Elsewhere in Shandong Province

Qufu (曲阜)

Qufu‘s claim to fame is as the home of Confucius, which is no small thing, because it makes it one of the most important places in the history and culture of not just China, but most of Asia, perhaps even the entire world. It is about 130 kilometers from Jinan, and I visited on a day trip together with other foreign teachers (mostly American, retired from their US jobs, and Mormons), organised by Shandong University.

The city* is small by Chinese standards, with a population of only about 650,000, about 90,000 of them urban dwellers. It has remained a centre of tourism and pilgrimage, despite suffering significant damage during the cultural revolution, and the three main tourist (and pilgrimage) sites (the Temple of Confucius (孔庙; Kǒngmiào), the Cemetery of Confucius (孔林; Kǒnglín), and the Kong Family Mansion (孔府; Kǒngfǔ)) have together been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994.

I won’t waste space here by describing these three sites, because you can visit the Wikipedia webpages for detailed information (or look them up separately). Instead, I’ll just note a few impressions. Number one is that it was all remarkably clean and well-organised. Second, that, apart from visitors, their guides, and taxis, it was not at all busy.

They sweep the streets around here.
When visiting the temple, we kept bumping into this group of Confucian pilgrims (monks?) from Korea

The “Cemetery of Confucius” is actually not just of the man, but of the Kong clan, and it is so big that we were driven around in tuk-tuks, stopping at various places for photo ops. The big one is, of course, at Confucius’ tomb.

* The Government of China in 1982–1997 upgraded many counties to cities by decree, thereby increasing their city count from 250 to more than 650 during this period. Almost 15% of the counties in China became cities. The new “cities” often include large rural areas as well as urban areas. The upgrade was considered desirable by local governments because the new status provides additional powers of taxation and administration, the right to expand the size of government, and an increase in the proportion of land which could be converted from agriculture to buildings.


Yantai is a coastal prefecture-level city and the largest fishing seaport in Shandong Province. It has a total population close to seven million, with over two million in the main built-up areas. There are a few 19th century buildings of European style, but most of the urban architecture is more recent. The name “Yantai” means “smoke tower” and derives from the signal towers constructed in the late 1300s (during the Ming Dynasty) to warn of pirate raiders.The main urban area was formerly known as Zhifu (Cheefoo/Chefoo/Chifu/Chih-fou) by foreigners before being officially changed to Yantai in 1949 after the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War (although locals always called it Yantai).It has an interesting history, having been invested in quite heavily by Germany before the first World War, then occupied by the Japanese. These days it is an important base for the PRC’s coastguard, since it is on the southern side of the Bohai Sea, opposite Dalian on the northern side.

I visited Yantai together with an American colleague, and our guide was one of our students, whose parents we met, and another student who joined us for a trip out to Qixia (a village which is part of Yantai “city”).

We only had a couple of days in Yantai, but did find a couple of things worth seeing and doing near our hotel, which was also close by the railway station. The major tourist site (ignoring the beach) is around the lighthouse, in the area known as Yantai Hill. The area has pleasant gardens, with no traffic, and was also the location of four former consulates representing the UK, the US, Denmark, and Japan.

Evenings were spent in Druid’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, since my American colleague was somewhat unadventurous and didn’t like Chinese food (!!).

The last two pictures above are of the new(-ish) railway station.

A major attraction in Yantai is the Changyu Wine Culture Museum, which was worth a visit. The entry price included a couple of small glasses as samples (here I benefitted from my American friend’s dislike of alcohol, although they were not especially good). Changyu is probably China’s biggest producer of European-style wines (to differentiate them from Chinese ‘white wine’ (baijou), which is really a spirit.

Yantai Hill

The old Danish Consulate, complete with replica mermaid, is better maintained than most of the old buildings around the lighthouse.


Qixia village is based around the Mou family mansion in an area famous for its apples (which explains the strange structures on a hill outside the village). It’s a day trip from Yantai to visit, and well worth the effort, even though we visited on a particularly hot day, around 40 Centigrade. Just ignore the vendors and fortune-tellers on the way in; they can be a nuisance, but my students chased them off.
The mansion is larger than some small towns I’ve seen and boasts having the largest carved inkstone in the world, which is probably true. It was certainly too big to fit in a single photo, because there was not enough space in the room.


Weifang is roughly halfway between Jinan and Qingdao, and has an unusual claim to fame as the World Capital of Kites. I visited during my last year in Jinan (2018) for the annual International Kite Festival, on a coach trip organised jointly by Shandong University and Beijing University. We stayed in a better hotel than expected, probably because Beijing University (which is the most prestigious in China) was involved (Shandong University only comes in at number eleven).

The main urban part of Weifang is large (or small by Chinese standards, with fewer than 4 million inhabitants), but quite uninteresting. The site of the Kite Festival was some miles away by road. We did stop off at another site en route, but I didn’t hear what it was, or why we stopped there. It was deserted except for our group, and looked as if it had been rebuilt for tourists in an ancient style.

Then we arrived at the festival site about an hour before the main event: the Opening Ceremony of the Festival.

It was on a surprisingly large-scale, though we appeared to be the “International” part, since I didn’t actually see any other group that were conspicuously non-Chinese, or even not entirely Chinese.
There were speeches by local VIPs, marchers with flags of many nations, drummers, and lion dancers, all recorded by TV cameras and watched over by suspiciously military-looking security people. Plus more kites than I’ve ever seen before in one place.

After the ceremony, we were, fairly unceremoniously, whisked off back to Weifang city to visit the Kite Museum. This was actually pretty interesting, with exhibits of some very old kites as well as newer ones, and telling the history of kite-making.

After the museum visit, we just returned to Jinan on the coach.

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