Street Card Game, July 2009. The town of Qufu is one of the top sights in Shandong Province. As the hometown of Confucius, arguably the world’s most revered philosopher, thousands of people flock here every day to pay testament to the old sage’s far-reaching influence. And it felt to me like this pocket-sized town, with a population of just sixty thousand, could barely cope with the strain. Still, away from the madness of Qufu’s Confucius attractions, one can still seek out a taste of local life. Work your way into the back streets and you’ll find restaurant owners fanning barbecues and circles of chain-smoking men playing cards.
Confucius Temple, July 2009. “Chinese people so crazy for Confucius!” giggled the receptionist at Qufu International Youth Hostel. She wasn’t kidding. The real reason, the only reason one might argue, for coming to Qufu was to check out San Kong, the town’s three hallowed Confucius sights. Spread out across a walled complex of sixteen thousand square meters, Confucius World, as one might call it, is so vast it actually takes up one fifth of Qufu’s total land mass. This is the temple area, a wondrous mix of stone courtyards, towering trees, crumbling bridges and a green, algae-infested stream.