Cemetery of Confucius

Last updated
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Confuciustombqufu (cropped).jpg
Tomb of Confucius
Location Qufu, Shandong, China
Part of Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu
Criteria i, iv, vi
Reference 704
Inscription1994 (18th Session)
Coordinates 35°37′07″N116°59′11″E / 35.61861°N 116.98639°E / 35.61861; 116.98639 Coordinates: 35°37′07″N116°59′11″E / 35.61861°N 116.98639°E / 35.61861; 116.98639
Chinese name
Chinese 孔林
Literal meaning"Kong Forest [of gravestones]"
China Shandong location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location of Cemetery of Confucius in Shandong
China edcp relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Cemetery of Confucius (China)

The Cemetery of Confucius (Chinese :孔林; pinyin :Kǒng lín; lit. 'Kong Forest [of gravestones]') is a cemetery of the Kong clan (the descendants of Confucius) in Confucius' hometown Qufu in Shandong province. Confucius himself and some of his disciples are buried there, as well as many thousands of his descendants.


Since 1994, the Cemetery of Confucius has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu". [1] The two other components of the site are the Temple of Confucius dedicated to the memory of the philosopher and the Kong Family Mansion, where his descendants lived. The three sites are collectively known in Qufu as San Kong (三孔), i.e. "The Three Confucian [sites]".


By the 2nd century AD, at least 50 of Confucius's descendants had been buried alongside him. [2] In 1331 construction work began on the wall and gate of the cemetery. In total, the cemetery has undergone 13 renovations and extensions. Eventually, by the late 18th century, the perimeter wall reached a length of 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi), enclosing an area of 3.6 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi). [2] In this space, the tombs of more than 100,000 descendants of Confucius, who have been buried there over a period of about 2,000 years, can be found. [1] The oldest graves date back to the Zhou Dynasty, the most recent of which belong to descendants in the 76th and 78th generation.

The cemetery suffered serious damage in November 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, when it was visited and vandalized by a team of Red Guards from Beijing Normal University, led by Tan Houlan. [3] [4] The corpse of the 76th-generation Duke Yansheng Kong Lingyi was removed from its grave and hung naked from a tree in front of the palace during the desecration of the cemetery in the Cultural Revolution. [5]


The Cemetery of Confucius is located north of the historic walled city of Qufu, about two kilometers north of the Temple and Mansion of Confucius (which are in the south-central part of the walled city), and 1.5 km north of the Temple of Yan Hui, dedicated to the sage's favorite student (which is just inside the northern gates of the city wall). The main north-central axis of the walled city, Gulou Jie ("Drum Tower Avenue"), becomes Beiguan Jie ("North Gate Avenue") after passing through the north gate of the city wall. The avenue runs north for 1266  m as a wide boulevard decorated with the Wan gu chang chun (萬古長春) memorial arch and lined by cypresses and pine trees, finally arriving at the main (southern) gates of the cemetery. [6]

The cemetery occupies 183.33 hectares (1.8333 km2) and is surrounded by a perimeter wall 5,591 m long. [6]

The oldest graves found in this location date back to the Zhou Dynasty. The original tomb erected here in memory of Confucius on the bank of the Sishui River had the shape of an axe. In addition, it had a brick platform for sacrifices. The present-day tomb is a cone-shaped hill. Tombs for the descendants of Confucius and additional stelae to commemorate him were soon added around Confucius' tomb.

Since Confucius' descendants were conferred noble titles (Duke Yansheng) and were given imperial princesses as wives, many of the tombs in the cemetery show the status symbols of noblemen. Tombstones came into use during the Han Dynasty. Today, there are over three thousand stone tablets (mostly, tombstones) dating from China's imperial period still standing in the cemetery. According to an official count, among them there are 22 tablets from the Song Dynasty, six from Jin, 45 from Yuan, 506 from Ming and 2626 from Qing still standing in the cemetery. There are also 568 tablets from the Republic of China period and 50 modern (PRC-era) tablets, as well as 180 tablets whose age cannot be determined; this brings the total to 4003. [7]

The Ming burials are primarily found in the western part of the cemetery, and those from the Qing era, in the eastern part. In the Ming section, particularly notable is a comparatively small area located about 1 km to the northwest of the Tomb of Confucius, where about a dozen of Dukes of Yansheng, from the 55th to the 64th generation, have been buried. The dukes' tomb sites in this area are arranged more or less chronologically in rows from the south to the north, and, within each row, from the east of the west. Each duke has his own spirit way, oriented from the south to the north, which typically includes (in the south-to-north order) the following sculptures: three pairs of animals (felines, sometimes winged; rams; horses); a memorial arch; a bixi with a stele; two guardian figures (a warrior on the west side of the path, and a civil official on the east side); and a stele in front of the small tumulus under which the duke is buried. [8] A smaller subsidiary area with late Ming - early Qing spirit ways, is located about 500 m northeast of this main area. [9]

More than 10,000 mature trees give the cemetery a forest-like appearance.

See also

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  1. 1 2 "Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  2. 1 2 Advisory Body Evaluation of the Temple of Confucius, the Cemetery of Confucius, and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu (ICOMOS) (Report). ICOMOS. 1994. Retrieved 3 April 2021.
  3. Ma, Aiping; Si, Lina; Zhang, Hongfei (2009), "The evolution of cultural tourism: The example of Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius", in Ryan, Chris; Gu, Huimin (eds.), Tourism in China: destination, cultures and communities, Routledge advances in tourism, Taylor & Francis US, p. 183, ISBN   978-0-415-99189-6
  4. Asiaweek, Volume 10
  5. Hung, Jeni (April 5, 2003). "Children of confucius" . The Spectator. Archived from the original on 2016-06-14. Retrieved 2007-03-04. ....during the... Cultural Revolution, the grave of the 76th Duke... was opened by Red Guards, his body stripped naked and hung from a tree in front of the palace.
  6. 1 2 第三十二篇文物名胜 -  第一章孔孟古迹 - 第三节林墓 - 孔林 [Cultural Relics and Scenic Spots. Historic Sites of Confucius and Mencius] Archived March 31, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  7. 孔林 - 石刻 [Kong Lin - sculptures]. Archived December 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  8. 孔林 - 墓葬 - 第二辑 嫡孙墓 Archived December 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine (Kong Lin - Burials - [Confucius'] Main-line descendants), and the entries about individual graves. See also photos on Commons.
  9. See e.g. the entry for Kong Shangtan (孔尚坦) in 孔林 - 墓葬 - 族孙墓 Archived December 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine