Kong Mansion (built 5th c. B.C., 1038, 14th c. onward)
The Confucian Mansion (Kong Fu) served as the permanent residence of the leaders of the Kong Clan. The region along Queli Jie, a small street just to the northeast of the Confucian Temple in Qufu housed the direct descendents of Confucius, 77 generations, for almost 2500 years. Along with the Confucian Temple and the Confucian Forest in Qufu, the Confucian Mansion is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Confucius reportedly lived in a small three room dwelling on Queli Jie until his death there in 479 BC. For almost three hundred years thereafter the leading members of the Kong Clan lived in or around this simple structure. Beginning with the Western Han Dynasty, however, the fortunes of the family dramatically started to improve. In 195 BC, the emperor Liu Bang gave the head of the 9th generation of Confucius� descendents a title and made him responsible for sacrificial service to the Sage. Numerous additional titles were later given to the head of the Kong Clan, the eldest direct male descendent of Confucius. In 1055 the Song Emperor, Ren Zong created the hereditary title of Yansheng Duke (or �Duke Continuing the Line of the Sage�) for the 46th descendent. The title passed through generations for almost 800 years until the 77th generation and Kong Decheng.
In addition to the titles, the Yansheng Dukes gained significant positions within the imperial structure, including that of a grade one official and, later, head of the civil officials. The Duke was given large amounts of land as sacrificial fields (the income from which was given to sacrificial ceremonials) and exemption from corv�e and other taxes; he could sell titles; he could also preside over his own courts of law and influence or control local administration. The Kong residence, as a result, became the center of significant economic and political activity and influence, not only in Lu (now Shandong) Province, but also throughout the Chinese imperial structure.
As the family grew in numbers and importance, the living and administrative quarters expanded. Beginning with the Han eras, the quarters expanded during virtually every dynasty. Dramatic growth occurred especially during the Song, Ming and Qing periods. The first extended Kong Mansion was built during the Song Dynasty in 1038. Over three hundred years later, during the reign of the first Ming emperor (1368-98) the present Confucian Mansion was built; it was expanded in 1503. It was sited just to the north and east of the old mansion. The Mansion was again enlarged and extensively renovated during the Qing period.
The Kong Mansion is a gigantic aristocratic residence with 152 buildings remaining in an area of almost 40 acres (16 hectares). As with the Forbidden City it is oriented on a north-south axis with the major entry at the south. The three major routes or lines (east, west and middle) contain nine courtyards and a total of 463 rooms. Most of the buildings retain a Confucian simplicity, though the family residence has a greater elegance. The main part of the mansion lies along the middle route, with the front four sections serving as formal ritual and administrative offices and the rear five sections as residences. A garden, first constructed in the early 16th century, lies at the northern sector. It was extensively reconstructed during the Qianlong period for the marriage of the emperor�s daughter to the 72nd generation Duke. The eastern line includes the family temple, ancestral hall and apartments for various relatives. The western line contained reception rooms for important guests and was where the Yansheng Duke practiced etiquette and learned poems.
The fortunes and influence of the Kong Clan declined in the later Qing period in the face of the turmoil that challenged imperial China. The end of the state Confucian civil service examinations in 1905, the collapse of imperial rule in 1911, and the wars and civil wars of the 20th century contributed further to the reduction of Kong power and influence in the state. Much was heavily damaged during the Cultural Revolution, but renovation and renewal of the temple, forest and mansion began shortly after the arrest of the Gang of Four in 1976. Many townspeople (there are over 100,000 individuals with the Kong surname in the Qufu area) protected historic sites and preserved the smashed objects to help in the restoration.
The last Kong Clan leader to live in the Confucian Mansion was Kong Decheng, who was born in 1920 as the posthumous son of the 76th Kong leader. In 1935 Chiang Kai-shek changed his title to �State Master of Sacrifices to the Exalted Sage and First Teacher�. In 1937, because of the Japanese invasion, Kong Decheng fled to Chongqing. After 1945 Kong Decheng assumed a government position in Nanjing; he briefly studied American culture in the United States, but eventually went to Taiwan after the collapse of the Nationalist government. He ended his career as a professor at Taiwan National University. Members of the extended Kong Clan often visit the mansion, but it is now a museum and treasure house of one of the most significant influences in China�s long history.
Unfortunately, this writer was unable to visit many of the areas of the Confucian Mansions when he was there in November 1987. It is hoped that these few photos will be of some value and that others will contribute images to this site.
Text by Robert D. Fiala, Concordia University, Nebraska
All images copyright 1987, 2005 by Professor Robert D. Fiala of Concordia University, Nebraska, USA
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