Once a Year, the Great Sage and Many Other Great Teachers in Chinese History Are Honored with a Traditional Ceremony
By Kurt Weidner
If you happen to be in Taipei on September 28 and you don’t mind getting up very early, consider heading to the TaipeiConfucius Temple and witness the solemn annual Confucius Ceremony. If you can’t make it that day, a visit to thisor anotherConfucius temple in Taiwan is highly recommended at any time of the year.
The Confucius Temple is one of the few places in the core area of Taipei where you can experience quiet and peacefulness amidst all the hectic and busy activity the city is known for. Walk through the side gate and you enter a temple complex with a small park area that is very different from most other temples and parks you might have visited in Taipei. After receiving a major facelift recently, the temple is in perfect shape and the grounds are spotlessly clean. Squirrels can be seen jumping from tree to tree, and in the morning hours older folks go about practicing taiqi and qigong.
The routine seemed to be quite a challenge for the 10~12-year-olds. They started by standing rigidly still, and then slowly moved from one precision pose to another. Teacher Chuang Wen-chen constantly guided the students in refining their movements, and in minimizing wavering and hesitation. It was difficult to tell, from their expressions, whether they enjoyed or loathed this early-morning drill. After the end of the half-hour practice, the friendly and knowledgeable Chuang assured me that “All of them are volunteers; no one is forced to take part in this,” adding, after a moment’s thought, that “of course, there might be a certain amount of pressure from some of the students’ families.” The annual Confucius Ceremony, during which these students are going to perform this year, has been staged since 1931 at the Confucius Temple, and many of the students’ parents – in some cases even grandparents – have performed the same ritualistic moves the students are learning now, every weekday before going to class. Parents take great pride in the fact their children are continuing this family tradition.
An annual event, the Confucius Ceremony is staged September 28th (also known as “Teacher’s Day”) in the early-morning hours. The ceremony is carried out to honor China’s greatest teacher on his birthday (his 2561st this year), and also the some 200 most famous teachers in Chinese history, whose wooden name plates are displayed in the buildings surrounding the main courtyard. During the dance, known as the Yi Dance, which dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368~1644), the students line up in rows on the platform in front of Dacheng Hall. They wear traditional yellow costumes (the color yellow symbolizing hope) and carry two items in their hands. One, the Yue, is a red 2-foot-long pipe-like object symbolizing a bamboo flute, and the other, the Di, consists of a golden-colored dragon-shaped handle holding three long pheasant feathers, the distinct segment-like pattern on the feathers symbolizing “moving upward (in learning) step by step”.
The Confucius Ceremony traditionally starts at 6 in the morning, and lasts for up to two hours depending on the formation used. Asked why the ceremony is conducted at such an early hour, teacher Chuang explained that “Qi energy is strongest at the time when the night ends and the morning begins. It is believed that the spirit of Confucius descends (from heaven) during the ceremony, and the temple square is filled with positive qi energy emanating from Dacheng Hall. This is seen as a blessing for all people? in attendance.”
Taipei Confucius Temple (台北孔廟)
Helpful website: http://confucius.culture.tw/
Other Confucius temples around Taiwan:
Hsinchu Confucius Temple (新竹孔廟)
Taichung Confucius Temple (台中孔廟)
Changhua Confucius Temple (彰化孔廟)
Chiayi Confucius Temple (嘉義孔廟)
Tainan Confucius Temple (台南孔廟)
Kaohsiung Confucius Temple (高雄孔廟)
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