Pre­serv­ing the Liangx­i­ang Con­fu­cian Tem­ple

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Wang Hui­hui Edited by Roberta Raine Pho­tos by Li Xiaoyin

Liangx­i­ang Con­fu­cian Tem­ple, as a cul­tural relic, has not only brought new life to the build­ing, but also been at the fore­front of cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion.

Liangx­i­ang Town, 20 kilo­me­tres south­west of Beijing, has been the south­west por­tal of the cap­i­tal since an­cient times. It was given the name Liangx­i­ang (“good vil­lage”) when it be­came a county dur­ing the Qin Dy­nasty (221–206 BC), and since then has been known as a place of “good peo­ple and prod­ucts.” As a haven for mer­chants, there are many his­tor­i­cal sto­ries about this town. Liangx­i­ang also boasts a wealth of cul­tural her­itage sites and many cul­tural relics, such as the Con­fu­cian Tem­ple, Hao­tian Tower, the Tomb of Le Yi, and a tem­po­rary im­pe­rial res­i­dence dur­ing the Qing Dy­nasty (1644–1911).

In re­cent years, the Fang­shan District Com­mit­tee of Cul­ture of Beijing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity has put great ef­fort into pro­tect­ing cul­tural relics and his­toric sites. Af­ter be­ing ren­o­vated, the 400-year-old Con­fu­cian Tem­ple in Liangx­i­ang, whose Chi­nese name of Wen Miao lit­er­ally means “tem­ple of lit­er­a­ture,” has re­gained its an­tique style and fea­tures. As a build­ing that is open to the pub­lic and free of charge, it is also used as a lec­ture hall for the study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion and is part of the Li­brary of Fang­shan District. The tem­ple's use as a cul­tural relic com­bined with its cul­tural ser­vices has not only brought new life to the build­ing, but has also helped to bring cul­tural relics into mod­ern life, putting the tem­ple on the “front­line” of cul­tural trans­mis­sion.

Res­ur­rec­tion of the Con­fu­cian Tem­ple

As the seat of the Beijing Fang­shan District Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China and the Fang­shan District Peo­ple's Gov­ern­ment of Beijing Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Liangx­i­ang fea­tures tall build­ings and bustling busi­nesses. East of the busy Gongchen South Street is an an­cient build­ing sur­rounded by trees: Liangx­i­ang Con­fu­cian Tem­ple.

Above the round red wooden gate of the Con­fu­cian Tem­ple is a board that reads wen yuan (“lit­er­a­ture gar­den”), and three other plac­ards on the right mark this as a key cul­tural relic pro­tec­tion site

of Fang­shan District. En­ter­ing the gate, there is a court­yard with green trees that pro­vide wel­come shade, an ar­ti­fi­cial hill with a flow­ing stream, and hol­ly­hocks with beau­ti­ful flow­ers. The brick-paved court­yard makes an at­trac­tive con­trast to the build­ing's grey roof and red walls. Un­like the noisy street out­side the tem­ple walls, within the court­yard one only hears singing birds and sees fra­grant flow­ers, mak­ing it easy for peo­ple to feel re­laxed and peace­ful.

The Con­fu­cian Tem­ple is a school and tem­ple where peo­ple can learn Con­fu­cian clas­sics and com­mem­o­rate the great philoso­pher and ed­u­ca­tor Con­fu­cius (551–479 BC), and is a cul­tural sym­bol of Con­fu­cian­ism.

Ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal records, Liangx­i­ang Con­fu­cian Tem­ple, also known as Xue­gong (“school tem­ple”), was built dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644) on an area of about 1,000 square me­tres. At that time, there was a stone arched bridge at the gate, with stone rail­ings and a pair of stone lions on both sides. Next to the bridge was a pond with lo­tuses grow­ing in it. Cross­ing the bridge, peo­ple would come to three au­di­ence halls with plat­forms in front, and five side halls. Dacheng (“great achieve­ment”) Hall was the main build­ing and housed a me­mo­rial tablet to Con­fu­cius. His­tor­i­cal records show that the size of the Con­fu­cian Tem­ple in an­cient times was much larger than that of the present-day tem­ple.

Ac­cord­ing to the An­nals of Liangx­i­ang County com­piled dur­ing the reign of Em­peror Guangxu (1875–1908), the tem­ple was lo­cated in the south­east of the town and was built by County Mag­is­trate Hong Yimo from 1577 to 1578. It was later ren­o­vated by county mag­is­trates Zhang Shib­iao, Zhang Hongyi, Yang Qiao and Peng Shichang in 1653, 1688, 1756 and 1836, re­spec­tively. How­ever, the Eight-na­tion Al­liance de­stroyed the tem­ple in 1900 when they in­vaded Beijing. Over 400 years af­ter its es­tab­lish­ment, only Dacheng Hall still ex­ists as the li­brary of Liangx­i­ang Mid­dle School, while the other build­ings are all gone. It was even closed for a pe­riod, which caused peo­ple to won­der what had hap­pened when they passed by it.

In re­cent years, the State has been in­creas­ing its spend­ing on cul­tural relic pro­tec­tion. The Beijing Mu­nic­i­pal Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­tural Her­itage set a Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Fund for Cul­tural Relics and His­tor­i­cal Sites in 2012, and has given 850 mil­lion yuan ev­ery year since then to pro­tect and ren­o­vate cul­tural relics at the district and county lev­els. The Fang­shan District Com­mit­tee of Cul­ture ap­plied for more than 6,000,000 yuan of spe­cial funds for the ren­o­va­tion of Liangx­i­ang Con­fu­cian Tem­ple, thus ush­er­ing in the tem­ple's sev­enth ren­o­va­tion. At the same time, work on the build­ing was car­ried out to im­prove fire safety, in­stall an in­tel­li­gent se­cu­rity sys­tem, and re­pair the east hall, help­ing the tem­ple to re­gain its an­cient look while in­stalling with mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties.

Since Liangx­i­ang Con­fu­cian Tem­ple opened to the pub­lic again in 2016, it is no longer just a tourist at­trac­tion but has be­come a com­plex in­te­grat­ing a tea­house, a li­brary, a class­room for the study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion, and a gar­den. With a brand new mean­ing and new func­tions, the Con­fu­cian Tem­ple has been brought back to life again.

Pro­mot­ing Chi­nese Civil­i­sa­tion

The Con­fu­cian Tem­ple was the high­est in­sti­tu­tion at the county level in an­cient times, and peo­ple needed to wor­ship Con­fu­cius at Dacheng Hall be­fore re­ceiv­ing an ed­u­ca­tion. Af­ter the ren­o­va­tion, the Fang­shan District Com­mit­tee of Cul­ture en­dowed Liangx­i­ang Con­fu­cian Tem­ple with a new mis­sion—for Dacheng Hall to be­come a lec­ture hall for the study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion.

The unique cul­tural her­itage of the Con­fu­cian Tem­ple en­ables it to sat­isfy the needs of lo­cal peo­ple for cul­ture. Fan Xi­hui, di­rec­tor of Wenyuan, says lec­tures on an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion are given in Dacheng Hall ev­ery Satur­day from 9:30 to 11 a.m., and lec­tures on the art of tea are given at the same time in the side hall. In ad­di­tion, the li­brary is free for the pub­lic, with nearly 3,000 books on the study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion and 400 seats for read­ing.

At 9:30 a.m. on July 8, a to­tal of 48 peo­ple, both young and old, sat in Dacheng Hall, lis­ten­ing to the lec­ture on the study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion and tak­ing notes now and then. The lec­ture was given by Zhang Daqing, vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor of Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity and Pek­ing Uni­ver­sity. Zhang said, “Numerol­ogy is an an­cient and mys­te­ri­ous part of tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture. It in­cludes the con­cept of yin-yang, the five ele­ments of metal, wood, wa­ter, fire and earth, and the heav­enly stems and earthly branches,” the lat­ter be­ing a Chi­nese way of num­ber­ing the years. Zhang's lec­ture con­veyed both an­cient

and mod­ern learn­ing com­bined with cur­rent af­fairs, and he in­tro­duced numerol­ogy and the study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion in a vivid, in­ter­est­ing and sub­tle way.

The first term's classes on the art of tea and an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion—16 classes in to­tal with 24 class hours—have now con­cluded and were very pop­u­lar, with all the seats oc­cu­pied. The se­cond term be­gan on July 1 as sched­uled. To carry for­ward and pro­tect na­tional cul­ture, Pro­fes­sor Zhang has pre­pared com­pre­hen­sive course ma­te­ri­als. He be­lieves that the study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion can stim­u­late the pos­i­tive en­ergy of con­tem­po­rary peo­ple, as it sum­marises the best think­ing of Chi­nese peo­ple's an­ces­tors.

A lady sur­named Zhao said that she got to know about the classes by ac­ci­dent when she passed by the tem­ple one day. To en­rich her life af­ter re­tire­ment, she de­cided to give it a shot and took the course. To her sur­prise, she was at­tracted by the study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion. She's be­come a fre­quent vis­i­tor and takes a class ev­ery week­end.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, a man sur­named Zhang had a sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence as Zhao. Now he is also a stu­dent of the course on an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion. More­over, he took his eight-year-old daugh­ter with him to take the course, in the hopes that it can help his daugh­ter shape a sound world view. This is also the first time for Zhang's daugh­ter to take the course, and although some con­tent is ab­stract for her, she likes the an­cient beauty of the tem­ple, which makes the course in­ter­est­ing. It's hard for her to un­der­stand the ex­ten­sive and pro­found tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture lim­ited to an hour and a half class, but she is al­ready in­ter­ested in it and said she will ac­com­pany her fa­ther to the class next week­end. There is no doubt that learn­ing about an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion in this tem­ple at­mos­phere is con­ducive to study.

The study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion and the an­cient build­ing re­ju­ve­nate each other. Un­der the joint ef­forts of the Pub­lic­ity Depart­ment of Beijing Fang­shan District Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, the Fang­shan District Com­mit­tee of Cul­ture, the Fang­shan District Cen­tre of Cul­tural Ac­tiv­i­ties and the Fang­shan District Cul­tural Relic Pro­tec­tion In­sti­tute, the tem­ple has be­come a place where the pub­lic can learn more about tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture. Its free cour­ses are def­i­nitely a project that ben­e­fits the pub­lic.

Learn­ing the Art of Tea

Though the Con­fu­cian Tem­ple to­day isn't large, with only one court­yard, in the past it was the se­cond largest build­ing com­plex in Liangx­i­ang af­ter the county of­fice, and it is the cul­tural sym­bol of the town­ship. If the tem­ple com­plex had not been re­paired, a part of the 2,000-year his­tory of Liangx­i­ang would have been gone. For­tu­nately, now the tem­ple serves as a place to pro­mote an­cient Chi­nese cul­ture and the art of tea, mak­ing the past serve the present and at­tract­ing many res­i­dents nearby.

The tea art course com­bines the four sea­sons with tea prod­ucts to help peo­ple learn more about tea and to un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween the art of tea and daily tea drink­ing. The teacher tells stu­dents the dos and don'ts when they drink tea in dif­fer­ent sea­sons, how to choose tea, and how to make tea to make it good for one's health. To make de­sir­able tea, Tian Lip­ing from the Chun­chao Tea Cul­ture De­vel­op­ment Cen­tre, shared her ex­pe­ri­ence with stu­dents. Tian said that the tea cer­e­mony came out of re­spect for na­ture, and that peo­ple should re­mem­ber to think about life while mak­ing and drink­ing tea. There­fore, the art of tea and tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture are closely cor­re­lated with each other.

In­side the tea­house is a statue of Con­fu­cius made of white mar­ble stone. Tian made tea deftly while telling sto­ries about tea and truths about life. She said that the tea she was go­ing to make was fresh Xinyang Mao­jian Tea. When brew­ing it, she re­minded peo­ple to use a glass cup, so as to ap­pre­ci­ate the el­e­gant dance of the green tea leaves. More­over, tea should steep for two to three min­utes, with the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture at 70 to 80 de­grees Cel­sius. The stu­dents care­fully ob­served Tian's ev­ery ac­tion, and tried to re­mem­ber ev­ery word. Af­ter mak­ing the tea and pour­ing it into a cup, Tian be­gan to talk about the eti­quette of drink­ing tea. For ex­am­ple, one should make sure the spout does not point to the guest in the process of mak­ing tea; one should hold the cup it­self when pass­ing it to oth­ers, so that the per­son one is pass­ing it to can take it by the cup's han­dle; one should hold the teapot with the right hand when pour­ing tea for peo­ple who are on one's left, and

hold the teapot with the left hand when pour­ing tea for peo­ple who are on one's right, to re­duce in­con­ve­nience to oth­ers.

Af­ter the art of tea course, a lady who had taken three classes said that she drove from the county seat of Fang­shan District to take the class. She said that even if the course were not free, she would take it all the same, be­cause she is in­ter­ested in the art of tea and likes the an­cient vibe at the tem­ple. Af­ter tak­ing three classes, she said she had learnt how to make tea and learnt some truths about life. Once, she was pass­ing a cup of tea to an­other per­son, but the cup was so hot that she nearly dropped it. There­fore, she asked her teacher what she was sup­posed to do in such a sit­u­a­tion. The teacher told her just to try to en­dure it. She sud­denly re­alised that life is nat­u­ral, and that peo­ple should learn to en­dure many things. The lady learnt about her own life through the art of mak­ing tea. Af­ter that, she brought her friend and col­league to take the course. The art of tea, to­gether with tra­di­tional cul­ture and life's truths, of­fers stu­dents much wis­dom and an op­por­tu­nity for self-cul­ti­va­tion.

The cour­ses on an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion and the art of tea in Liangx­i­ang Con­fu­cian Tem­ple have be­come un­ex­pect­edly pop­u­lar even with­out ex­ten­sive pro­mo­tion, show­cas­ing the suc­cess of the city's cul­tural projects aimed to ben­e­fit the pub­lic. Di­rec­tor Fan said that he had wor­ried that no­body would take the cour­ses at the very begin­ning. To his sur­prise, many peo­ple showed in­ter­est in the cour­ses. Cur­rently, more peo­ple are com­ing to the tem­ple to take classes, to ap­pre­ci­ate the an­cient ar­chi­tec­ture, and to learn about tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture. In this way, cul­ture ben­e­fits peo­ple, and peo­ple like­wise pro­mote cul­ture.

An An­cient Build­ing for Present Pur­poses

The an­cient Liangx­i­ang Con­fu­cian Tem­ple has now be­come a place that aims to pro­mote the study of an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion, achiev­ing both self-pro­tec­tion and the cre­ation of hu­man­is­tic val­ues in so­ci­ety. How­ever, it isn't the first and only case of com­bin­ing cul­tural relic pro­tec­tion and so­cial ser­vice—fang­shan District made other break­throughs in 2012.

Jia Dao (AD 779–843), a renowned Tang-dy­nasty poet, was born in present­day Zhouk­oudian Town, Fang­shan District. There­fore, there are many scenes and sto­ries re­lated to Jia Dao in Fang­shan, among which the most fa­mous two are the tomb and the me­mo­rial tem­ple of Jia Dao. In 1698, the Ji­agong (Jia Dao) Me­mo­rial Tem­ple was built by Luo Zaigong, the mag­is­trate of Fang­shan County at that time. It is sit­u­ated be­side Jia's tomb in the south of Erzhan Vil­lage.

On April 23, 2012, the 17th World Book Day, the Wenbo Branch of the Fang­shan District Li­brary and the Jia Dao Me­mo­rial Hall were opened at the Ji­agong Me­mo­rial Tem­ple. The east hall, called Wen­jing Li­uyuan, has be­come a book col­lec­tion room of the li­brary branch, while the west hall, called Yun­feng Xiy­ing, has be­come a read­ing room of the li­brary. The event re­ceived broad at­ten­tion, and many in­sti­tu­tions and in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing Shan Qix­i­ang (head of the Palace Mu­seum), Yu Dan (a pro­fes­sor of me­dia stud­ies) and Jiang Kun (a crosstalk co­me­dian), do­nated books about cul­tural relics and his­tor­i­cal re­search to the li­brary's branch. Cur­rently, the Wenbo Branch has re­ceived a to­tal of nearly 30,000 books.

The branch has been con­nected to the “one card” ser­vice net­work—beijing's pub­lic li­brary com­puter ser­vice net­work— since 2013, al­low­ing for the in­ter-lend­ing of books. Aside from the book bor­row­ing and read­ing func­tions, the Wenbo Branch also pro­vides an open plat­form for the ed­u­ca­tion, dis­play, cre­ation and shar­ing of cal­lig­ra­phy and paint­ing.

Cul­tural relics are the re­mains of his­tory and cul­ture, and only mod­ern man­age­ment con­cepts can make them bet­ter adapted to the needs of mod­ern peo­ple and give them bet­ter pro­tec­tion. Com­bin­ing the util­i­sa­tion of cul­tural relics with the pro­tec­tion of the Con­fu­cian Tem­ple and the Ji­agong Me­mo­rial Tem­ple ac­tu­ally makes bet­ter use of these cul­tural relics. In the mean­time, as more peo­ple learn about an­cient build­ings, a new method of cul­tural relic pro­tec­tion and util­i­sa­tion now known as the “Fang­shan Model” has taken shape, pro­vid­ing en­light­en­ing and prac­ti­cal mea­sures in in­no­vat­ing cul­tural sys­tems and im­prov­ing cul­tural ser­vices for the pub­lic.

Teach­ing a class on an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion

The ren­o­vated Dacheng (“great achieve­ment”) Hall as a lec­ture hall for studyig an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion

Teach­ing a class on the art of tea

Teach­ing a class on an­cient Chi­nese civil­i­sa­tion

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