Inside the bus there was very little space, I tried to sleep but couldn’t because of the very loud movie. Everyone had speakers overhead and the sound couldn’t be regulated. Kuba couldn’t listed to his audiobook – “The Witcher” in Russian because of this loudness. After 4 or 5 hours we arrived at the station. In Zibo was cold, but in Qufu was much colder.
It was snowing and cold pinched our cheeks but we didn’t agree on taxi drivers proposals and were moving on our own feet with bags and additionally with food from Ying parents. Actually taxis in China are quite cheap but we thought about it as unnecessary luxury, so at that stage of the journey we rejected the idea that we could take advantage of this form of transport. We went 6 km, slowly losing hope and strength. When we asked people for directions Kuba was surprised by quite communicative knowledge of English from young Chinese girl (yep, with young people sometimes is possible to speak in English). Finally we found the hostel.
The building was located in the old part of the city within the impressive walls – we had to go through a massive gate. On the guards there were no true imperial warriors , but only dangerous cars driving with high speed. Our room was located on the first floor – we had to walk up the stairs on the outside of the building. We had never walked up so slippery stairs ! I still can’t believe that we didn’t break any bone.
We came to Qufu, because it was the city of Confucius – the greatest Chinese philosopher and sage. In importance and influence he can be compared to Jesus or Muhammad. Confucianism for many centuries had a fundamental impact on the Chinese way of thinking. Of course we will not explain the philosophy of Confucius on our blog but it is worth noting that its basic principles are loyalty to superiors and elders and respect for tradition. On the other hand Confucianism is pragmatic and without strong interest in spiritual matters. In China, as oppose to for the example medieval or renaissance Europe, there was not a problem for different religions to exist peacefully side by side.
3 most important religions/ethical-philosophical systems of China are:
a) Taoism (main teacher – Laozi. The most important work attributed to him – “The Way (…)” is not a long book and you can find it also in many translations. We have read one English and one Polish translation – some parts had a completely different meaning !). Taoism assumes the existence of ” the Way “, a specific natural and eternal order of the universe.
b ) Confucianism ( after the death of Confucius his disciples spread his views, but for a long time there were disputes on the subject what Confucius actually taught. To get into Confucius’ teachings one can read “the Analects”.
c ) Buddhism – the most ” universal ” East Asian religion. It came to China from India, and marked its presence with beautiful monasteries and Buddhist monks.
We visited a couple of snow-covered monuments connected with Confucius – the Temple – with some enormous icicles hanging under its roof (if one had fallen on our heads that would have been probably the end of Polacos de Polonia) , the family mansion of Confucius – after the dead of the sage his descendants for a long still have benefited from the respect applied to him – and the forest where his tomb is located. We must admit that our enjoyment of the attractions of Qufu was limited. First of all, entrance tickets in China are often very expensive! For us by the Polish standards they seem expensive, and because in general the prices in China are lower for the Chinese people they have to be even more expensive . We were never big fans of Confucius – we did not yet had time to read his works, certainly if his teachings would mean more to us we would have appreciated our visit more. The monuments alone seemed to us not worth the price (150 yuan = about 75 zł per ticket for 1 person to all three main attractions, separate tickets were more expensive – we thought that maybe only in Beijing it is necessary to pay a fat price for getting closer to the Chinese culture, after all it is the capital…). The most interesting in Qufu was probably the mansion – several times we felt like in a maze of small chambers and narrow passages, and it had its charm.
On the streets we noticed red “petals”. Kuba initially thought that they are flower petals, but it turned out that they are just pieces of plastic litter from the fireworks. It was still the 2 week period after the New Year, when Chinese people find enjoyment in the art of flash and noise (the art which like many others – more useful and less spectacular – they had invented ). Our colleague, who spent this period in one city near Shanghai, told us that he couldn’t sleep and was afraid to go out on the street because it resembled a military training ground. As for us, we were actually even a little disappointed, because where we were, the fireworks were rather simple and we didn’t see them often. We think that it must have been because of the weather, because it was really very cold.
It was nice to see what great joy the Chinese derive from the snow – we saw lots of people with snowballs in their hands, sometimes very small babies – sometimes almost adult teenagers. Meanwhile, we were freezing ( this is not a metaphor, during a walk in Qufu I really had a lock of hair frozen! ). We dealt with this by drinking Baijiu – Chinese vodka, which we tried already in Beijing. Ying’s dad wanted to give us 2 bottles – we took one, on one hand because we already felt that he gave us too many gifts and on the other hand, because we felt that it will be too heavy to carry two. Then of course we regretted it because that was our only way to fight with the ruthless cold!
At the end there was a Polish accent. During my stay in Japan and Korea, not counting first the brother and then the husband, I had never met any Pole. In Qufu in our hostel we met Polish girls and we met as many as five of them. They were from our university (University of Gdansk , we recommend it warmly 😉 in any case warmer than winter in Qufu). They were studying Chinese language on the course in Harbin (Manchuria). There it has to be cold! Fortunately, our route led us south, as we naively believed, towards the sun.