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Passing centuries have drastically altered the original character of Fuzi Miao Nanjing's ancient Confucius Temple and its surrounding neighborhood. First erected during the Song Dynasty in 1034 in association with the historical Jiangnan Examination School, the temple served as a sanctuary of prayer and encouragement for young scholars preparing for the excruciating imperial examinations. The original structure no longer stands, having been burnt to the ground and rebuilt numerous times. Built in adherence with traditional Ming and Qing dynastic architectural styles, the temple that stands today was built after World War II.
Perhaps the most impressive feature within the temple is a collection of 36 jade panels depicting the story of Confucius's life from 551-479 BC. Based on a series of paintings created during the Ming Dynasty known as the "Pictures of the Sage's Traces," the panels were contributed to the temple by a local donor and adorn the walls of the main hall.
Within the temple complex grounds stands the Jiangnan Examination School, accompanied by a historical exhibition hall providing insight into the challenging circumstances imperial candidates underwent in their pursuit for accreditation. Founded in 1168, the school administered the rigorous civil service exams of more than 20,000 candidates vying for office during China’s imperial age. The school housed a total of 20,644 examination cells, each exactly one square meter in size, containing only a wooden desk that could be converted to a bed. Candidates were confined to their cells for nine consecutive days without leave. Records indicate that only 200 of the 20,000 candidates passed the rigorous examinations.
While the Confucius Temple still stands as a historical center within Nanjing, its surrounding neighborhood has evolved into one of the city’s most popular commercial areas. Closed to vehicular traffic, the main streets and alleys surrounding the temple are lined with clothing shops, plant stands, restaurants, and toy stores. The local night market fills the main thoroughfare with stalls pedaling everything from household items to, flavorful street snacks, to yu hua shi, special multicolored rocks unique to Nanjing.
The temple and its bustling streets are the most vibrant during the annual Lantern Festival, which takes place 15 days after the Lunar New Year. During the festival the streets are lined with a diverse array of multicolored lanterns depicting the twelve animals of the lunar calendar.