孔林 Cemetery of Confucius

Life note:

Just got back from a whirlwind China adventure and am entering the critical stage of my thesis work, but I hope to push forward on catching up here at Biaoli. Thank you for your enduring patience.

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孔林 Cemetery of Confucius

The third of the three Kong family sites is the 孔林 Cemetery of Confucius. The Chinese title can be literally translated as “Kong’s Forest” which indicates a notion obviously different from the Western graveyard. I find it fantastic that the physical remainder of a two millennium long ancestry is not marked by man-made objects like tombstones, but rather, for the most part, given over to natural entities, ones that physically manifest the elapsed time. The graves of Confucius, his choice disciples and his wealthier descents are marked by steles and spirit ways, but most of the 89 Kong generations are only noticeable due to the gentle curve of their tumuli.

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Really long axial approach

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Inside the main gate

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armpit bee’s nest

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sorry, couldn’t resist

 

 

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There is one big loop through the cemetery that most people opt to do on a big golf cart, but it turned out to be a really interesting and peaceful walk. The ancient burial mounds and occasional overgrown sculptures had a dreamlike effect, like I was on the wrong side of a horizontal threshold.

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神道 Spirit Way

Typically on a North-South axis and leading to the graves of important officials, spirit ways are paths lined on both sides by mythical creatures, real animals, stelae, pillars, and statues of military and civilian officials. Unlike the lion statue typology that faces forward to guard residences and gates, the creatures and officials of the spirit ways are inward facing, probably to convey watchfulness towards the person approaching the grave. The precision afforded in imperial efforts means the best examples of these paired creatures (ex: the Ming dynasty tombs outside of Beijing) are close to identical, but the craftsmanship of these less important paths mean these creatures vary from each other, creating a slight difference of personality. I’ve become a little obsessed with what it means to render an entity that will spend centuries and millenniums staring at its counterpoint.

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Continuing onward

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