16 November 2007

King Kong

Oh friends, traveling long term requires constant editing and reediting of one's plans. Like a trashy novel, one must constantly adjust the action to maintain the excitement, roughly cramming in unexpected side plots and crudely cutting out much that was long planned for. Instead of my initially-planned direct route to former imperial capital Xi'an, I have been Lonely Planeted into diverting myself first to other former imperial capital Luoyang (whereis located the "famous" Longmen Caves and the arguably more famous must-be-please-be-cool SHAOLIN KUNG FU TEMPLE, then up to best-preserved-historical-city-in-China Pingyao. Then to Xi'an. Friends, please do not ask me how to properly pronounce any of these place names. I do not know.

Today, I am in Qufu, the birth and death place of a different Kung Fu, Kong-fu-tsu, or, as we bastardizing-Eurocentric-Latinizerists refer to him, Confucius. Even more exciting than that, I am typing this message from a YHA hostel that offers free internet access--and I'm not even staying here! I'm also sitting in a large, storefront window, and every Chinaman that passes by is staring at me in delight, amazement, and possibly some alarm.

Confucius was born in 551 BC and died, like Simon Bolivar of earlier post fame, poor and ignored. His goal in life was to encourage the rulers of his time to be just rather than grasp after power and fortune. Hence his ignominy. Subsequent generations of the Kong family, however, did much better, with power and fortune of their own heaped upon them, while poor, old, anti-power and fortune heaping Confucius lay in a forest with nothing but dirt heaped on him. I can't believe that 77 generations, 2500+ years-worth of Confucius's heirs lived in this town in an unbroken line. They finally left in 1948, when the Communists took over. Today, their former mansions and the Confucius Temple--together they occupy most of the old town--are a UNESCO World Heritage site and major tourist attraction (only for Chinese people and me; I dig graves). The grave of Confucius itself really is just an earthen mound in the eponymous Confucius Forest north of town. If I survive the horrid toilet conditions of my SLH tonight, I plan to visit the nearby Temple/Tomb of Mencius, another great Confucian I read about in college, tomorrow morning.

Now all I have to do is find a restaurant that serves Kung Pau Chicken, and... trifecta!

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