'Cultural Backwater', reread as 2300 years of rich history...
Prior to setting out for Peixian, our efforts through the internet and guidebooks gave us little beyond the local delicacy being dog. The vast history of China staggers the American mind, our knowledge deficit is pretty incredible. Our first revelation came in the form of learning about Liu Bang, born in Peizian. Who you say...actually the man was, a commoner, who fought against the Qin Dynasty and became the first Emperor of the Han Dynasty (206 BC) There is a beautiful Han House Museum here and every two years Liu families from around the world gather here to honor his memory. The Han Dynasty did much to unify the empire and promote Confucuian education. We have the marvelous good fortune to have a young woman, Lan, in our class who is our informal tour guide and translator.
We did know that Qufu, the home, birthplace and burial place of Confucius(551-479 BC) was in Shandong, the province north of us. Saturday at 5:30 a.m. ten of us headed north, Lan, 5 teachers, 3 administrators and our driver. What a day, crowds, Chinese guides all using headset micrphones, in stone enclosures, it was a blur of sights and sounds. Confucius temple was a sprawling complex with the largest collection of inscribed Stelae in China. There were massive gates, columns, pavillions, courtyards, stunning painted ceilings, and giant stone tortoises, roofs with beautiful tiles and gargoyle like figures were everywhere. Despite the crowds, the tone of the place was serene, looking at the 1300 year old Ginkgo tree left one speechless.
Adjacent to the temple area is the Confucius mansions, the most sumptuous, aristocratic lodgings in China where Confucius' descendants, the Kong family, were enobled and wielded great power from the Han Dynasty through the Qing Dynasty which ended in 1911.
Our last stop in Qufu was Confucius forest, where Confucius, his sons and his descendants over the last 2000 years are buried. One hundred thousand trees make this massive park/cemetary seem like a step back in time.
On Sunday, we were heading to Xuzhou only an hour away from Peixian to see 'important sights'. Truth be told we were still pretty overwhelmed with the Confucius expedition, but gamely off we went at 8:00 a.m. Xuzhou is not even listed in the Lonely Planet so we were flying pretty blind. Someone had mentioned museums or a tomb. We pull up at a building right next to a rocky bluff. Our driver, a true Renaissance man was most excited and in his very distinctive voice was motioning us to hustle along with repeated "hallo,hallo,hallo"
We had arrived at the Guishan Tomb, without a doubt the most incredible place I have ever seen. It was built in the 2nd century BC for Liu Zhu and his wife. The incredible thing is it was accidentally discovered by some quarry workers in 1981. It is a massive structure that almost hollows out the whole hill. It was started in 127 BC and took 13 years to complete. There are two parallel entrances into 83 meter long tunnels. They are so precisely designed that less than 5 millimeters of difference exists between the two. An entire drainage system was built and the interior rooms include an antechamber, treasure room, instrument room, garage room, stable, coffin rooms for he and his wife, separate kitchens, and a wc. The undergroound area covers 700 square meters. Massive stone blocks were fitted into the entrance passageways to protect the tomb. Following the discovery, the artifacts from the tomb were moved to the climate controlled Jade Musem in Xuzhou where we went in the afternoon. Next to the Tomb they discovered a beautiful garden area which was excavated and rebuilt. All in all it was a most amazing day. A late lunch at a Mao restaurant complete with revolutionary artwork capped off the day.