Winter came briefly to Jinan this past Saturday. Exciting, but at the same time a bit of bother as this was supposed to be the day Sally and I were going to the town of Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius.
After sitting in snarled traffic for nearly an hour and only getting half way to the bus station, we told the taxi driver to turn around and take us back to the hotel.
Changed plans, however, meant that we were able to climb the hills back of Jinan and visit two Buddha sculptures carved into the cliffs. Following narrow trails, we got (almost) lost, but seeing these two, relatively unknown Buddhas in the snow and silence were a welcome change from the usual din of a noisy city.
On Sunday we took another chance, caught the bus and headed two and a half hours through the mist south to Qufu. Here, we were able to spend the day (although cold and wet) walking through the Confucius Temple, the Kong family’s Mansion and the Confucius Forest (a 200 acre cemetery where the Kong descendants of Confucius are still being buried today; Confucius being a romanization of Kong Fuzi, meaning Master Kong).
As a sculptor, what most fascinated me was the exquisite carvings and attention to detail that was evident everywhere. Although a bit weary with age, the technical mastery and former grandeur was still evident (with a slight squint of the eyes and a bit of imagination).
In the vast cemetery, the lightly falling mist provided a gentle, mysterious aura over this ancient site.
Couple this with limited people around (alive, that is) and being able to walk around by myself, my sense of time was transported back two thousand years and more. At times, I truly felt as though I was with those very Chinese sages and peasants who walked this land those many years ago.
Finding myself alone with a 1,500 year old cypress tree, I did the old tree hugger trick and wrapped my arms tightly around it. Within a few moments of meditative prayer, faint whispers came through the trunk. I pressed my ear against this certainly wise old tree. I distinctly heard: “Confucius says: Baseball all wrong – man with four balls cannot walk.”
Upon returning to Jinan we were able to catch a bit of New Year’s fun and bring in 2007 with a night out on the town.