Beijing Travel – Confucius Temple

Confucius is one of histories greatest philosophers and teachers and in the same league as famous western philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras and Socrates.

Born in 551BC, Confucius is China’s most influential philosopher and educator. The morals and principles of his philosophy are an integral part of values and ideology of modern Chinese society. He has been revered by the common people, emperors and leaders alike for thousands of years and a number of temples have been built all over China in his name.

The Confucian Temple in Beijing is the second largest Confucian temple in the world and only surpassed by a larger temple in Qufu, the home town of Confucius. Located near the center of Beijing, the Confucius Temple provides a marvellous insight into the world of Confucius and his influence on modern China.

History

Construction on the temple began in 1302, the sixth year of the reign of Emperor Dade of the Yuan Dynasty and was completed in 1306. The temple was enlarged, restored and rebuilt during the Ming Dynasty and again during the Ming Dynasty.

Grounds and Layout

The grounds of the Confucius Temple cover 22,000 square meters and are a made up of several courtyards and buildings laid out on a central axis. The main buildings on the central axis are the Xian Shi Gate, Da Cheng Gate, Da Cheng Hall and Chong Sheng Memorial Temple. There are also two rows of smaller buildings on the left and right side of the grounds.

Xian Shi Gate (Gate of the Master) – This gate houses the ticket office and the security checkpoint that tourist pass through to enter the temple.

Da Cheng Gate (Gate of Great Success) – This gate is also called the Halberd Gate because 24 of the ancient Halberd weapons that are displayed inside.

Da Cheng Hall (Hall of Great Success) – The main building in the temple and it is in this building that Confucius was enshrined and worshiped by China’s Emperors.

Chong Sheng Memorial Temple – This hall was not built until 1531 during the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming Dynasty. The hall was used for offering sacrifices to five generations of Confucius’s ancestors. The Confucius Temple performances are given on the steps of this temple.

History of Confucius Display Room – This is a long narrow building on the right side of the second courtyard. The room displays extensive information on the life and history of Confucius, his family, his accomplishments and his back ground. I found a display of his family tree very interesting because it only shows male descendants. This simple omission says a lot about Confucian philosophy and values.

Development of Confucianism Display Room – On the left hand side of the second courtyard is a room displaying information on the development and state of Confucianism in China and around the world in past and present times. There is a lot of information on the importance in the modern world of the values and ideas taught by Confucius.

There were several congratulatory references to compliments and praise made by Nobel Prize winners to Confucianism. Very ironic considering the current status the 2011 Nobel Peace price winner has in China.

I saw at least three primary school groups in the Confucius Temple when I was there and over heard one teacher lecturing his students on the values of Confucius in their studies. The Chinese education system clearly places a lot of emphasis on a 2,500 year old philosophy and its teachings.

Classical Chinese Music House – This is a small building to the left of Da Cheng Hall that has been converted to a shop selling food, ornaments and jade furniture. I found a lovely jade table and chairs in the shop that would have been great to take back home.

Jin Shi Stone Tablets – Jin Shi is a name for scholars who successfully passed the examination system in Imperial China. The examinations were a prerequisite for work in the government’s vast bureaucracy and passing these exams was considered a great honour and accomplishment.

198 stone tablets have been erected at the front and rear of the temple’s entrance courtyard that list examination results of 51,624 Jin Shi from the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Interestingly this examination and selection process continued until 1905.

Stone Stele Pavilions – 14 pavilions have been built in the temple’s first and second courtyards that house stone steles (tablets) recording historical information on ancient China. Some examples of these records are the successful suppression of a riot in Qinghai in 1725 and the completion of a renovation in the Confucius Temple in 1769.

Performances

Performances are often held in the front of the Chong Cheng Memorial Temple that last for around 20 minutes. I’m not sure what relationship if any the performances have with the teachings or life of Confucius but they are enjoyable to watch and the period costumes are very cute.

Unlike most travel spots in Beijing, the performances are not shown at regular times to all tourists. The performances are only held for large tour groups who purchase VIP tickets to the Confucius Temple. If you are keen on watching a performance, I suggest you discretely tag long with a large tour group when they enter the Chong Cheng Memorial Hall. This is how I accidentally crashed a performance.

Getting There

Take the subway to Yonghegong station which is at the intersection of subway lines 5 and lines 2. Leave the station using the C exit, turn left and walk several hundred meters. You will know if you have gone to far if you reach the entrance of Lama Temple.

After several hundred meters you will see a road on the right called Guozijian street. Go down that road and the temple will be on the right had side. If you have trouble finding the temple, ask a local where the “kong miao” is. You will have no problem finding people who will point you in the right direction.

Tickets and Times

The tickets are 30rmb each and the opening times are 8:30 to 6:00pm with no tickets sold after 5:30pm.

5 Tips to Handle Your Phone While Traveling Abroad

“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the world all of one’s lifetime.” These are the words of famous writer Mark Twain that describes beautifully about the reason we travel. We do it for fun, enjoyment and to break from our daily mundane routine. It is really nice to feel the sun on our back, or see the wonders that travelling to a new place can provide us. Going to a new place is always etched to our memory and nothing feels good than capturing the splendid moments we spent on as pictures or videos and sharing them with people we love. We have every social network at our disposal and it is a great loss to not be able to share our memories on them.

Moreover, as we are stranger in the new place, we always look for maps to navigate our ways through the landscapes. All of these are possible today at a single click on our mobile phones. It helps us to find place places to our liking through navigation, captures photos and videos and let us to be connected to our close friends and family. It is thus, very important to handle our phones efficiently so that it doesn’t run out of juice when we need it the most.

Tips to handle your phone:-

1. The first thing you need to do is download a travel app like Hopper, Kayak or NobelApp. This app shows the best deal going around the place you visit including cab fares, hotel rents and flight fares. Some apps like NobelApp also provide promotional deals which makes your travel quite cheap.

2. Using your phone is a necessity while travelling and it can drain your battery very quickly. It may not be possible for you find a charging point and you may miss out on important opportunities for a long time. To counter this problem, you must always carry an extra set of batteries and a power bank which can keep your phone charged on the go, and you won’t have to rue over lost chances.

3. When you travel to a different place calling home could be very expensive. Always carry an international calling card like Nobel Phone Cards to get over the situation. It makes you calls cheap and provides quality reception even if you are travelling outside your home network.

4. Try to get a Local SIM card to avoid high expenditure on you roaming SIM card. You can get a lot of offers on the local SIM cards which can make your travel less expensive.

5. Always carry extra memory cards for storing the photos and movies you have clicked so that you don’t have to compromise on the memories of the most pleasant moments

Travelling also makes you vulnerable to a huge expense and the security of your belongings in a foreign land. You must always look for appropriate travel insurance and include your gadgets in it to avoid any mishaps. After all you didn’t go for a vacation just to return with distress and disappointment.

Best Travel Writing – Top 10 Travel Novels

It’s hard to find great travel writing, but it’s out there. Part of the reason for this is that so much travel writing is also considered nature writing or narrative non-fiction. Part of the reason is that the field is so competitive because of a lot of good authors competing for a relatively small market space. But there is a wide array of great travel fiction out there, and here is my list of the best ten travel novels I’ve read over the past couple years.

10) Through Painted Deserts, by Donald Miller. This is one I actually found in the “Christian Non-Fiction” section, which can be unfair. There’s no question Miller is a Christian, but he’s a writer first and foremost, he’s not preachy, and his questioning of his own faith, of reasons for existence, of who and what he is or is becoming is reminiscent of the fantastic soul searching that came from the travel writing of the Beat generation. Miller’s account of his trip is great, going through the moments of beauty, the necessity of good road trip music, and admitting his moments of embarrassment and fear as freely as any other part of his journey.

9) Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah MacDonald. The early reading of this book can be hard, because after the first few chapters there’s a lot of the Western perspective, the whining of living conditions and poverty, the type of scorn you don’t care to read from travel writing. I’m glad I read the rest, because like “Through Painted Deserts,” “Holy Cow” is about the author’s journey. Sarah evolves and changes chapter to chapter in front of you as she sheds the scornful nature of an atheist “too smart” to fall for superstition, and she opens up, traveling through India and sampling all the different religious beliefs and practices as she becomes a humble Theist who learns happiness, learns to grow, and learns that alien cultures can have a lot to offer the open traveler.

8) Into the Wild by John Krakauer. I first caught sight of this book at a Barnes and Noble on one of the feature tables. I was on winter break from Alaska and visiting family in Iowa. I picked up the book, sat down, and read the entire work in one sitting. Travel book, journalistic book, nature book, adventure book-whatever you call it, this is one heck of a read, and the debate this book causes is deep and passionate. As a wanderlust traveler, I understand the drive the main character feels, as an Alaskan, I understand the native perspective of irritation, of the lack of understanding that nature is brutal and especially Alaska needs to be respected as such.

7) Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town, by Paul Theroux. Paul Theroux is at his best in “Dark Star Safar,” where his skills of observation and his dry wit are on full display. Paul takes readers the length of Africa via overcrowded rattletrap bus, dugout canoe, cattle truck, armed convoy, ferry, and train in a journey that is hard to forget. There are moments of beauty, but there are also many moments of misery and danger. This is a narration of Africa that goes beyond the skin deep to dare to look at the deeper core of what is often referred to as “The Dark Continent.”

6) Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, by William Least Heat-Moon. This is an auto-biographical travel journey taken by Heat-Mean in 1978. After separating from his wife and losing his job, Heat-Moon decided to take an extended road trip around the United States, sticking to “Blue Highways,” a term to refer to small out of the way roads connecting rural America (which were drawn in blue in the old Rand McNally atlases). So Heat-Moon outfits his van, named “Ghost Dancing” and takes off on a 3-month soul-searching tour of the United States. The book chronicles the 13,000 mile journey and the people he meets along the way, as he steers clear of cities and interstates, avoiding fast food and exploring local American culture on a journey that is just as amazing today as when he first took the journey.

5) The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson. There are tons of fantastic Bill Bryson books out there, and any one of them could hold this spot here. “The Lost Continent” is Bryson’s trip across America, visiting some common places (the grand canyon), but also exploring the back roads and looking for that familiarity that helps him remember home.

4) Wanderlust: Real-Life Tales of Adventures and Romance by Pico Iyer. Probably one of the best travel writing collections released in recent memory, this collection is under the name Pico Iyer, who helped to edit this collection. These stories come from the “Wanderlust” section of Salon.com and create a varied tapestry of travel writing that will keep the reader flipping from one writer to another.

3) A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. This is one of the all time modern classics in travel literature, as Peter Jenkins recalls the story of his 1973-1975 walk from New York to New Orleans. For many readers, this remains a rare travel book that grips you and keeps you. Known as a travel writer who will walk anywhere, including Alaska and China, Peter Jenkins says, “I started out searching for myself and my country and found both.” That sums up what travel writing should be all about.

2) Travels w/ Charlie by John Steinbeck. This was a novel that helped John Steinbeck win a Nobel Prize in Literature. “Travels with Charlie” is a fantastic travel narrative that gets to the heart of travel, the point of the trip, and the strange confrontation and realization that the places and people you remember are gone once you are. As he revisits the places of his youth that many of his books are based on, he realizes on seeing old friends that they’re as uncomfortable with him being back as he is with being there. A great story about travel, about home, about mourning lost history, about aging, and about America-this should be required reading for every high school student.

1) The Dharma Bums, by Jack Kerouac. The beat generation was full of great travel narratives, and Jack Kerouac was the master of powerful, moving, passionate language that unfolded stories like few people have ever managed. While “On the Road” is the most often pointed to travel narrative by Kerouac, “The Dharma Bums” is a better book. Full of passion, interesting characters and stories, and the kind of passionate language and powerful prose that made the beat generation writers popular, this Kerouac book is extraordinary and deserving of its number one spot.