If you had an entire day to do anything you wanted, what would you do? That’s the situation we found ourselves in this morning. We’d allowed ourselves two full days in Qufu thinking that one might not be enough to see all three Confucius sites that we visited yesterday.
Knowing that we had an entire day to fill, we were in no hurry to get up this morning. I haven’t been sleeping well lately largely due to the fact that I’m fighting a nasty cold so a bit of extra rest was very welcome.
Once we were up and had had a late breakfast, we went to visit another ancient temple, this one dedicated to the memory of Yan Hui, a favourite disciple of Confucius. If it were located anywhere other than almost next door to the much larger and more impressive Confucius Temple complex, it would likely draw many visitors but we were almost alone and it was very peaceful. We could actually hear the birds chirping!
The Yan Temple has been undergoing renovations over the past few years. Apparently the cost of this massive facelift prompted a hefty increase to the admission fee which, I’m assuming, resulted in even fewer visitors. We learned, however, that if we could produce our combination tickets from yesterday, we would be admitted free of charge.
In addition to enjoying the tranquility of the temple grounds, we found the renovation project quite fascinating. One of the outer buildings houses a display of photos chronicling the meticulous work that has been done. The buildings that have been completed have received much more than a new paint job. Much dismantling and rebuilding was required to replace wooden parts and roofing that had deteriorated. Many of the intricate panels were taken down, painted and put up again.
After leaving the temple, we headed over to the International Youth Hostel and rented bicycles. Leaving town, we rode out into the countryside to look at the farms where we saw corn, wheat and other crops that we couldn’t identify. Though they appear to have been seeded by machine, we saw many people, mostly women, out in the fields pulling weeds. Imagine doing that by hand on a Canadian farm! I have no idea how far we rode. I’m pretty sure my butt will be telling me about it tomorrow but it was well worth any discomfort I may have to put up with.
After an early supper, we were strolling back toward our hotel when we decided to rest for awhile on a stone bench near the main gate to the city wall, a great spot for people watching. Little did we know that we were in for an unexpected surprise. We were about to leave when someone began banging on the enormous drum atop the wall. It heralded the beginning of a gate closing ceremony complete with elaborately costumed guards, flag and lantern bearers, a herald and others we couldn’t identify. It was a perfect ending to our stay in historic Qufu!