a nationalist and spiritual experience as a recreational one. The other four “Five Sacred Mountains” are Huashan in Shaanxi, Hengshan in Shanxi, Songshan in Henan and Hengshan in Hunan.

Located in the central part of Shandong Province, Mt. Taishan covers an area of 426 square kilometers and is known for its magnificent natural scenery which includes 156 peaks, 138 precipices, 130 streams, 72 mountain springs, 64 waterfalls and ponds and over 10,000 ancient trees, presenting “magnificent, unusual, dangerous, elegant, exquisite, serene and vast” scenic sights.

UNESCO on Why Taishan is Special

On why Taishan is special, UNESCO says: 1) “The landscape of Mount Taishan as one of the five sacred mountains in traditional China is a unique artistic achievement. The eleven gates, the fourteen archways, the fourteen kiosks and the four pavilions, which are scattered along the flight of 6,660 steps that rise between heaven and earth are not just simple architectural achievements, but are the final touches by human hands to the elements of a splendid natural site. Its very size places this scenic landscape, which has evolved over a period of 2,000 years, among the most grandiose human achievements of all time. [Source: UNESCO]

2) “Mount Taishan, the most venerated of mountains in China, exerted for 2,000 years multiple and wide-ranging influence on the development of art. The Temple to the God of Taishan and the Azure Cloud Temple, dedicated to his daughter, the Goddess Laomu, were prototypes built on Mount Taishan and subsequently used as models during the imperial period, throughout all of China. The conceptual model of a mountain bearing the traces of man, where graceful structures — bridges, gateways or pavilions — contrast with sombre pine forests or frightening rocky cliffs, could only have originated by referring to Mount Taishan.”

3) “Mount Taishan bears unique testimony to the lost civilizations of imperial China, most particularly in relation to their religions, arts and letters. For 2,000 years it was one of the principal places of worship where the emperor paid homage to Heaven and Earth in the Fengshan sacrifices, conducted by the Son of Heaven himself. Since the time of the Han Dynasty, it has been one of the five mountains symbolizing the Celestial Kingdom, in accordance with the Doctrine of the Five Elements, a fundamental premise in Chinese thought.”

4) “Mount Taishan is an outstanding example of a sacred mountain. The Palace of Heavenly Blessings (1,008 CE), located inside the Temple to the God of Taishan, is one of the three oldest palaces in China. The Azure Cloud Temple, also constructed under the Song Dynasty, is typical of a mountain architectural complex in the arrangement of its courtyards and buildings, and the Divine Rock Temple with its Thousand Buddhas Hall are outstanding and complete examples of great temples. Together they illustrate the cultural and religious aspects of the Tang and Song periods.”

5) “The natural and cultural ensemble of Mount Taishan comprises a traditional human settlement in the form of a cult centre dating from the Neolithic (Dawenkou) period, which has become an outstanding example of traditional culture under the impact of irreversible change wrought by increasing visitation and tourism.” 6) “Mount Taishan is directly and tangibly associated with events whose importance in universal history cannot be minimized. These include the emergence of Confucianism, the unification of China, and the appearance of writing and literature in China.” 6) “With nearly 3 billion years of natural evolution, Mount Taishan was formed through complicated geological and biological processes, which resulted in a gigantic rock mass covered with dense vegetation towering over the surrounding plateau. This dramatic and majestic mountain is an outstanding combination of a beautiful natural landscape dominated by the cultural impacts of thousands of years of human use.”

History of Taishan

According to historical records, Mount Taishan became a sacred place frequented by emperors to offer sacrifices and meditate around 1,000 years B.C.. A total of 72 emperors have reportedly visited the mountain.Confucius is said to have climbed the mountain and proclaimed “I feel the world is much smaller” when he reached the top. The Emperor Wu Di ascended it in his quest for immortality; the great 16th century historian Zhang Dai wrote how he was besieged by souvenir sellers when he made the trip. When Mao reached the summit for sunrise, the story goes, he commented that the "East is Red."

According to UNESCO: “Settled by humans as early as the Neolithic (a Dawenkou site is nearby), the mountain has been worshipped continuously throughout the last three millennia. A large and impressive rock mass covering 25,000 hectares and rising to 1,545 meters above the surrounding plateau, Mount Taishan is considered one of the most beautiful scenic spots in China and was an important cradle of oriental East Asian culture since the earliest times. The mountain was an important object of the cult worship of mountains even before 219 B.C., when the Qin Emperor, Huang Di, paid tribute to the mountain in the Fengshan sacrifices to inform the gods of his success in unifying all of China.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO:"The Five Sacred Mountains" has been worship for over three thousand years from Neolithic Age due to its unique geographical locations and majesty of relative altitude over a kilometer. In 219 B.C., Qin Shihuang (First Emperor of Qin Dynasty) held a ceremony of offering sacrifices on the top Mt. Taishan when special national sacrifice codes and systems originated, which was followed by later emperors to show their imperial power's validity and authority”

Five Sacred Mountains of China

The "Five Sacred Mountains of China” are: 1) Mt. Taishan" in Shandong Province; 2) the Southern Mt. Hengshan in Hunan Province; 3) the Western Mt. Huashan in Shaanxi Province; 4) Central Mt. Songshan in Henan Province; and 5) Northern Mt. Hengshan in Shanxi Province. There are several mountains in China with the names Huashan, Hengshan and Songshan, which is why there are referred to central, northern and western, Taishan was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The other four were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site called the “Four Sacred Mountains as an Extension of Mt. Taishan” in 2008, which collectively cover 547.69 square kilometers.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO:" Offering sacrifices to Five Sacred Mountains was held to make the emperors'' achievements informed to all the people and Five Sacred Mountains were regarded as boundaries of their reign. Therefore, as an integration which cannot be divided, Five Sacred Mountains symbolizes the unification and territory in the era of Chinese agricultural civilization. [Source: Ministry of Construction of the People’s Republic of China]

“The political position of Five Sacred Mountains makes them become the common target to which different nationalities worship and sacrifice and contributes to national fusion and unification. Meanwhile, Five Sacred Mountains have also gained their fame of cultural meanings. Five kinds of cultures are the most prominent ones. Firstly, the culture of "five elements". The "five elements" consisting of "water, fire, wood, gold and earth" are considered as the basic substances composing everything on the earth and are considered to promote the selection and formation of Five Sacred Mountains. Secondly, culture of "universal unity", a political concept which can be traced back to The Spring and Autumn Period and The Warring States Period, have been considered as the ideal state of dynasts. The "universal unity" has two major connotations: territorial and political unity, ritual and cultural unity. The "universal unity" has boosted formation and development of sacrifice culture and political position of Five Sacred Mountains.

“Thirdly, the culture of sacrifice. Systems of royal inspection, hunting on mountain, burning for sacrifice, distant sacrifice, fete and sacrifice with the representative of Five Sacred Mountains sacrifice have evolved in the feudal Chinese society and "fengshan" (offering sacrifice to gods) gradually evolved to be the most important national sacrifice ceremony of royal ones in feudal ancient China. Fourthly, the culture of religion. As sacred places of Buddhism, the Southern Mt. Hengshan and the Central Mt. Songshan, have witnessed the spread and development of Buddhism in China and imposed great influence on other countries especially Asian ones. Fifthly, the culture of landscape. A rich collection of stone inscription and literature works is precious fortune for both Chinese and world literature and arts. The five kinds of cultures are interrelated to each other, which advance the selection, formation, development and spread of Five Sacred Mountains.”

Temples, Trees and Buildings on Taishan

Mt. Taishan has 58 temples, 128 ancient archaeological sites and over 2,500 tablets and stone inscriptions, ranking first in the number and scale among all the famous mountains in the country. Mt. Taishan is known as the huge open-air museum.

According to UNESCO: On the mountain there are 12 historically recorded imperial ceremonies in homage to Heaven and Earth, about 1,800 stone tablets and inscriptions, and 22 temples, which together make Mount Taishan the most important monument in China, a world-renowned treasure house of history and culture.

The key monument, the Temple to the God of Taishan, contains the Taoist masterpiece painting of 1,009 CE “The God of Taishan Making a Journey”. Inscriptions include the Han Dynasty stelae of Zhang Qian, Heng Fang and Madam Jin Sun; the Valley of Inscribed Buddhist Scriptures inscribed in the Northern Qi Dynasty; the Eulogium on Taishan by Tang Xuanzong, and the Parallel Stelae of the Tang Dynasty.

There is also a number of ancient and significant trees, including six cypresses of the Han Dynasty planted 2,100 years ago; Sophora japonica of the Tang Dynasty planted 1,300 years ago, and the Guest-Greeting Pine and the Five-Bureaucrat Pine, both of which were planted some 500 years ago. All the architectural elements, paintings, in situ sculptures, stone inscriptions and ancient trees are integrated into the landscape of Mount Taishan.

Visiting Taishan

Hundreds of thousands of visitors visit the mountain and pay the hefty entrance fee. At the summit there is a hotel, noodle stands and souvenir shops. Many people stay at lodge and rise early to catch the sunrise and splendid views of the North China Plain before the mists and clouds arrive. Many leave disappointed. The weather often doesn't cooperate. It is often cloudy even at sunrise.

According to UNESCO: “A cable car was built before the property was inscribed as World Heritage [in 1987] but most visitors reach the summit area by climbing the 6,660 steps. The integrity of the property has been impacted little by tourism and associated facilities, however there needs to be a definite limit of the extent of development of such facilities. ... Management and protection issues included the concept of adopting a carrying capacity and designing facilities to be used to control access, and to consider proposals to progressively remove or replace incongruous buildings with those of an appropriate architectural style. The location, number and type of small scale photo and refreshment operations also need to be rationalised and controlled to reduce adverse impact on visitor appreciation of natural and cultural values.

Other sights in the Taishan area include Culai Mountain Forest Park, Lianhua Mountain, Dongping Lake, Peach Blossom Valley, Northeast Tiger Park, Heavenly Queen Pool, Azure Cloud Temple (with stone carvings from various dynasties) and the famous stone carving of the Buddhist Diamond Sutra in the Sutra Stone Valley.

Web Sites: Travel China Guide (click Mount Taishan) Travel China Guide UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: UNESCO

Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Taishan has train station. Minibuses run between the train station and the main gate to the park. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Admission: Taishan Mountain: 125 yuan (US$20) in season (February to November); 100 yuan (US$15.75) out of season (December to January); Culai Mountain Forest Park: 20 yuan; Lianhua Mountain: 50 yuan; Dongping Lake: 50 yuan; Peach Blossom Valley: 102 yuan; Northeast Tiger Park: 20 yuan.

Climbing Taishan

Stone steps lead almost all the way to the summit. People hiking at a leisurely pace can climb the 6,600 steps to reach the summit in about six hours. Just after the Pavilion That Reaches the Sky, the stairway becomes noticeable steeper. One has to negotiate 18 tortuous turns to reach the South Gate of Heaven.

Along the trails are lepers begging for coins; vendors using cell phones and lap top computers; and stones with poems and landmarks with poetic names like Bridge Where One Greets the Fairies and Spring Where the Dragon Meditates. At the summit elderly women tie red strings around trees in hopes of bringing a grandson. For those who don't want make the climb on foot there is cable car that was added in the 1980s


When the emperor made the climb he was carried in a sedan chair accompanied by men on armored horses, and, silk-robed mandarins a and troupe of drummers and gong players. Mao walked to the top. Communists banned sedan chairs because it was degrading work.

Taishan Porters, known as tiaofu, work in pairs or teams or alone, carrying things — like oil drums, sacks of rice, cases of soft drinks, heads of cabbage, beer, cement and even refrigerators, heavy generators and beds — tied to ropes on poles up the steps to restaurants, temples and shops at the top of the mountain. For each three hour round trip the porters get paid slightly less than US$2. The weight they carry often exceed their own weight by five or ten kilograms. On a good day they can make three trips. But often the weather is too hot for that.

Regarded as part of Tai shan culture, the porters call themselves “old oxen." Their strength and stamina are admired have been the subjects of stories and songs. About 200 of them work on the mountain. After a hard day of work they have a meal cooked on an open fire and sometimes are so sore they can't sleep. They have been managed to keep their jobs even though freight lifts have been put in service. Customers like the old oxen because the wait time is less. [Source: Los Angeles Times]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization),, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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