What Is the Holy Place of Confucianism?

by Scott M. Albright
Koshi-byo is a shrine dedicated to Confucius and his disciples located in Nagasaki, Japan.

Koshi-byo is a shrine dedicated to Confucius and his disciples located in Nagasaki, Japan.

Confucianism does not have any one specific holy place outside the human experience on earth, and in many ways all space is sacred to Confucianists, however, some places may be considered more divine than others. Some of the holy places of Confucianism include China’s Mount Tai in Shandong Province, Confucius’ birthplace of Qufu, the different Confucian temples, academies and institutes, and the family home.

Taishan and Heaven and Earth Ceremonies

Mount Tai, known as Taishan in Mandarin, is one of the holiest mountains in China. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is revered by Buddhists, Taoists and Confucianists alike. According to the UNESCO website, Confucius (551-479 B.C.) was one of many renowned scholars known to have “composed poetry and prose” on the mountain. Besides its important association with the rise of Confucianism, Taishan is also well known for Heaven and Earth ceremonies that take place there. The first such ceremony took place in 219 B.C. after Emperor Shi Huang of the Qin Dynasty climbed the mountain and had an altar built on top to offer sacrifices to heaven.

Qufu and Autumnal Sacrifice to Confucius

Just over 40 miles from Taishan is Confucius’ birthplace of Qufu. The city is home to three major Confucian holy sites including the Confucian Temple, Confucius’ tomb, and Confucius’ family mansion. The temple, built in 478 B.C., was destroyed and then rebuilt to eventually comprise more than 100 buildings. Each year a sacrificing ceremony to Confucius is held at the temple, which draws thousands of visitors. Outside Qufu, Confucian temples and shrines can be found throughout China, as well as in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Sacred Institutions

Places of learning and government institutes were important to Confucius, who emphasized the need for education and good government. Confucianism’s influence in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam shaped the way institutes developed in those countries, where it is common practice for students and workers to show reverence for the place they study or work. In the mid-1980s the Chinese Communist Party launched a Confucian revivalist campaign marked by the spread of Confucius Institutes and Chinese cultural exchange programs. Statues and pictures of Confucius are displayed at many of these institutes, offering further sanctity for students and followers of Confucius.

Home as a Holy Place

The family home is perhaps Confucianisms’ most holy place of all. The home is where Confucianists develop family roles and relationships, and is also a place for practicing ancestor worship. To pay their respect to past relatives, Confucianists keep plaques of the deceased and burn incense and provide other offerings at a household altar. To Confucius, it was important for sons to stay close to home so they could take care of their parents before they too passed on. Associate professor of religion Jeffrey Richey explains in a Patheos Library article that “In the home, the generations meet under one roof and help one another along on the path toward spiritual self-transformation.''

About the Author

Scott M. Albright graduated from the University of Hawaii with a Masters degree in China-U.S Relations and holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of New Mexico. His work has appeared in "The Independent," "Taos News," "Alibi," "Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability" and "Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art."

Photo Credits

  • Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images News/Getty Images