Qufu is nothing like the other parts of China we’ve been to. After having western breakfasts for the past two weeks, we woke up this morning to a very Chinese breakfast. To me it seemed like dinner in the morning, but I guess it’s OK. We then met our nice tour-guide, Ben, and went to the birthplace of Confucius. Confucius was a great educator, thinker, and philosopher in Chinese history. He was the creator of Confucianism and is said to be the greatest representative of the ancient Chinese Culture and civilization. The site where we were was called Mount Ni and is, according to legend, the place where Confucius was born. There isn’t any proof that I know of that he was actually born there, but it’s easier for me to just go with it.
Before we saw the birthplace, we were given the freedom to explore this beautiful 500 year old Confucian temple. Tom encouraged us to find a quiet place and reflect on what’s happened so far on the trip. There were several of these rooms with shrines in them, where we could sit and pray to honor our ancestors. I found one room that was empty of other humans, and had a pillow on the ground in front of the shrine. I decided to sit down and meditate for a while. I found it very easy to enter meditation in that temple. It was just so peaceful and it had this calming aura surrounding the place. I sat and thought about everything that was happening: the places we went too, the people I met, the things I’ve seen. After running around China for the past two weeks, eating a whole new diet, barely sleeping at night, being placed in a Chinese family’s home for a week, and essentially being part of a minority of Americans who seem to be the only English speaking people around, I can’t describe how nice it was to be able to sit down and just breathe.
When the last JE group came to Confucius’s birthplace, they got to go in the actual cave that he was born in. This time around, according to Tom, it was totally different. The place has pretty much been turned into a tourist attraction. The cave has even been modified with a mini waterfall thing going through the doorway, to try to keep people out of it. Jake and I however, decided that a little water never hurt nobody and gave the birthing room a visit. I mean I guess it was cool, because that’s supposed to have been where Confucianism was literally born, but it was still just a cave to me.
On the way back to Qufu Normal University, where we were staying, we saw firsthand just how fast China is advancing. Old villages and towns are being torn down and massive apartment buildings and hotels are going up in their place, and in no time at all. This isn’t just happening in Shandong province either, where Qufu is. We’ve seen it in every place we’ve been to in China so far. It’s absolutely mind boggling just how fast everything is being built too. Tom said that he has noticed buildings in places where there was nothing two years ago.
We stopped in the middle of a small town (that was still intact) and were given 15 minutes to walk around and explore. It reminded me a lot of Kaili, where we were last week. I saw a lot of people selling fresh meat on the streets and an uber amount of motorcycles and scooters. I went into a few stores and found almost no western brands or products. Many people stopped and stared at my white skin and red hair and some took pictures; nothing new to me though. It just shows that while many places in China are westernizing and being built up, there are still some places that seem untouched by the outside world.