Discovering Confucius in His Hometown in Qufu, China
The small city of Qufu in Shandong Province is home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites seldom visited by Western tourists. Qufu is the home of Confucius—or Kong Qiu, as he’s known locally. Here you'll find the Temple of Confucius (second in size only to the Forbidden City in Beijing), the Kong family graveyard (the largest family cemetery in the world), and the family mansion, where descendants of the famed philosopher lived for an astounding 77 generations, from around 1000 AD until 1937. The cemetery spans a mind-boggling 500 acres with thousands of graves representing the longest lineage of descendants in the world (ironic, considering that Confucius was something of a drifter), stone bixi (turtle sculptures), and rare trees planted by disciples from all over China. In hazy autumn sunlight, the ancient brick and tilework radiate a warm, earthy glow as you wander, blissfully alone, through the historic structures.