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Confucian Temple Complex

Just down the hutong (lane) opposite the gates of the Lama Temple is the former Confucian Temple (Kongmiao) and Imperial College (Guozijian). The temple is devoted to the memory of Confucius and the sages and philosophers of Confucianism. It is the largest in the land after the one at Qufu, Shandong Province. It is now a museum. The complex on the left of the temple is consists of four courtyards and collects about 200 steles. The steles record the names (over 50,000) of those successful in the civil service examinations (possibly the world's first) of the Imperial court in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. To see his name engraved here was the ambition of every scholar – but it wasn't made easy; candidates were locked in cubicles (about 8,000 of them) measuring roughly 1.5 by 1.5 meters for a period of three days. Many died or went insane.

The Imperial College was the place where the Emperor expounded the Confucian classics to an audience of thousands of kneeling students, professors and court officials – an annual rite. Built by the grandson of Kublai Khan in 1302, the former College was the only institution of its kind in China – it's now the Capital Library. Part of the "collection" is the stone tablets commissioned by Emperor Qianlong. These have 13 Confucian classics engraved on them – 800,000 characters (twelve years' work for the scholar who did it). There is an ancient "Scholar-Tree" in the courtyard.

The Confucian Temple Complex is located at No.13, Guozijian Street, Dongcheng Strict Beijing. It is open 9 am to 5 pm.



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