Confucius Resources

China Institute Gallery Virtual Tour

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Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
117.5 × 65.7 cm (painting only)
147.7 × 77.3 cm (painting and colophons)
273.5 × 91.5 cm (overall with mounting)
Shandong Provincial Museum


1. Anonymous
Portrait of Confucius as Minister of Justice in Lu

Portraits of Confucius through the centuries have depicted him in a great variety of roles, reflecting both the fluctuations in his social position in life and the posthumous honors awarded to him after his death. Here he wears the clothing and headgear of a high- ranking official, a reference to his brief service as minister of justice in his home state of Lu. During the three months of his administration, order and harmony prevailed throughout the realm.7 His facial expression in this painting suggests the conscientious attention he devoted to his responsibilities. Appropriate for a man in his mid-fifties, he has a dark moustache and a fine, full beard that hangs in long wavy wisps.
Qing dynasty, Yongzheng period (1723–35)
Woodblock-printed book
H. 24.4 cm, W. 16.9 cm (closed), W. 29 cm (open), D. 11 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Song dynasty (960–1279)
Wood, originally painted
Confucius: H. 37 cm, W. 15.5 cm
Madame Qiguan: H. 42 cm, W. 16 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


2. Pair of statues of Confucius and his wife, Madame Qiguan
Formerly housed at the “Southern Kong” temple in Quzhou, Zhejiang, these simple but evocative wooden figures represent votive images of Confucius and his wife. According to traditional accounts, the forty-eighth-generation duke, Kong Duanyou (d. 1132), brought them from Qufu while fleeing from the invading Jurchen Jin army in the late 1120s.1 Later, they were installed at the Quzhou temple in a building called Pavilion for Thinking of Lu (Si Lu ge), referring to Qufu.

3. Queli zhi (Gazetteer of Queli [Qufu])
After a major fire in 1499 destroyed the temple of Confucius in Qufu, the Ming Hongzhi emperor (r. 1487– 1505) sponsored its reconstruction and expansion into a much grander facility than ever before. Upon its completion five years later, he sent Grand Secretary and Minister of Rites Li Dongyang (1447–1516) to perform a sacrifice there on his behalf.1 During his stay, Li instructed the provincial vice-commissioner of education, Chen Gao (jinshi, 1487), to compile an official gazetteer to supplement existing publications, such as Kong genealogies, which treated only certain aspects of the area’s history.2 Rather than recording just the kinds of administrative information typical of a local gazetteer, however, Chen Gao organized his Queli zhi around Confucius’s significance to the Qufu region.
Late Ming or early Qing period, 17th century
Jujube wood (zaomu)
H. 30 cm, W. 53 cm, W. interior frame (banxin) 52.5 cm, D. 2.5 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


5. Carved woodblock for printing Traces of the Sage (Pictorial Biography of Confucius)
This padded gown is made using what the Inventory of Burial Objects calls changshou (longevity) embroidery on thin silk, a plain gauze lining, silk padding, and a hem of brocade with piled circles—the earliest teased fabric discovered in the world so far. Auspicious objects such as dogwood and phoenix appear in the clouds of this design.
Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050–771 BCE)
Bronze
H. 19 cm, W. 35 cm, D. 17 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Excavated in 1978 from Wangfutai Tomb No. 48 in
the ancient capital of Lu state, Qufu, Shandong
Warring States period (ca. 475–221 BCE)
Bronze with gold and silver inlay
H. 10 cm, W. 22 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Excavated in 1978 from Wangfutai Tomb No. 3 in
the ancient capital of Lu state, Qufu, Shandong
Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050–771 BCE)
Bronze
H. 38 cm, Diam. 10.2 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Excavated in 1978 from Wangfutai Tomb No. 48 in
the ancient capital of Lu state, Qufu, Shandong


15. Finial for a staff
Originally used as a walking stick, the staff became a symbol of authority during the late Neolithic period in China. This bronze ornament in the form of several beasts is the finial of a ceremonial staff. The cylindrical opening at the bottom is for installing a cane. Poised atop the cylinder is a large-eyed, dragon-shaped beast with a sloping tail, a contracted body, and a raised head with long jaws. Caught in its jaws is a serpent-bodied creature, looking back and struggling to get free. Coiled atop the dragon-shaped beast is another serpentine creature, shown biting the head of yet another beast, which is in turn holding a bird-tail in its mouth and is attached to the serpentine creature. Fantastically designed with intricate inlays of gold and silver, this staff finial demonstrates superb craftsmanship and distinction of class.

19. Rectangular food container of the Earl of Lu (Lubo xu)
The xu vessel is a food container of the Western and Eastern Zhou periods for such grains as rice and sorghum. A symbol of prestige, it was used as serviceware together with other bronze vessels such as the ding and the gui. This xu vessel is rectangular in shape with rounded corners and a pair of handles on the sides. It is decorated with a refined pattern of scrolls in a band along the mouth and foot of the vessel and along the rim of the lid. The belly section is decorated with a tile pattern (parallel grooves). The lid is crowned with four kui-dragon plaques and a tiger-shaped knob; its surface is decorated with the tile pattern and an elephant trunk motif. Inside the lid is a six-line inscription with a total of thirty-six characters which basically explains that this container was made by the Earl of Lu in honor of his parents and to express his wishes for prosperity and longevity. The text also serves as evidence that this vessel had been used by the Earl of Lu.

20. Covered flask of Mother Hou (Houmu hu)
The form of this bronze wine flask was derived from the ceramic jugs of the Neolithic period. Bronze wine flasks like this one were used by the nobility throughout the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties. Shaped somewhat like a bullet, it has a small mouth, a ring foot, and four loop handles attached to the sides. The two upper loop handles are made to look like rings held in the mouths of beasts. The vessel body is decorated with various patterns in four separate registers. At the top is a row of kui-dragons, followed below by a row of triangles, then elephant-trunk creatures, and more triangles on the bottom. The ring foot is decorated with a downward-pointing scale pattern while the lid has a coiled dragon and two smaller loop handles on its sides. Along the rim of the lid and around the neck are matching fifteen-character inscriptions that translate as, “Mother Hou made this military flask for Father Hou to use on expeditions and to use for good fortune without end”; it is a blessing intended for protection, safety, and innumerable chances of luck when leaving on an expedition of war.
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Album of 36 paintings and 5 leaves of calligraphy; ink and color on silk
Each leaf: 33 × 57–62 cm (painting only); 40.8 × 66 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


4. Traces of the Sage (Pictorial Biography of Confucius)
In addition to static portraits that depict him in a timeless, iconic mode, Confucius also appears in lively narrative pictures that show him interacting with disciples, feudal lords, and assorted other people whom he encountered over the course of his life. Although individual events were already being illustrated in the Eastern Han period, a linked set of pictures treating the entire life of Confucius was created only in the mid-fifteenth century. Generically known as “pictures of the Sage’s traces” (Shengji tu), illustrated biographies evolved rapidly in the late Ming period as new versions with varying numbers of scenes were produced in a variety of media, including painting, woodblock-printing, and incised stone tablets.

(top row, 1st column) Scene 9: Confucius asks Laozi about the rites (cf. cat. no. 8)
With the aid of an aristocratic disciple, Nangong Jingshu, Confucius traveled to the Zhou capital (at Luoyang, Henan) to learn more about ritual and met Laozi, the archivist of the library.10 The artist has imagined the encounter in terms of Ming material culture and social practices, adding servants who prepare tea, a large painted screen mounted in a heavy wooden frame, and books in contemporary binding. Nangong Jingshu appears larger than Confucius and sits in front, perhaps to indicate his higher social position. Four other disciples stand behind Confucius, the first appearance of what becomes a standard group of attendants in later scenes of this album. His ox-drawn cart also appears here for the first of many times, although Sima Qian’s biography says that on this occasion, Confucius traveled in a carriage drawn by two horses supplied by the duke of Lu, who also sent the servant standing beside the parked vehicle.

(top row, 2nd column) Scene 10: Confucius hears the Shao music in the state of Qi
When the duke of Lu was ousted in a coup, the thirty-five- year-old Confucius followed him to the neighboring state of Qi. There Confucius discussed music with the Qi grand master and heard the Shao music of sage-emperor Shun, which he studied so ardently that he was oblivious to the taste of meat for three months. Duke Jing of Qi sought his advice on governance, and Confucius made his famous reply, “Rulers should be rulers, ministers should be ministers, fathers should be fathers, and sons should be sons.” The painting shows Confucius and the duke sitting side by side in front of a large painted screen in a palace courtyard. The duke gestures toward the standing master of music, who holds out an open book (anachronistic) as musicians prepare their instruments. These include a bell and V-shaped chime on separate stands (cf. cat. nos. 17– 18), drum, zither (se), and mouth-organs (sheng). Confucius expresses his delight with a rare smile.

(top row, 3rd column) Scene 15: The execution of Shao Zhengmao
In his fifties, Confucius finally gained substantive office in the state of Lu. After a successful year as a magistrate of the central district (Zhongdu zai), Duke Ding appointed him minister of works (sikong) and then minister of justice (dasikou), eventually assigning him the responsibilities of prime minister (cf. cat. no. 1). During this period, Confucius executed a high official, Shao Zhengmao, for creating chaos in the government. After three months, meat vendors stopped raising their prices, men and women stayed on different sides of the street, and no one took up things dropped accidentally on the road.12 The illustration manages to refer to all of these details in an economically organized composition. Wearing an ornate multi-tiered headdress secured with a large horizontal pin, Confucius presides from a high-backed chair in front of a large screen and table loaded with bound books (all anachronistic). He gestures to two strongmen whose swords are raised to strike the kneeling Shao Zhengmao, held down by a third. Recalling paintings of the Kings of Hell, attendants stand nearby holding a rolled scroll and a book, and a third reads Shao’s sentence from an open scroll. Behind this group, four women and two children stroll toward a cloth lying on the ground. On the other side of the road are assorted animals and six men, three of whom weigh meat on a scale while a fourth holds an account book. Two men with rolled umbrellas over their shoulders point toward a second piece of dropped clothing.

(bottom row, 1st column) Scene 18: Confucius is rescued from the men of Kuang’s siege
After quitting the service of Duke Ding of Lu in disgust because the latter showed more interest in sensual indulgence than in maintaining correct ritual, Confucius went to other states seeking employment. When he passed through Kuang, the locals mistook him for a man from Lu whom they hated and detained him for five days. Although the disciples were afraid, Confucius proclaimed his belief in heaven’s protection.13 Nonetheless, the artist has given him a worried expression. Dressed once again in plain clothes, he sits in his parked cart, surrounded by menacing fighters wearing headwraps and stripped to the waist. Their droll expressions lend a comic touch, as they brandish weapons and fists in a choreographed display of martial arts. One disciple bows decorously toward them, accompanied by two others. Another disciple approaches Confucius with an open scroll. This is probably Yan Hui, who had arrived in the midst of the confrontation. The temporarily idled ox stands foursquare with his hindquarters facing the viewer.

(bottom row, 2nd column) Scene 31: Confucius and his disciples at the Apricot Terrace, studying rites and music
After many years of traveling, Confucius was invited back to Lu at the age of sixty-eight. When he returned, however, no post was offered to him, so he devoted himself to editing and teaching the ancient texts. He wrote a preface to the Documents (Shu), transmitted the Rites (Li), arranged the Odes (Shi), corrected the Music (Yue), composed a preface and commentaries to the Changes (Yi), and completed a chronicle (Chunqiu). His students increased to three thousand, seventy-two of whom mastered the Six Arts.14 The Zhuangzi, a text from the third century BCE, calls the place where they gathered “Apricot Terrace” (Xingtan) (see cat. nos. 6 and 7).15 The illustration portrays a collegial gathering with the disciples talking or reading together, mostly in companionable groups of three. One stands with his back to the viewer to address a question to Confucius, who sits facing outward in front of a painted screen at a cloth- covered table, flanked by three pairs of disciples standing in respectful postures. The scene suggests the idyllic gathering of scholars at a Ming academy (see cat. no. 7).

(bottom row, 3rd column) Scene 32: Kneeling, Confucius receives a red rainbow from the Big Dipper
This incident, attesting to heaven’s approval of Confucius’s editorial labors, comes not from Sima Qian’s biography of Confucius but paraphrases an account in a thirteenth-century Kong genealogy, which in turn copies an apocryphal text.16 After Confucius finished writing or editing the texts that would become the Classics, he fasted and purified himself at his study hall. Then facing the Northern Dipper, he performed an obeisance to announce their completion to heaven, and a red rainbow came down and transformed into yellow jade incised with an inscription. The painting shows him kneeling with his hands outstretched toward an altar, where an incense burner stands between vases of auspicious fungus (lingzhi). In the sky, a receding billow of clouds reveals a constellation recognizable as the Big Dipper, depicted as white circles connected by thin lines. A pale reddish arc sweeps across the cloud swirls and extends down almost to the altar. Pairs of disciples tend two side tables displaying three books each, and two more men stand behind Confucius, next to a screen with a blossoming plum and Taihu rock looming behind it. The setting evokes an elegant Ming garden with contemporary furnishings.
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
99.5 × 59 cm (painting only)
269 × 89.5 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


9. Anonymous
Confucius Observes the Tilting Vessels

This painting illustrates an anecdote, versions of which appear in a number of early texts, in which Confucius explains the virtue of moderation. The passage that is transcribed above the scene comes from the Sayings of the Confucians (Kongzi jiayu) and may be paraphrased as follows: When Confucius was in the ancestral temple of Duke Huan of Lu (r. 711–694 BCE), he observed a tilting container and asked the temple guardian what it was. The custodian responded that it must be a cautionary vessel for beside the seat (youzuo zhi qi). Confucius had heard that enlightened rulers kept such containers beside their seats as an admonition, because when the vessel was empty, it tilted; when medium full, it was upright; and when filled up, it overturned. He then told his disciples to try pouring water into the vessel, and it responded as he had said. Thereupon Confucius sighed and asked whether there was anything that would not overturn when full (perhaps alluding to Duke Huan’s lack of restraint). The disciple Zilu inquired whether there was a way to maintain fullness (without overturning; i.e., going to excess), leading Confucius to expound a series of positive qualities that are kept in check by a dash of their opposites: intelligence by stupidity, bravery by fear; wealth by modesty, etc. He ends by proclaiming, “This is called the way of decreasing and again decreasing.”
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Hanging scroll; ink on silk
143 × 75.5 cm (painting); 274 × 107 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
167.5 × 85 cm (painting only); 301 × 118 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


(left) 6. Anonymous
Confucius, Yan Hui, and Zeng Can (with robes formed from characters of the Analects)

Under the vine-draped bough of a pine tree, Confucius sits between two disciples who stand in attendance, their hands raised in a gesture of respect. Most unusually, the three men’s robes are formed from tiny Chinese characters in regular script, each about four millimeters tall, which transcribe the first half of the Analects (Lunyu). Carefully written within tiny gridlines, the text begins on Confucius’s left elbow (viewer’s right) with the well-known sentence, “The Master said, ‘To study and at times to practice what one has learned, is it not a pleasure?’” (Zi yue, xue er shi xi zhi, bu yi yue hu).

(right) 7. Confucius Lecturing to His Disciples
This large and detailed composition portrays Confucius interacting with his disciples in an outdoor setting. Depicting him with a full beard that suggests late middle age, the scene refers to the period after he returned from his travels among the states of north China. For fourteen years, Confucius had searched for an ideal ruler who would employ him and heed his advice to govern with benevolence and proper ritual. After giving up this quest, Confucius returned to Lu and devoted himself to editing texts and teaching an ever- growing cohort of followers. During the Song dynasty, the spot where Confucius allegedly congregated with his disciples was commemorated with a stone platform, known as the Apricot Terrace (Xingtan), to which a pavilion was later added in the Jin dynasty.
Eastern Han dynasty, 175 CE
Stone
(1) H. 14.2 cm, W. 25 cm, D. 10.3 cm
(2) H. 12 cm, W. 13.5 cm, D. 10.6 cm
(3) H. 5.6cm,W.0.8cm,D.6.5cm
(4) H. 18.6 cm, W. 0.8 cm, D. 6.5 cm
(5) H. 14cm,W.15cm,D.6.2cm
Shandong Provincial Museum
Unearthed from Luoyang, Henan
Ming dynasty, 1480
Woodblock-printed book (2 volumes displayed)
Each volume: H. 29.9 cm, W. 18.7 cm, D. 1 cm
Shandong Provincial Museum


11. The Four Books with Collected Annotations (Sishu jizhu)
Confucius himself claimed that he was merely a teacher and transmitter of ancient rituals and history, not a creator or philosopher. Nonetheless, he was traditionally regarded as the author, compiler, or editor of the “Confucian Classics,” which vary in number from five to fourteen, depending on the period and criteria used in counting.

21. Fragments of the Xiping Stone Classics
Commonly known by the name of the era in which it was produced, the Xiping Stone Classics constitute the earliest official set of the Confucian Classics to have been carved onto steles. Due to the uniform style of its clerical-script characters, this group of Han Stone Classics is also known as the Single-Script Stone Classics.

Warring States period (ca. 475–221 BCE)
Limestone
Smallest: H. 10.4 cm, W. 24.7 cm,
D. 2.5 cm (Diam. of hole 1.9 cm)
Largest: H. 19.6 cm, W. 55.2 cm,
D. 2.6 cm (Diam. of hole 2.5 cm)
Shandong Archeological Research Institute
Unearthed in 1979 from the large Warring States burial
site at Dafuguan village in the ancient capital of Qi
state, Linzi, Shandong
Spring and Autumn period (770–ca. 475 BCE)
Bronze
Smallest: H. 12.8 cm, W. 7.5 cm, D. 6 cm
Largest: H. 20.1 cm, W. 14.6 cm, D. 9.5 cm
Shandong Archeological Research Institute
Unearthed in 1977 from Liujiadianzi, Yishui, Shandong
Modern rubbing of Eastern
Han dynasty (25–220) stone
Ink on paper
82.7 x 83 cm
Shandong Provincial Museum


10. Music, Dance, and 100 Entertainments; Queen Mother of the West; and Lecturing on the Classics
Pictorial stone carvings are commonly found on the outer coffin chamber of stone tombs belonging to the Eastern Han aristocracy and bureaucratic elite, as well as in their above-ground offering shrines. They are mainly found distributed in four regions: the southern part of the old Lu state (consisting of present-day southern Shandong, northern Jiangsu, and northeastern Anhui), Henan, northern Shaanxi, and Sichuan. Those found in southern Shandong are particularly rich and diverse in their carving techniques, which include sculptural relief, openwork, engraved line, striated-ground flat relief, and so on. The contents of the pictorial stone carvings found in southern Shandong are also extremely rich, including subjects from the mythology of the celestial kingdom to human activities, animals and plants, and floral motifs and geometric patterns of all kinds. The carvings can be said to constitute an encyclopedia of Eastern Han imagery.

17. Graduated set of bells (bian zhong)
Percussion instruments such as zhong, duo, and nao bells had become institutional for the aristocracy by the Shang dynasty at the latest. Graduated sets of bells emerged during the Western Zhou as important musical equipment, flourished during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, and lasted well into the Qin and Han era. In antiquity, they were made exclusively for rulers and were important as musical accompaniments for singing at sacrifices, imperial appointments of officials, and stately banquets. The tones produced are archaically rich, melodious, and sublime, making the bells especially perfect for accompanying an orchestra. The sound is full of the unique qualities of ancient Chinese music. During the Western Zhou dynasty, a ritual system concerning the size of the bell sets was still being observed. Dukes and nobles could be distinguished by the number of bells, in units of three, that they were qualified to use. Bell sets covering the most comprehensive tonal ranges were only used by the king and his dukes when conducting rituals or entertaining. The term “music from bells and food from bronze” is a reference to the life of a noble.

18. Set of chimes (bian qing)
Qing chimes, fashioned out of stone, are percussion instruments that first appeared in China’s late Neolithic period. During the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties, sets of qing chimes were used together with graduated bronze bells by kings, dukes, and the aristocracy in ritual ceremonies. A set of stones covering a range of tones is hung in a wooden frame and struck with a mallet to produce music. The instrument was mostly used at court on grand occasions. Lu state was the original producer of stone chimes, and Confucius was actually one of the expert makers of stone chimes during the Spring and Autumn period. This set of eight graduated chimes is made out of a limestone material. The rock deposits along the Si River have been regarded as the best material for chimes.

Warring States period
(ca. 475–221 BCE)
Jade
Disk (bi): Diam. 5.3 cm
Dragon pendant: W. 11 cm
Elongated drum-shaped
tubes: L. 4.5 cm
Beads: Diam. 1 cm
Long pillar tubes: L. 4.5 cm
Short pillar tubes: L. 3.2 cm
Unearthed in 1978 from Qufu, Shandong
Shandong Archeological Research Institute
Warring States period
(ca. 475–221 BCE)
Jade
Diam. 19 cm, Thickness 0.8 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Excavated in 1978 from Warring States Tomb No. 52 in
the ancient capital of Lu state, Qufu, Shandong
Western Zhou dynasty
(ca. 1050–771 BCE)
Jade
H. 10.2 cm, W. 5.7 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Unearthed from the Cemetery of Confucius,
Qufu, Shandong
Neolithic, ca. 2500 BCE,
or Western Zhou dynasty
(ca. 1050–771 BCE)
Jade
H. 38.2 cm, W. 6.1 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


12. Ritual tube (cong)
Jade cong tubes first appeared during the middle of the Neolithic period in the eastern part of China, where they were used as ritual objects in burials. The ancient Chinese held that the earth is square and yellow. Therefore, it is said in the “Chunguan Dazongbo” chapter of the Rites of Zhou, “Use yellow cong tubes to propitiate the earth.”

13. Ritual blade (chan)
The prototype for this ritual jade blade was the stone shovel. It was a practical tool used for farming during China’s Neolithic period that was transformed into a sacrificial object. Called a jade yue (battle ax), it became a token of the owner’s power of life and death over others. The shovel handle is basically rectangular in shape, while the blade is curved to a slightly upward point at both ends. The top is adorned with a pair of back-turned birds and a hole for passing through a string. The body is carved with an animal-mask motif in low relief.

14. Ritual disk (bi)
Jade disks first appeared during the mid-Neolithic period in the eastern part of China, where they were used as ritual objects in burials. It is said in the “Chunguan Dazongbo” chapter of the Rites of Zhou that “celadon jade disks are used to propitiate heaven”; this is because the ancient Chinese thought that the cosmos was round. “Celadon blue” (cang) was also identified as the color of the sky. Therefore, a celadon jade disk was the best choice for ceremonial purposes. This thin, circular disk is decorated with a raised grain pattern and a rib encircling both the outer and inner rims.

16. Ornament in eleven pieces
By the late Neolithic period, jade ornaments were imparted with ritual significance. During the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties, they had become indispensable in ritual music at the altar, in sacrifices to ancestors and the gods, and in a regulated system of insignias. They were also used to distinguish blood relationship and as symbols of social position. Jade accessories are believed to reflect the morals and ethics of the bearer. Confucius had said, “The beauty of jade is reflective of the virtues of a gentleman.” He maintained that one could find in jade the following good qualities that one would find in a gentleman: benevolence (ren), rectitude (yi), respect (li), wisdom (zhi), trust (xin), optimism (le), truth (zhong), forgiveness (tian), confidence (di), ambition (de), and cultivation (dao). In addition to the jade accessories that were made exclusively for wearing, the ancient Chinese also carved jade utensils for daily use.

Eastern Han dynasty (25–220)
Limestone
H. 110.5 cm, W. 48 cm, D. 19 cm
Shandong Provincial Museum


8. Pictorial stone depicting Confucius Meets Laozi and Xiang Tuo and other scenes
Confucius and his disciples frequently appear in the Han funerary art of southwestern Shandong, the region around his ancient home in Lu. The depiction of these exemplary figures on pictorial stones inside a tomb or offering shrine suggests that the values associated with them were endorsed by the deceased and his family. The upper register of this slab conflates two stories about Confucius, while the lower one depicts mounted warriors.
Qing dynasty, 1828
Colored inks on patterned silk brocade
33.5 × 384 cm (entire scroll)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


25. Imperial edict conferring a title on the parents of Kong Zhaoqian
During the Qing dynasty, many members of the senior Kong lineage pursued careers in government or distinguished themselves in scholarship, literature, and calligraphy. In this period, it was common for an eminent official to petition the emperor to bestow posthumous honors on his ancestors, particularly ones whose accomplishments may not have been fully recognized in life. Such awards might lead to upgraded burial monuments and new portraits reflecting the higher status, and they reflected favorably on the descendant as well. The impressive document exhibited here grants such honors for Kong Guangsen 􏳏􏱏􏵍 (1752–1786) and Madame Shen, the deceased parents of Kong Zhaoqian (1775–1835).

Qing dynasty, 1894
Hanging scroll; gold pigment on paper
115 × 55 cm (painting only)
248 × 76.5 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Lacquered and gilded carved wood
H. 41.5 cm, W. 45 cm, D. 21 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


24. Box for imperial edicts, bestowed on the Duke for Perpetuating the Sage
This magnificent wooden box was made to hold the Qing emperor’s decrees awarding noble titles to descendants of Confucius (e.g., see cat. no. 25). As early as the Han dynasty, emperors periodically conferred ranks of nobility and material benefits on senior male descendants of Confucius. From 1055 until 1935, the leader in each generation of Kongs was titled Duke for Perpetuating the Sage (Yanshenggong). In return for imperial support, the descendants maintained regular sacrifices to Confucius, which were believed to benefit the entire realm. The Manchu rulers of the Qing dynasty enthusiastically continued this mutually beneficial relationship, and the palace maintained frequent contact with the Kong Mansion in Qufu.

34. Empress Dowager Cixi (1840–1908)
Pine and Crane (Longevity Painting), bestowed by Empress Dowager Cixi on Madame Peng, Mother of Duke Kong Lingyi

Empress Dowager Cixi personally bestowed this painting of a crane flying over the boughs of a pine tree on Madame Peng (1849–1908), the widow of the seventy-fifth-generation Duke for Perpetuating the Sage, Kong Xiangke (1848–1876), and mother of his successor, Kong Lingyi (1872–1919, the 76th-generation Duke for Perpetuating the Sage; see cat. 30). Madame Peng herself came from an illustrious Suzhou lineage of officials, and her grandfather Peng Yunzhang (1792– 1862) had been a grand secretary.1 In the autumn of 1894, she accompanied Duke Kong Lingyi and his wife to Beijing for the empress dowager’s sixtieth birthday celebrations. Invited to stay in a wing of the imperial palace, the party socialized with Cixi and enjoyed calligraphy with her.

A. Shang dynasty (ca. 1600–ca. 1050 BCE)
Bronze (with Qing dynasty wood stand and cover and jade knob)
H. 35.5 cm, W. 25.5 cm, D. 25 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


B. Shang dynasty (ca. 1600–ca. 1050 BCE)
Bronze (with Qing dynasty wood stand)
H. 32.5 cm, W. (top) 20.5 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


C. Warring States period (ca. 475–221 BCE)
Bronze inlaid with gold and silver (with Qing dynasty wood stand)
H. 25.2 cm, W. 25.5 cm, D. 19.3 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


D. Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050–771 BCE)
Bronze (with Qing dynasty wood cover and jade knob)
H.29cm,W.27cm,D.21cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


E. Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050–256 BCE)
Bronze (with Qing dynasty carved jade plaque and wood stand)
H. 29 cm, W. 39 cm, D. 15.5 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


F. Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050–771 BCE)
Bronze (with Qing dynasty wood base and cover and jade knob)
H. 24.5 cm, W. 29.2 cm, D. 23.1 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


G. Shang dynasty (ca. 1600–ca. 1050 BCE)
Bronze
H. 33.5 cm, W. 17.5 cm, D. 24.5 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


H. Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050–771 BCE)
Bronze
H. 9.5 cm, W. 34 cm, D. 22 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


I. Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050–771 BCE)
Bronze
H. 23.2 cm, W. 27 cm, D. 25.5 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


J. Shang/early Western Zhou period (16th–11th c. BCE)
Bronze (with Qing dynasty wood cover and jade knob)
H. 42.6 cm, W. 29 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


 
Set of ten Shang and Zhou bronze ritual vessels bestowed by the Qianlong emperor in 1771

23a. Tripod (Mugong ding)
This food container has a flattened lip at the mouth, standing loop handles, slightly convex belly, round bottom, and cylindrical legs. In the decorative zone below the rim are six repeated animal masks, each depicted with curled horns and a protruding flange at the nose ridge. The belly of the vessel is undecorated and smooth. Each leg is adorned with an animal mask and projecting flange. The inner wall of the vessel bears a seven- character inscription in two lines, naming the vessel and its maker. A wooden cover with a jade knob on top, as well as a sandalwood base, was made for it during the Qing. The carved inscription inside the cover reads, “Qianlong yuzhi” (from Qianlong’s imperial workshop), and the characters on the base read, “Mugong ding.”

23b. Wine vessel (gu)
This gu beaker has a wide flaring mouth, a drum-like body, flat bottom, and a high ring foot. There are projecting flanges on the body and ring foot. Above the ring foot are two cross-shaped holes. The belly and the foot are separated by two circumferential ridges and are each decorated with animal mask motifs featuring dimpled bosses as eyes. A red sandalwood stand furnished during the Qing dynasty bears the carved inscription “Qianlong yu shang” (Qianlong’s imperial award); the three characters “Zhou ya zun” are carved on the bottom.

23c. Covered food-serving vessel (dou)
This stemmed dou vessel has a bowl-shaped belly with ear-like loop handles. When covered, the body and lid form an oblate spheroid. The lid has a large, flaring circular handle on top that corresponds to the trumpet- shaped ring foot. The vessel is covered with animal and bird designs: one-legged, serpentine kui dragon and phoenix motifs on the lid and phoenix and owl motifs on the bowl. Bits of gold and silver have been inlaid throughout this design. A red sandalwood stand furnished during the Qing dynasty is inscribed “Qianlong yu shang” (Qianlong’s imperial award); the bottom of the stand is inscribed “Zhou kui feng dou.”

23d. Square food container (fangding)
This rectangular container on four hooved legs has a swelling belly, slightly contracted mouth, a flat rim, and a pair of standing loop handles. The upper part of the belly is embellished on all sides with a total of eight raised rectangular frames. A rosewood cover with a jade knob was furnished during the Qing dynasty; it is inscribed “Qianlong yu shang” (Qianlong’s imperial award) on the inside.

23e. Wine container (xizun)
This wine container has a bovine body, back-pointing ears, a short tail, and sturdy legs. Attached to the back of the animal is an oval lid that can be opened. The body is undecorated. A jade plaque carved with a tiger motif in openwork and a rosewood stand was furnished during the Qing dynasty. The stand is inscribed “Qianlong yu shang” (Qianlong’s imperial award); the bottom of the stand is inscribed “Zhou xizun.”

23f. Food-serving vessel (Boyi gui)
This food-serving vessel is shaped like a drinking cup with wide mouth, flanged lip, straight-sided body, rounded bottom, and a slightly splayed ring foot. Each of the two handles on the sides is in the form of a horned creature with a hanging tail. The bowl is embellished on both sides with a raised animal mask above a straight ridge. On the body are two zones of decorative bands that form a series of masks with paired eyes set within scrolls in the upper register and bolder scrolls in the lower half. The mask of a horned beast is repeated four times around the ring foot. The inside bottom of the bowl bears a four- line inscription that has become obscured, leaving only six legible characters. A sandalwood cover with a jade knob and a stand were furnished during the Qing dynasty; the stand bears a four-character inscription “Qianlong yu shang” (Qianlong’s imperial award). This vessel has an elegant shape, distinctive patterns of decoration, and a beautiful patina.

23g. Wine container (Fuyi you)
This lidded, pear-shaped jug has a slightly contracted mouth and neck, a drooping belly, and a splayed ring foot. The fitted, domed lid is topped with a garlic-shaped knob. A bail handle cast in the form of a rope is attached at two loops on the shoulder. Except for a nose-like projecting mask on the shoulder at front and back, the body is undecorated. The interior bears the inscription “ce Fuyi,” matching the one inside the lid.

23h. Tray (fu)
This rectangular bronze tray has a straight-sided mouth with a flat rim; its sides slope down to a deep bottom. There are a pair of animal-head loop handles on the sides. The square foot around the base has a rectangular cutout on each side. Under the rim, a band of studded scrolls circles the mouth. Beneath that, the walls are decorated with intertwining beasts and eye motifs. The inscription inside the vessel, only part of which is legible, basically means, “for the use of offspring generation after generation.”

23i. Covered food-serving vessel (gui)
This round food-serving vessel features a drum-like belly, a domical fitted lid that serves as a bowl when inverted, and a pair of animal-shaped handles with pendant lugs. The lid is decorated with parallel grooves and a frieze of ribbon-like, coiled kui-dragon motifs. The upper part of the pot is decorated with a similar frieze while the lower half is embellished with parallel grooves. The ring foot, which is decorated with a downward-pointing scale pattern, is raised on three zoomorphic feet with animal masks. No inscriptions are found on the vessel. Its greenish patina is exceptionally lustrous.

23j. Tripod steamer (yan)
This food steamer is a composite of the zeng pot and the li cauldron. The pot above has a wide mouth, a pair of standing loop handles, a deep belly, and a strainer bottom with cross-shaped openings for steam. Below the rim of the pot is a frieze of ribbon-like spirals around a pair of eyes, forming a stylized mask; the rest of the body is undecorated. The li cauldron is sectioned into three connected legs, which are each decorated with an animal mask in relief. A sandalwood cover with a jade knob and a rosewood stand were furnished during the Qing dynasty; the stand is inscribed “Qianlong yu shang” (Qianlong’s imperial award). This vessel has a beautiful patina and distinctive patterns of decoration.

Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Painted enamel and gilt copper
Incense burner: H. 70.5 cm, W. (including handles) 65 cm
Vases (2): H. 71 cm, Diam. 44 cm
Candlesticks (2): H. 75 cm, Diam. 34 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


36. Set of five altar vessels
All the Qing emperors had great respect for Confucius and recognized his special significance in China’s history. During his reign, the Yongzheng emperor visited the Temple of Confucius. This magnificent set of five painted-enamel altar vessels was his gift to the Kong family. Enamel is a colored coating applied on a solid body such as metalware.


Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Gemstones and coral
L. (circumference) 98 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Cloisonné enamel and gilt copper
H. 63 cm, W. 34.5 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


 
37. Covered incense burner with crane feet
Intricately patterned with filigree filled with richly colored enamel, this type of unique metalware reached a high level of sophistication during the Jingtai reign of the Ming dynasty. Due to their usual blue ground or dominant color, these highly decorative objects came to be called Jingtailan (blue ware of the Jingtai reign). The English term for Jingtailan is cloisonné enamel.


38. Beaded court necklace
Beaded court necklaces evolved from Buddhist rosaries. In general, a beaded court necklace consists of the following six parts: regular beads, four fotou (Buddha head) spacer beads, a corded precious stone for the back, three strings of counting beads, the main pendant, and three smaller pendants. This court necklace has 108 coral beads punctuated by four jadeite fotou beads at the interval of every 27 coral beads, a turquoise-colored cord for the jadeite back stone, an amethyst main pendant, and three strings of counting beads in jadeite. Each of the strings has ten counting beads but is separately finished with a small ruby, emerald, or amethyst pendant. The materials used for beaded court necklaces are rare and precious. They usually have a plain finish to show off their natural beauty and textures. As a symbol of status, such necklaces were limited to the particular ranks and groups of people specified in the Collected Statutes of the Great Qing (Da Qing huidian): “Those who are qualified to wear imperial beaded court necklaces are princes and dukes; civil officials of the fifth rank and above; military officers of the fourth rank and above; members of the imperial academy and divination masters; ministers and provincial chiefs; imperial body guards; princesses, wives of princes and dukes; and any female with the appointed title of virtuous woman of the fifth rank and above. Officials below the fifth rank are not allowed to wear beaded court necklaces.”


Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Linen and silk
135 x 250 cm
Ex collection Kong Family Mansion

33. Official robe of the Duke for Perpetuating the Sage
Featuring an overlapping lapel opening to the right, loose sleeves, and a gathered waist, this incense-colored robe is tailored in the yisan style.* The neck is finished with a trim of white silk. A colorful design of waves against cliffs and fish is woven on the chest and back. The shoulders, sleeves, and lower half of the skirt are embellished with flying fish amidst clouds. The flying-fish robe was a kind of gift apparel bestowed by emperors of the Ming dynasty.

* A long garment with large skirt-like pleats in the front and a straight piece in the back (translator’s note).
Ming dynasty, ca. 1622
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
200 × 122.5 cm (painting only)
303 × 144.5 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province

Republic, ca. 1919
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
201 × 95 cm (painting only)
374 × 124 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


 
26. Anonymous
Memorial Portrait of Kong Shangxian, 64th-generation Duke for Perpetuating the Sage

Kong Shangxian (1544–1622) became the senior descendant of Confucius after his father’s death in 1556 but was officially installed as duke only in 1559, after being educated at the imperial university in Beijing. Serving five Ming emperors during his unusually long tenure, he made many visits to Beijing. When he passed away on one such visit at the age of seventy-eight, the Tianqi emperor (r. 1620–27) made lavish provisions for his return to Qufu and burial in the Kong Cemetery. In 1628 the Chongzhen emperor (r. 1627–44) awarded him the posthumous rank of Senior Guardian of the Heir Apparent (Taizi taibao). Under the Qing dynasty, he was raised further to Grand Master for Splendid Happiness (Guanglu dafu).

30. Anonymous
Memorial Portrait of Kong Lingyi, 76th-generation Duke for Perpetuating the Sage

Kong Lingyi (1872–1919) acceded to the ducal title in 1877 as a young child and assumed its full duties only in 1889, after an audience with the Guangxu emperor (r. 1875– 1908) in 1888. On that occasion, the emperor bestowed large characters reading “Good Fortune” (fu) and “Longevity” (shou) in his own calligraphy, which are still displayed in the Kong Mansion. Another of Kong Lingyi’s many visits to Beijing was for Empress Dowager Cixi’s sixtieth birthday celebration in 1894 (see cat. no. 34). Throughout his life, he maintained close relations with the Qing imperial family and court, even after the 1911 revolution. In 1917 he supported the short-lived restoration of the deposed child-emperor Pu Yi (1906–1967) to the throne. He died in Beijing on one of his many visits.
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
176.5 × 97 cm (painting only)
313.5 × 118 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
187 × 101 cm (painting only)
343.5 × 129 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
186.5 × 100 cm (painting only)
246.5 × 131 cm (overall with mounting)
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province


27. Anonymous
Portrait of Madame Yan, Wife of Kong Shangxian, 64th-generation Duke for Perpetuating the Sage

Madame Yan (1547–1602) was the first wife of Kong Shangxian (1544–1622), the sixty-fourth-generation Duke for Perpetuating the Sage (see cat. no. 26). A native of Fenyi, Jiangxi, she came from a powerful family with whom the Kong lineage had longstanding connections. Her grandfather Yan Song (1481–1565) and father Yan Shifan (1513–1565) dominated the Ming central government in the mid-sixteenth century. Madame Yan’s marriage must have occurred before 1565, when they fell spectacularly from favor and the family’s immense wealth was confiscated. She did not produce an heir.

28. Anonymous
Memorial Portrait of Kong Chuanduo, 68th-generation Duke for Perpetuating the Sage

As the eldest son and heir of Duke Kong Yuqi (1656– 1723), Kong Chuanduo (1674–1735) received the title Hanlin Erudite of the Five Classics (Hanlin Wujing boshi) in 1701, along with the award of second-rank court robes. For several years before his formal accession in 1724, he substituted for his ailing father at sacrifices. He himself suffered from arthritis, and the Yongzheng emperor (r. 1723–35) transferred his ritual responsibilities in Beijing to his second son, Kong Jipu (b. ca. 1700), since the eldest (by Madame Li; see cat. no. 29) had already died.

29. Anonymous
Memorial Portrait of Madame Li, Wife of Kong Chuanduo, 68th-generation Duke for Perpetuating the Sage

Madame Li Yu (1675–1714) was the second wife of Duke Kong Chuanduo (1674–1735; see cat. no. 28) and the mother of his eldest son and heir, Kong Jihuo (1697–1719), who died before he could accede to the ducal title. The daughter of Li Jiong (1620–1695), vice minister of the Board of Punishment, she came from Shouguang, Shandong. Local tradition in her hometown claims that she did not have bound feet, unusual for a Han woman of the upper class.
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Wood
Shandong Provincial Museum
Ex collection Kong Family Mansion
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Soapstone (shoushan shi)
H. 7.2 cm, W. 6 cm, D. 3.5 cm
The Confucius Museum in Qufu, Shandong Province
Qing dynasty, 19th century (replica)
Crystal
H. 12.5 cm, W. 7.5 cm
Shandong Provincial Museum
Ex collection Kong Family Mansion


31. Official seals of the Duke for Perpetuating the Sage

From left to right:
A. Changyuanxian fengsiguan qianji
H. 3.6 cm, W. 6.2 cm, D. 6.2 cm
This seal is shaped like an inverted peck-measure (truncated pyramid) with no knob. The legend is carved in relief on the underside. It is the seal of a county-level official in charge of sacrificial offerings to Confucius.

B. Zhisheng fengsiguan fu sitian guanli chu tuji
H. 3.6 cm, W. 5.5 cm, D. 5.5 cm
This seal is also shaped like an inverted peck-measure with no knob. The twelve-character seal-script legend is carved in relief. It is the official seal for the management of the Kong family estate land in Qufu for sacrificial purposes.

C. Yanshenggong yin
H. 11 cm, W. 5.8 cm, D. 5.6 cm
This seal has a peg handle on top. The four-character regular-script legend, carved in relief, translates as “Seal of the Duke for Perpetuating the Sage.” It was the official seal used exclusively by the eldest lineal male descendant of Confucius in the Kong family.

32. Private seal of 74th-generation Kong descendant
This charming crystal seal with a handle in the shape of a lion belonged to Kong Fanhao (1806–1862), who was, as indicated by the eleven-character legend carved in relief, a seventy-fourth-generation descendant of Confucius. As senior male member of the family, he was in fact the seventy-fourth-generation Duke for Perpetuating the Sage mentioned in a colophon on the Portrait of Confucius as Minister of Justice in Lu (cat. no. 1). Carved with his name, such a seal was more likely used for personal communication or on works in his collection rather than official business pertaining to his rank.

35. “Imperially bestowed ‘Poetry, Documents, Ritual, Music’” seal
Carved from an irregularly shaped piece of dark brown soapstone, the upper part of this seal depicts a three- dimensional mountain landscape in miniature. Under swirling clouds, four men are boating past a cliff with overhanging trees. The scene may refer to the Song poet Su Shi’s (1037–1101) visit to the Red Cliff (Chibi), site of a third-century battle during the Three Kingdoms period. Su’s famous poems on the subject became a popular theme for illustration in Ming paintings, woodblock prints, and objects for the scholar’s desk.