Qufu (曲阜 Qūfù) is a town in Shandong Province, located about 2 hours by bus from the provincial capital Jinan. Famous as the birthplace of Confucius, its Confucius related sites are declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Qufu has more than 2,500 years of history. Best known as the hometown of China's "first sage" Confucius, it was the home of of his descendants - who often ruled the place as feudal rulers - for many centuries.
Center of the national cult of Confucius, and the birthplace of the mythical Yellow Emperor (the legendary founder of the Chinese nation), Qufu saw many emperors decorate its temples with steles, praising Confucius and other heroic figures of the past. Usually written in Chinese, but during some dynasties also in Mongol or Manchu, these steles are among the most characteristic objects to be found at the city's historical sites. The most important of them are supported by mighty stone tortoises (which since the Ming era have become known as bixi).
Few of Qufu's residents are Christian or Jewish, but the city boasts a strong Muslim ("Hui") community.
Bus from Jinan is the usual way, or on a tour. There are buses all day, but check the last departure or you may be spending the night.
Older guide books may claim that the bus station in Qufu is just south of the walled city, but as of 2011, it is on the west side, 2-3 km away from the historic central city. There is a frequent city bus service from the central city (outside of the south gates of the city wall) to the bus station.
The main Beijing-Shanghai railway line passes through Qufu - a new Qufu East railway station has been open on new high speed line between Shanghai and Beijing. 2 hours from Beijing and 3 hours from Shanghai. Cheaper trains run through old Qufu railway station and especially through Yanzhou, a small city around 15kms from Qufu - taxi around ¥40 and buses running every 20 minutes for around ¥6.
If besides Qufu you are also visiting Mencius Temple and Mansion in the nearby Zoucheng, you may choose to travel by train to Zoucheng (which is also on the Beijing-Shanghai mainline), and go to Qufu by bus (¥6-7) or taxi. However, buses stop running around 6pm.
Since early 2009, it is possible to fly with Shanghai Airlines from Beijing and Shanghai to Jining. A few more domestic air routes have been opened, connecting Guangzhou, Chengdu, Qingdao and Shenyang with Jining Qufu Airport.
Walk or if you stand in one place too long, hordes of people will offer to transport you via all manner of vehicle, from rickshaw, to bicycle, to taxi, to beast.
The historical walled city is small enough to walk, and the walk from the north gate to the Confucius cemetery is pleasant enough.
The historical walled city, within which three of the major sites (Temple of Confucius, Kong Family Mansion, and the Yan Hui Temple) and many hotels are located is just a couple kilometers across. The town itself is quick to walk through and nice along the main streets. There are some old, restored gates and a winding creek to add atmosphere.
The Confucius Cemetery is a kilometer or so north of the present-day city wall. The modern city center is south of the walled city. The Muslim neighborhood with its mosque and a lively market is outside the west gate, while the Song-Dynasty sites associated with the Yellow Emperor and Shaohao are about 4 km east of the old city.
You pay for admission (Y30 to 80 per site, as of 2010) to all the good sites and wander among the sacred buildings, everyday buildings, stelae with inscriptions in Chinese, Mongol, and Manchu, and so forth. A guide or guidebook is essential as many of the sites are very big.
The main areas to see are the so-called San Kong ("Three Confucian [sites]"): the Confucian temple, the Confucian mansions, and the Confucian forest (just north of town). During the warm part of the year, it's very touristy and loaded with guides herding sightseers with little flags and megaphones, but in winter the place is almost deserted. English is not widely spoken.
"Confucius Forest" (Kong Lin) is a cemetery where Confucius and 70+ generations of his descendants have been buried. Besides the tombs of Confucius himself, it contains a number of interesting sculptural ensembles from the Ming and Qing eras, decorating the tomb sites of the Confucius' descendant who were the area's feudal rulers, as well as other dignitaries.
One tip is to go to the Confucian cemetery towards the end of the day (maybe at 4) and then stroll around until the tour groups are leaving, and you will have the forest for yourself. Walk to Confucius grave and share some silent moments across 2,500 years with him. A treat if you have been travelling around China for a while and are tired of hoards of people and noise.
Shou Qiu and Shaohao Tomb
A more remote site - 4 km east of the central city - consists of Shou Qiu ("Longevity Hill"), the birth place of the legendary Yellow Emperor, marked with giant turtle-borne steles, and the nearby tomb of his similarly legendary son Shaohao, with a small stone pyramid (much smaller than those in Egypt). These monuments date to the Song Dynasty.
At night the city walls are decorated with ornamental lights. The moat around the walls make for a picturesque walk at night. Many of the local elderly gather around these places to dance.
There is a swanky bar located, literally, in the city wall. It's usually a bit empty, but the bar tenders speak a bit of English and are very friendly. Local expats can be found there on most weekend nights.
There are tourist stands all around the temples and shouts of "hello! hello!" can be irritating. The main buys are copies of the Analects and a "chop" with your name engraved on it or something like that. Otherwise, it's the usual tourist stuff.
A great variety of restaurants can be found in the eastern part of the old walled city, a block or two east of Gulou Ave (the main north-south street of the old city).
For Halal food, fresh produce, tofu, baked goods, etc. head to the Muslim neighborhood: Xiguan St that runs west from the old city's west gate.
A note about eating here. Most restaurants you will easily find have marked up prices due to the tourist nature of the city. Beware asking cab-drivers or "wooden cab" drivers as they seem to receive kickbacks. You can expect to pay at least ¥100+ getting a meal for two if you are not careful and saavy. BEWARE.
Konfujia in black jar (46%)
Finding a place to sleep isn't difficult, as you will probably be approached by people offering accommodation. Outside of the tourist season you can probably bargain pretty hard on the prices.
The Qufu International Youth Hostel is a very nice place to stay. With a friendly staff, and entirely new building this is an excellent place to sleep while exploring Qufu and its surroundings. The hostel is located at the northwestern end of the main street inside the city walls. It is ¥140 for a double/triple with private shower.