Temple of Confucius

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"Temple of Literature" redirects here. Not to be confused with the temples and shrines to Wenchang Wang in southern China.
Not to be confused with Confucian churches.
Temple of Confucius
Confucius temple 1912.jpg
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 孔廟
Simplified Chinese 孔庙
Literal meaning Temple of Kong
Temple of Literature
Traditional Chinese 文廟
Simplified Chinese 文庙
Temple of the Sage
Traditional Chinese 聖廟
Simplified Chinese 圣庙
Temple of the Master
Traditional Chinese 夫子廟
Simplified Chinese 夫子庙
Temple of Study
Traditional Chinese 學廟
Simplified Chinese 学庙
Vietnamese name
Vietnamese Văn (Thánh) Miếu
Literal meaning Temple of (the Sage of) Literature
Korean name
Hangul 문묘
Hanja 文廟
Literal meaning Temple of Literature
Temple of Confucius
Japanese name
Kanji 聖廟
Indonesian name
Indonesian Boen Bio

A temple of Confucius or Confucian temple is a temple for the veneration of Confucius and the sages and philosophers of Confucianism in Chinese folk religion and other East Asian religions. They were formerly the site of the administration of the imperial examination in China and Vietnam and often housed schools and other studying facilities.


The temples are known by a variety of names throughout East Asia. The two greatest temples in Qufu and Beijing are now known in Chinese as "Temples of Confucius" (Kǒngmiào). In Shanghai, Vietnam, Korea, and Indonesia, they are known as "Temples of Literature" (Chinese: wénmiào; Vietnamese: văn miếu; Korean: munmyo; Indonesian: boen bio) or "Temples of the Sage of Literature" (Vietnamese: văn thánh miếu). In Southern China, however, temples by that name generally honor Wenchang Wang, a separate deity associated with the scholar Zhang Yazi. In Japan, they are usually known as "Temples" or "Halls of the Sage" (Japanese: seibyō or seidō, respectively).


Hall of Great Perfection (Dacheng Hall) of the Confucius temple in Qufu

The development of state temples devoted to the cult of Confucius was an outcome of his gradual canonisation. In 195 BC, Han Gao Zu, founder of the Han Dynasty (r. 206–195 BC), offered a sacrifice to the spirit of Confucius at his tomb in Qufu. Sacrifices to the spirit of Confucius and that of Yan Hui, his most prominent disciple, began in the Imperial University (Biyong) as early as 241.

In 454, the Liu Song dynasty of southern China built a prominent state Confucian temple. In 489, the Northern Wei constructed a Confucian temple in the capital, the first outside of Qufu in the north. In 630, the Tang Dynasty decreed that schools in all provinces and counties should have a Confucian temple, as a result of which temples spread throughout China. Well-known Confucian shrines include the Confucian Temple in Jianshui, the Confucian Temple in Xi'an (now the Forest of Steles), the Fuzi Miao in Nanjing, and the Confucian Temple in Beijing, first built in 1302. The Confucian Temple of old Tianjin is located on Dongmennei Dajie, a short distance west of Traditional Culture Street (Gu Wenhua Jie). Occupying 32 acres of land, The Confucian Temple is the largest extant traditional architectural complex in Tianjin.

The largest and oldest Temple of Confucius is found in Confucius' hometown, present-day Qufu in Shandong Province. It was established in 479 BC, one year after Confucius's death, at the order of the Duke Ai of the State of Lu, who commanded that the Confucian residence should be used to worship and offer sacrifice to Confucius. The temple was expanded repeatedly over a period of more than 2,000 years until it became the huge complex currently standing. There is another temple in Quzhou. In addition to Confucian temples associated with the state cult of Confucius, there were also ancestral temples belonging to the Kong lineage, buildings commemorating Confucius's deeds throughout China, and private temples within academies.


The gates of the Temple of Confucius in Datong, Shanxi.

Beginning in the Tang dynasty (618–907), Confucian temples were built in prefectural and county schools throughout the empire, either to the front of or on one side of the school.[1] The front gate of the temple is called the Lingxing Gate (simplified Chinese: 棂星门; traditional Chinese: 欞星門). Inside there are normally three courtyards, although sometimes there are only two. However, the complex in Qufu has nine courtyards containing scores of steles commemorating visits by an emperor or imperial grants of noble titles upon descendants of Confucius. The main building, situated in the inner courtyard with entry via the Dachengmen (simplified Chinese: 大成门; traditional Chinese: 大成門), is called the Dachengdian (Chinese: 大成殿), variously translated as "Hall of Great Achievement", "Hall of Great Completion", or "Hall of Great Perfection". In imperial China, this hall housed the Spirit Tablets (Chinese: 神位) of Confucius and those of other important sages (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ) and worthies (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ). In front of the Dachengdian in Qufu is the Apricot Pavilion or Xingtan (simplified Chinese: 杏坛; traditional Chinese: 杏壇). Another important building behind the main building is the Shrine of Adoring the Sage (Chongshengci simplified Chinese: 崇圣祠; traditional Chinese: 崇聖祠), which honoured the ancestors of Confucius and the fathers of the Four Correlates and Twelve Philosophers.

Main hall of the Temple of Confucius in Ningbo, Zhejiang.

Unlike Daoist or Buddhist temples, Confucian temples do not normally have images. In the early years of the temple in Qufu, it appears that the spirits of Confucius and his disciples were represented with wall paintings and clay or wooden statues. Official temples also contained images of Confucius himself. However, there was opposition to this practice, which was seen as imitative of Buddhist temples.[2] It was also argued that the point of the imperial temples was to honour Confucius's teachings, not the man himself.

The lack of unity in likenesses in statues of Confucius first led Emperor Taizu of the Ming dynasty to decree that all new Confucian temples should contain only spirit tablets and no images. In 1530, it was decided that all existing images of Confucius should be replaced with spirit tablets in imperial temples in the capital and other bureaucratic locations; nevertheless many modern Confucian temples do feature statues. Statues also remained in temples operated by Confucius's family descendants, such as that in Qufu.


Prayer plaques in a temple of Confucius.

The state cult of Confucius centred upon offering sacrifices to Confucius's spirit in the Confucian temple.

Aak musicians at a Confucian ceremony in Munmyo Shrine, Korea

A dance known as the Eight-Row Dance (八佾舞), consisting of eight columns of eight dancers each, was also performed. Originally this was a Six-Row Dance, as performed for the lesser aristocracy, but in 1477 Confucius was allowed the imperial honour of the eight-row dance since he posthumously received the title of king. Musicians who accompanied this dance played a form of music termed yayue.

In addition to worshipping Confucius, Confucian temples also honour the "Four Correlates", the "Twelve Philosophers", and other disciples and Confucian scholars through history. The composition and number of figures worshipped changed and grew through time. Since temples were a statement of Confucian orthodoxy, the issue of which Confucians to enshrine was a controversial one.

The Temple of Confucius in Jiading, now a suburb of Shanghai. The Jiading Temple of Confucius now operates a museum devoted to the imperial exam formerly administered at the temples.

By the Republican period (20th century), there were a total of 162 figures worshipped. The Four Correlates are Yan Hui, Zeng Shen, Kong Ji (Zisi), and Mencius. The Twelve Philosophers are Min Sun (Ziqian), Ran Geng (Boniu), Ran Yong (Zhonggong), Zai Yu (Ziwo), Zi-gong, Ran You, Zi-Lu, Zi-You, Zi-Xia, Zi-Zhang, You Ruo, and Zhu Xi. A list of disciples of Confucius and their place in the Confucian temple can be found at Disciples of Confucius.

The Hall of Great Achievement of the Temple of Confucius in Harbin, Heilongjiang.

Outside mainland China[edit]

With the spread of Confucian learning throughout East Asia, Confucian temples were also built in Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. Starting in the 18th century, some were even built in Europe and the Americas. At their height, there are estimated to have been over 3,000 Confucian temples in existence.

Hong Kong[edit]

The bill allowing for the building of the very first Confucian Temple in Hong Kong, proposed by the Confucian Academy, passed in September 2013. The location of the temple was decided to be near the famous Taoist temple, Wong Tai Sin Temple, in Wong Tai Sin District.[3]


The first Confucian temple in Taiwan to be constructed was the Taiwan Confucian Temple, which was built during the period of Tungning Kingdom in 1665 in Tainan. A more recent one, the Taipei Confucius Temple, was built on Wenwu Street in Taipei in 1879, torn down by Japanese in 1907 to make place for the Taipei First Girls' High School, and re-erected on Dalong Street from 1925 to 1939. The new temple was designed by Wang Yi-Shun, who also oversaw its construction. The design is an example of typical Fujian temple style. Every year on September the 28th, the birthday of Confucius, city authorities hold the Shidian (Chinese: 釋奠) Ceremony here. In addition, there is a Confucian temple located in Zuoying District of Kaohsiung that was completed in 1974 in the Northern Song architectural style. Other Confucian Temples are found in Chiayi City, Taipei and Changhua County.


A Confucian Temple in Vietnam is called Văn Miếu.[4] The earliest recorded Văn Miếu in Vietnam is the Văn Miếu, Hanoi, established in 1070. After 1397, with the construction of schools throughout Vietnam under the Tran, Confucian temples began to spread throughout the country. Another renowned Vietnamese Confucian temple is the Văn Miếu, Hưng Yên, located in Hưng Yên City. Well-known Confucian temples were built in Huế, Tam Kỳ, Hội An, Hưng Yên, Hải Dương, Biên Hòa, Vĩnh Long and Bắc Ninh.


Outside China, the largest number of Confucian temples is found in Korea. Temples were first built during the Goryeo period (918–1392). In the time of Yi Seonggye (r. 1392–1398), it was decreed that Confucian temples should be built in all areas of the nation. Although Chinese models were followed, variations in layout and construction were common, such as the building of schools in front of temples. Korea also added its own scholars (the eighteen scholars of the East) to the Confucian pantheon.

Historically, Korea had a total of 362 temples devoted to the cult of Confucius. After World War II and the division of the country, those in the North were converted to other uses. However, many of the 232 temples in the South continued their activities (see Munmyo). In addition to temples devoted to the cult of Confucius, the Republic of Korea also has twelve Confucian family temples, two temples in private schools, and three libraries.


Confucian temples (孔子廟 kōshi-byō?) were also widely built in Japan, often in conjunction with Confucian schools. The most famous is the Yushima Seido, built in 1630 during the Edo period as a private school connected with the Neo-Confucianist scholar Hayashi Razan. Originally built in Shinobi-ga-oka in Ueno, it was later moved to Yushima (Ochanomizu) by the Tokugawa Shogunate and reopened as a school of Confucianism to spread the teachings of the Hayashi school.

Other well-known Confucian temples are found in Nagasaki, Bizen (Okayama prefecture), Taku (Saga prefecture), and Naha (Okinawa prefecture).


A Confucian church in Surabaya, Indonesia.
Main article: Confucian church

Confucian temples are also found in Indonesia, where they are often known as "Churches of Confucius" as Confucianism is a recognised religion in that country. In Chinese, these establishments are known as litang (礼堂) or "halls of worship". The largest and oldest is the Boen Bio in Surabaya, originally built in the city's Chinatown in 1883 and moved to a new site in 1907. There are reportedly more than 100 Confucianist halls of worship throughout Indonesia.


The first Confucian temple in Malaysia was built within a primary school known as Chung Hwa Confucian School (which has since split into SJK(C) Chung Hwa Confucian A, B and SMJK Chung Hwa Confucian) in Penang, in the early 20th Century. The building of the school was initiated by the Qing dynasty ambassador to the British Straits Settlement at that time. In those days parents in Penang brought their children to this temple for prayer before they began their schooling. The children prayed for excellence in their studies.

There are also 2 Confucian schools in Kuala Lumpur, namely SMJK Confucian and Confucian Private School, and a Confucian school in Malacca where ceremonies in honour of Confucius are held annually.

List of temples[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Liu, Xu. Tang shu 唐書. Beijing: Zhonghua shuji. p. 15.373. 
  2. ^ Sommer, Deborah (2002). "Destroying Confucius: Iconoclasm in the Confucian Temple". On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics and the Formation of the Cult of Confucius: 95–133. 
  3. ^ "孔廟黃大仙新地標" [Wong Tai Sin Temple of Confucius landmark]. The Sun (in Chinese). Hong Kong. 11 September 2013. Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. 
  4. ^ "Dịch hai chữ Văn Miếu ra tiếng Tây". 

External links[edit]