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Temple of Literature and Immortal Philosophy
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Confucius is one of the first names that would cross our minds when we think about China - and, it’s not for nothing. Confucianism, along with Buddhism and Taoism, has played a significant role in shaping Chinese culture as we know it today. Without realising it, we still can see the thinking, a system of values, behaviour and attitudes that Chinese people inherited from Confucianism over the course of history.
 
Like many very influential people in world history, Confucius was a teacher, politician, editor, philosopher and we can even say journalist according to how fast his thinking spread and occupied minds of millions of people. He lived in 551 – 479 BC in a place that is nowadays called Qufu, Shandong Province. His original name is Kong Qiu (瀛斾笜), but most of the people then and now call him Kong Zi (瀛斿瓙, literally "Master Kong”) or even Kong Fuzi (瀛斿か瀛 meaning "Grand Master Kong”). In Analects - collection of sayings, quotes and ideas attributed to Confucius - he is simply referred as “The Master”. 
 
As a matter of fact, Confucius was never a wealthy or powerful man in his early years. He was raised only by his mother (his father died when he was a child), belonging to the class of 澹 (shi), between aristocracy and common people. He went to a school for commoners and received no privileged education. So his path from the 澹 (shi) to one of China’s greatest philosophers was, in fact, paved by his own achievements, not his family’s position or wealth. 
 
His life and teachings were so influential and modernist that even now Confucianism as a philosophy is often followed in religious manner. Many argue that Confucius’s sayings and teachings have more secular value than religious as he has never talked of any Gods, but touched on the matter of “existence of the soul” and believed in astrology. 
 
His greatest achievements were made in the field of humanities and governance. Confucius has been an advisor for several ministers giving him a rich outlook on the government and his origin provided him with the necessary connection to the common people. His philosophy propagandised the union of the government and people, proclaiming that “perfect family is a basis of perfect government”. Due to the cult of Confucius (whose influence can still be easily read in the behavior of some Eastern Asian people), the former politician and philosopher gradually became canonised. That is the reason for the vast variety of Confucian churches, temples and shrines that have appeared in many Chinese cities and beyond. 
 
Among Tianjin’s ancient and historical sites, one of the most important is the Temple of Confucius. Situated close to Ancient Culture Street, it is somewhat intact and remains one of the oldest buildings in Tianjin. For its long history and cultural importance, the temple is quintessential. Temples of Confucius are very common in China, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and in other Eastern Asian regions. They play a very significant cultural role. The one in Tianjin was built quite a long time ago (the actual date remains unknown), but it started to attract and gather people in 1743. 
 
After establishing the “main” Confucius temple in Qufu (birthplace of the philosopher) in 489 BC, the Tang Dynasty decreed that every province should have a Confucian Temple. Consequently, temples were constructed all over China but the biggest and most renowned are known to be in Qufu, Beijing, Xi’An and Nanjing. The Confucian Temple built in Old Tianjin wasn’t made to be as grand as the original ones but it still occupied the 32 acres of land, making it the hugest traditional architectural structure to sit in old and modern Tianjin.  
 
Confucius temples are frequently called “Temples of Literature” (鏂囧簷锛學en Miao) where scholars can receive an education and get to know the teachings of Confucius. Confucius paid great deal of attention to education which is why the main hall was named as the "Hall of Great Achievement," "Hall of Great Accomplishment or “Hall of Great Perfection” and it was a place for students to pray for success and future academic achievement. The front of the temple is called Lingxing Gate and it leads the visitors to three courtyards (The original temple in Qufu has nine), and the Hall of Great Achievement is situated in the central courtyard. In front of the main courtyard is the charming Apricot Pavilion or Xingtan. The roof of the Tianjin Confucius Temple is a bright yellow colour, one of the most important colours along with red. The former represents the colour of the emperor and the latter the colour of the royal family. Outside the temple are monuments of two poles and three stories, built during Ming Dynasty and renovated during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. They are the only existing street monuments in Tianjin City. 
 
Now the site attracts locals and tourists for its traditional architecture, the archways surrounding it, as well as for the goldfish ponds around it. Equally fascinating is to see the annual celebrations of Confucius’ birth in the temple.
 
By deeply studying and understanding the philosophy and teachings of Confucius, one can truly realise how great his influence was not only on the culture of China, but on the world’s culture as well. Next time, while using the phrase “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others” as an argument, remember that it was Confucius who said it first.
 
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