Originally built in 1302, Confucius Temple in Beijing is China’s second-largest temple dedicated to the great ancient Chinese thinker and teacher, whose influence is still felt today. The temple, which covers a space of 5.4 acres (2.2 hectares), also offers a peaceful sanctuary from the urban hustle and bustle.
Confucius Temple has four separate courtyards, four main buildings—Xianshi Gate, Dacheng Gate, Dacheng Hall, and Chongsheng Temple—and numerous pavilions. There are also nearly 200 stone steles on which are inscribed the names of officials who passed the highest level of imperial exams, as well as the 13 Classics of Confucius, also known as the Qianlong Classics. Dotted around the complex are statues of Confucius and many old cypress trees, the most famous of which is the 700-year-old Chujian Bai (Touch Evil Cypress). Next to the temple, on the same grounds, is the Imperial College, or Guozijian Museum, and the site where emperors would recount Confucian classics to students.
Located close to the famous Lama Temple, many visitors visit both temples together, along with other attractions such as Dongyue Temple or nearby hutongs, either independently or as part of a guided tour. Some tours incorporate activities such as a rickshaw ride or calligraphy lessons.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Confucius Temple is a must-visit for those who want to better understand the impact of Confucianism on Chinese culture.
- The admission fee to enter the Confucius Temple also covers the Guozijian Museum.
- Plan to spend at least an hour to visit both the temple and the museum.
How to Get There
Confucius Temple is located in Beijing’s Dongcheng district. Take the subway Line 2 or Line 5, get off at Yonghegong Station (Exit G), and walk southwest. Alternatively, take bus number 13 or 684 to Guozijian Station, or bus 116 or 117 to Yonghegong (Yonghe Temple) Station.
When to Get There
The temple is open year-round, with slightly reduced hours from November to April. During this same period, the museum is closed on Mondays.
The 13 Classics
There are more than 630,000 characters forming the 13 Classics carved in the Confucius Temple’s stone steles. These cover the Book of Changes, the Book of History, the Book of Songs, and the Analects, among other key Confucian classics. The characters were engraved over a period of four years during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, which is why they are also referred to as the Qianlong Classics.