With the spread of Confucian learning throughout East Asia, Confucian temples were also built in Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. Starting in the 18th century, some were even built in Europe and the Americas. At their height, there are estimated to have been over 3,000 Confucian temples in existence. While one of the most featured is the Fuzi Temple in Nanjing.
Originally constructed in the year of 1034 in the Song Dynasty, The Confucius Temple in Nanjing was a place to worship and consecrate Confucius, the great philosopher and educator of ancient China. It is also known as Fuzimiao in Chinese. It suffered repeated damage and has been rebuilt on several occasions since that time. 1937 was the most destruction when it was burnt to ruin by Japanese aggressors.
In 1984 the temple was rebuilt under the support of the local government. During the long process, the original building expanded to be a complex building in the architectural style of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, including the Confucius Temple itself, the Jiangnan Gongyuan (the place of imperial examinations) and the Xue Gong (the Imperial Academy). The complex is still called the Confucius Temple out of habit by locals and visitors. During the Qing dynasty as Nanjing grew again in importance, it grew to the point that it had more than 20,000 cloisters, where those sitting for the exams were locked away for several days to write their essays.
Almost all of the complex was torn down during the first few decades of the 20th century to make room for the shops and businesses that now crowd this area.
The temple consists of two big courtyards separated by a small one. The entrance to the front of the temple (to the south) is through the Gate of the Great Saint. The first courtyard is dominated by the Hall of the Great Saint (dashengdian), which was where the spirit tablets of Confucius and other important masters and sages were kept.
These tablets were honored in formal ceremonies held by the government official in charge of Nanjing on specified dates in the 2nd and 10th months of the Chinese lunar calendar. This hall is the largest building in the complex and has a tall double-eaved roof.
Behind the Hall of the Great Saint is a small courtyard surrounded by gates. The back gate, to the north, leads to another courtyard where the main building is the Hall of Bright Virtue (mingdetang), a single-eaved building that is the second largest one in the compound. This square was the home of the state-sponsored Confucian academy for Nanjing. The halls around the outside of the courtyard contain an exhibition on Confucian ceremonies and rites. The Hall of Bright Virtue is used as a concert hall for classical Confucian music.
There are two worthwhile attractions found in the inner hall. One is the largest figure of Confucius in China. The other one is the beautiful collection of 38 vivid panels which are made by various jade, gold and silver, detailing the life of Confucius. Out of the hall, you will see the bronze statue of Confucius as well as the white marble statues of his eight disciples.
Though there is argument that the point of the imperial temples was to honour Confucius's teachings, not the man himself, the Nanjing Fuzi Temple is still worth a visit.