Next to Confucius Temple is this maze of living quarters, halls, studies and further studies. The mansion buildings were moved from the temple grounds to the present site in 1377 and vastly expanded into 560 rooms in 1503. More remodelling followed, including reconstruction following a devastating fire in 1885. The mansion was for centuries the most sumptuous private residence in China, thanks to imperial sponsorship and the Kong clan’s rule, which included powers of taxation and execution, over Qūfù as an autonomous estate.
The clan indulged in 180-course meals, and kept servants and consorts. Male heirs successively held the title of Duke Yan Sheng from the Song dynasty until 1935.
Confucius Mansion is built on an ‘interrupted’ north–south axis with administrative offices (taxes, edicts, rites, registration and examination halls) at the entrance (south) and private quarters at the back (north). The Ceremonial Gate (重光门; Chóngguāng Mén) was opened only when emperors dropped in. The central path passes a series of halls, including the Great Hall (大堂; Dà Táng) and Nèizhái Gate (内宅门; Nèizhái Mén), which separated the private and public parts of the residence and was guarded at all times.
The large ‘shòu’ character (壽; longevity) presented in traditional Chinese script within the single-eaved Upper Front Chamber (前上房; Qián Shàng Fáng) north of Nèizhái Gate was a gift from Qing Empress Cixi. The Duke lived in the two-storey Front Chamber (前堂楼; Qián Táng Lóu).
Just east of Nèizhái Gate is the Tower of Refuge (奎楼; Kuí Lóu), not open to visitors, where the Kong clan could gather if the peasants turned nasty. It has an iron-lined ceiling on the ground floor and a staircase that could be yanked up.