Taipei Confucius Temple (台北市孔廟) – The Art of Great Sage Confucius
Temples of Confucius are a concrete symbol of Chinese Confucian culture. By the Ming and Ching Dynasties, most counties and municipalities in China had built Confucius temples, which were called Confucian schools, to serve as centres for Confucian study and education in general.
The origins of the Confucius Temple of Taipei can be traced back to 1875 when the Qing court established Taipei as a prefecture city for Northern Taiwan.
Wanren wall (万刃宫墙) is the eye-catching red wall that runs along the temple’s southern flank against Kulun Street.
Wan literally means 10,000 and is used figuratively for “an exceptionally large number”. Ren is an ancient measurement of length. When used together, Wanren evokes the grand expansiveness of Confucious knowledge and character and reminds disciples that only through earnest of study and fortitude can they hope to follow in the Sage Master’s Footsteps.
Pan Bridge & Pan Pond
Schools were known as Pan-Gong in Ancient China, with their landscaped ponds called a “Pan” Pond.
Ponds placed near buildings were able to provide water to fight fires, moderate the surrounding air and according to Feng Shui tradition, bless those on its periphery with wealth.
Spanning Pan Pond (泮池), Pan Bridge (泮桥) features calligraphy brush shaped posts that symbolize scholarly accomplishment – an integration of aesthetics and meaning.
The bridge is also called Zhuangyuan Bridge (状元桥) as it is said that the highest scoring examinee in the national government examinations should pay homage to Confucius by crossing Pan Bridge and walk through Lixing and Yi Gates to reach Dacheng Hall.
Walking past Pan Pond and across the courtyard take visitors to Lingxing Gate is the heavenly star of academic success with dominion over education and literature.
Its use here symbolizes Confucious education of great men. The 108 doornails on the gate imitate ancient specifications – both paying respect to the Great Sage and evoking the 108 stars of ancient Chinese Astrology.
Augustly adorned Yi Gate protects the main entrance to Da Cheng Hall. Its five doors are only fully opened during the Confucius Ceremony.
Intricately carved wood screen windows along both sides of the centre doors feature eight hornless dragons arrayed around an incense burner (censer).
The hornless dragon is one of nine anomalous animals born to a dragon in Chinese Mythology. It is a symbol of good fortune often incorporated into architecture and furniture.
Chongsheng Shrine, located at the back of the temple complex, memorializes Confucius ancestors along with his brothers and other great teachers who predate the Great Sage.
The shrines focus highlights the importance of familial order in Chinese society.
*The shrines are moved to a temporary place due to undergoing maintenance services.
Majestic Dacheng Hall is dedicated to displaying and honouring Confucius memorial tablet.
Tablets memorializing the “Four Correlates” and “Twelve Disciples” are set, respectively to the left and right-hand sides.
In front of this is Hall’s sacred terrace, used to hold musical instruments and for performing ceremonial Yi (row) dances during Confucius Ceremony.
Auspicious cloud and dragon motifs are carved into the laid stone “Imperial Way” located in front of the terrace – The Ceremonial path which emperors took riding in their palanquin to reach the terrace. The staid formality of Dacheng Hall is meant to inspire awe and reverence.
Shu of the Confucian Six Arts
Traditional Chinese Lexicography Liushu has characters falling into six categories: Xiangxing (form imitations), Zhishi (indication), Huiyi (joined meaning), Xingsheng (form and sound), Zhuanzhu (reciprocal meaning), and Jiajie (making use of).
Shu in the Confucius Six Arts refers to writing and word choice, including the principle of writing and the meaning of the Chinese characters.
Below is the transformation of Chinese characters over the few decades.
Jiaguwen (Oracle Bone) – The Oracle Bone script was discovered in Shang-era carvings in tortoiseshell and animals bones. These inscriptions were of the fortunes of the royal family. This is the earliest appearance of Chinese script at over 3,000 years. The thousand-odd characters that have been determined are rectilinear in form.
Jinwen (Chinese Bronze Inscription) – Used during the Shang and Zhou dynasties, Jinwen is carved in bronze vessels. The strokes in this script are bolder than those of the oracle bone scripts.
Zhouwen – Zhouwen was popular during the spring and autumn period and the warring states period. A curving, complex script, 223 of these characters can be seen in the work Explaining Simple and Analyzing Compound Characters.
Xiaozhuan (lesser seal script) – The lesser seal script was the unified script created in the Qin Dynasty. It is a simplified version of the Zhouwen form. As this is a curving, complex script, it is aesthetically very pleasing and not overly complex. It is still popular for the seals of individuals and government agencies up till now.
Lishu (Clerical Script) – The Clerical script was the main script used to write books in the Han dynasties. It took the curves in the lesser seal script and made them into arcs, making it easier to write. it was a stepping stone toward regular script.
Kaishu (regular script) – Regular script, invented during the Eastern Han dynasty, are evolved from the clerical script. It became a fixed system of writing during the Three Kingdom Period and is still used today.
Caoshu (cursive script) – Cursive script can be written quickly, as characters are strung together, or strokes are omitted for speed. It is difficult to read but easy to appreciate as art.
Xingshu (semi-cursive script) – Semi-cursive script sits between regular script and cursive script. It is a simpler version than the regular script, but easier to read than cursive script. Its beginning is in Jin dynasties.
Yu & She of the Confucian Six Arts
Yu (Chariot Riding) in the Six Arts refers to the five rules of driving a carriage in ancient times. In the school sayings of Confucius, Confucius said that one who is apt at riding horses must sit straight up on horseback to control the reins.
The art of horseback is not easy to learn, historically, people who were proficient in horse riding are those who the government thought highly of; they were often rewarded with great wealth and respect.
The Technique of Yu:
- Ming and Luan – Ming and Luan are bells installed on carriages. When the drivers maintain at the correct speed, the bells would create a harmonic sound.
- Zhushuiqu – When passing over a tortuous waterway, a driver should be able to maintain balance and prevent the carriages from tipping over into the water.
- Guojubiao – The driver should guide the carriage between setup banners for the test without knocking them over.
- Wujiaoqu – When driving, the carriage should move forward in step with the rhythm.
- Zhuqinzou – During hunting, the driver should be able to lead the prey into the left side where the shooters are sitting.
Confucius considered She (archery) to be a very important skill and commanded the students to practice archery. The Five She refers to the five techniques of ancient Chinese archery.
They incorporate the body, the hands, and a focused mind. Confucius was not only knowledgeable but also a skilled archer and a cultivated person.
The Techniques of She:
- Baishi – The arrow goes through the target. A white arrowhead pointing out the target indicates that the shooter is both accurate and powerful.
- Canlian – First one arrow is shoot, then three in succession. The arrows pierce through one and another as if it was only one arrow.
- Yanzhu – When the arrow is shot, the nock above the arrowhead helps it to fly steadily.
- Xiangchi – When shooting with a King, courtiers were not to stand next to the king. But rather 30cm behind his majesty.
- Jingyi – Four arrows landed on the same target in the formation of Jing (井).
Souvenirs & Desserts
Interested in buying gift or souvenirs? Then be sure to visit the Confucius Temple Souvenir Gift Boutique located in the temple complex.
There is a wide choice of best selling Confucian-themed items for you to choose which includes: Art Glass Ceremonial Yong Bell Container, Celedon-Glaze Porcelain Wine Goblet Set, Ba-Yi Coasters, Art Glass Yong Tian Canister USB Memory Sticks and Four Book Memo Papers.
Also, remember to visit the Confucius Cafe (right next to the Souvenirs Gift Boutique) and grab the limited time osmanthus fruit ice cream!
It costs around NT$45 and has a frozen jelly-like texture (with fresh fruit scent) serves as a perfect treat during the hot sunny day visit. 😉
From Train (MRT)
- Take the Red Line (2) to Yuanshan Station (圓山).
- After leaving by Exit 2, continue walking down Kulun St (庫倫街), take a right at the intersection of Dalong St (大龍街).
- The main entrance will be located on the right side.
- Do consider visiting Dalong Nightmarket (大龙夜市) located in Dalong St nearby which opens around 5 pm.
Address: Taipei Confucius Temple, Dalong Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan.
Open Hours: 08.30 am – 09.00 pm (Tues-Sun), Closed on Monday.
Admission Fees: FREE of charge.