One thing I’ve noticed traveling around China is the presence of Confucius Temples in almost ever city I’ve visited. These are in honour of one of China’s most celebrated scholars and teachers – Confucius, and act as historic centres of teaching and learning, rather than performing a strict religious function (although people do come to pay their respects to Confucius and ask for help with exams).
These temples tend to have a very relaxed and calming atmosphere, without excessive incense or noise (which can add to the unique atmosphere at other temples, but sometimes you need a break!). I particularly loved the layout of the gardens of the Confucius Temple in Suzhou – with open grass spaces, trees dotted around to create shade, and courtyard walls covered in stone tablets quoting Confucius’s teachings.
The focal point at the entrance to the temple is a large statue of Confucius himself, holding a scroll under his arm – symbolising his importance as a great teacher in China.
Inside the main temple itself, there is a huge tapestry of the man himself, as well as many bells, decorations and banners around. Compared to the tranquil gardens, inside there is a more celebratory and bright atmosphere.
I really enjoyed this brief visit to the Confucius Temple in Suzhou, which provided a welcome break from the busy and dusty city streets.