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As most larger Chinese cities continue accelerating their paces of modernization, some small and medium towns have preserved their traditional side ¨C whether intentionally or not. Perhaps they cannot rival Beijing, Xi’an, and Hangzhou in terms of historical significance, but they have endured the test of time with persistent internal vitality and remain more placid and amiable due to poetic simplicity. The city of Quzhou in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province is one such place.
Of all Confucian temples in China, only two were built by Confucius’ descendants. One can be found in Qufu, the other in Quzhou. Confucian culture has long prospered along with the ancestral sanctuaries of Confucius.
During the late Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), nomadic troops invaded Confucius’ homeland from the north. Kong Ruiyou, a 48th-generation descendant of Confucius, fled south with his clan along with a wooden statue and several portraits of the sage. They ended up settling in Quzhou, where they constructed an ancestral temple modeled after the one left in Qufu.
Presently, Quzhou’s Confucian temple is managed by Kong Xiangkai, first descendant in the 75th generation of the Confucian family. In 1944, at the age of only six, Kong was nominated by the Kuomintang government to serve as the 75th-generation sacrifice officer of the southern Confucian descendants, the last to serve in such a position. Today, he endeavors to spread Confucian philosophy through activities such as ancestral worship, so he resumed the memorial ceremony for Confucius in Quzhou. However, he refuses to deify Confucius, so he decided against placing a spirit tablet to him in the temple.
An old saying goes: “Qufu has a Confucian temple, but no descendants of Confucius; Taipei has descendants but no temples; only Quzhou has both.” Visitors to the Confucian temple in Quzhou can join a group recital of Confucian classics for an hour every week. Also, everyone is given a free copy of Analects. When recitation of Confucian classics reverberates through the air, it can be difficult to identify the present century.