Our China Journey Part V: Shandong

About half of Shandong is a mountainous peninsula that sticks out into the East China Sea, dividing it into the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Gulf. But a considerable portion of it projects into the great plain to the west.  I suspect that at one time it was an island, before the Huanghe Delta filled in the space in between.

We woke up in Jinan to find that we could actually see hills through the haze on the other side of town.  We went, of course, to the Provincial Museum, to see artifacts of all kinds and a little bit of history [the inhabitants of the peninsular portion in early times, called the Yi, resisted inclusion in the Chinese state, and I tried to find out whether they had been ethnically Chinese or the ancestors of the later Japanese and Koreans.  We never got a clear answer].  Warning; this is one of the newest and fanciest museums, but there is less labeling in English than in most of the others I have been to.

After lunch we went to one of the spring parks.  Jinan is known for its cool springs of water coming up out of the ground, and in this case they have been preserved in a typical Chinese park.  No swimming, however. After that we took a walk through some preserved narrow streets and alleys in what must have been the older part of the city, and actually saw a swimming spring in the middle of it where people were swimming, though the water didn’t look like American swimming pool standards.  [The giveaway on the map is a rectangular shaped area surrounded by a canal; it must have been where the walls were.]  We ended up at a lake called Daming Lake on the north side which was a beautiful spot, but no swimming.

The next day we headed to Mount Taishan and the city of Tai’an which lies below it.  Even some emperors, starting with Qin Shi Huangdi himself, have climbed that mountain.  It’s mostly Taoist, though I was told that there were a few Buddhist shrines to be seen elsewhere.  We stopped for an hour at the shrine in Tai’an where the emperors would stay for a week or two to ‘purify’ themselves for the ascent.  We then had lunch and took a shuttle bus to a cable car, which took us to a place which was within a 20 minute walk of the top.  It was about a mile high, and it was in the clouds, and you couldn’t see anything except a little blue sky above. Plenty of souvenir shops; at one of them three of us found the old cone hats that Chinese were known for wearing in the old days – though I had only seen one on a real Chinese today, in a field near Guangzhou – I wanted one because my head size is too large to accommodate normal hats!  There were plenty of shrines and shrine-like buildings where we got off, and even at the top.  One of them had the three chief Taoist deities or saints.  [Interesting how many religions like to have groups of three!]  On our way down, we had been originally planning to walk instead of take the cable car, but we had spent a lot of time browsing stores and taking pictures so it was too late to do that.  We went down and took our bus to Qufu, the home of Kongzi, known to the west as Confucius.

Qufu is the smallest town we had yet stayed in, a mere 60,000 [a village!] and large parts of the skyline are kept low because of the historical importance of the place, so I had the impression more of entering some Midwestern small city.  It does have, fortunately, because of its importance historically, a brand new Shangri-la hotel!  It’s away from the mountains, so it’s once again flatter than a pancake – though you can’t see very far.

The next morning we arose and went to the place where the bus was allowed to park, and then onto a shuttle car to take us to the Confucius area, which was very crowded, it being Sunday, and which I find it hard to avoid characterizing as a theme park.  First there was a temple, designed along the same lines as Taoist and Buddhist ones [or the Mosque of Xi’an] with a statue of Confucius himself in the final one.  Then there was the Compound of the Family of Kong.  Though Confucius himself did not seem to desire this outcome, his family was assigned a large compound next to the shrine and his leading male heir was ultimately assigned the title of what is translated as Duke of Yansheng.  When the time came, the Duke of Yansheng chose to go to Taiwan.  Nevertheless the Kong family name is very common in the area.  I saw two of them at different times behind the front desk of the hotel!  But I was told that when the Japanese arrived in 1937, many local residents hastened to adopt the surname Kong, because the Japanese would be less cruel to supposed descendants of Confucius!

We then went to the large cemetery park reserved for the Kong family, in which they have located all 77 of the ‘Dukes of Yansheng’ until the most recent one fled to Taiwan.  But being ridden around in a cart, we only stopped at the large burial place of Confucius himself and his oldest son.

The next day we returned to Jinan the long way, around the back of Taishan [which we couldn’t see, though the terrain maps indicated it was there] to Linzi, the old capital near the modern town of Zibo.  Linzi was the capital of Chi, the last state to fall to Qin Shi Huangdi in 221 B C.  Here there was a museum, less fancy than the provincial ones but with plenty of nice artifacts; and a couple of miles away, a place where a large number of horses had been slaughtered, lined up, and put into a tomb of a king of Chi; horse skeletons look remarkably like dinosaur skeletons when stripped of flesh!

CORRECTION:  I think it was at the museum at Linzi that I saw something that human sacrifice had not been abruptly ended at the start of the Zhou dynasty in 1046 BC.  But 500 years later, in the time of Confucius, there is no reference to it.

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