Chinese history is filled with stories of prominent families, but few have survived more than a thousand years. One such family is the Kong family, which has seen the rise and fall of dynasties, and come through all the instability of those times to the present day. The family has now surpassed its 84th generation, with as many as 4 million descendants. While members of the Kong family have held numerous posts and been honored with titles spanning the generations, the most well-known member of the family is Confucius.
Confucius was a sage who held a high position as the emperor’s teacher. Few historical figures have been accorded such honor and respect as he. Even the emperor was said to kneel before him.
As seen from the historical record, the ancient emperors continued to show their respect to the descendants of Confucius by honoring them with hereditary titles. The reason for this has to do with the teaching and philosophy Confucius left to the world, which continues to affect the lives of people today.
Confucius’s family has updated its genealogy every 30 years. The family tree has been very well recorded, and has been recognized by Guinness World Records to be the World’s Longest.
In the 1990s, descendants of Confucius had reached the 80th generation, and were given the Chinese character of Yu in their names to mark the occasion.
Qufu, a city in China’s Shandong Province, is home to the descendants of the Kong family. It is here that the genealogical records are kept. The temple of Confucius can also be found here, as well as the Kong family mansion and other landmark buildings that resemble an imperial court. More than 50 prayer ceremonies have been held in the grand hall of the Confucius temple. Outside the temple, there are 10 lifelike dragon pillars. In the past, whenever the emperors visited the Confucius court, these pillars were covered with yellow satin.
After the Yuan Dynasty, descendants of Confucius migrated overseas. Their talents were recognized by local regimes. One of the descendants, named Kong Zhao, was appointed prime minister of the Goryeo Dynasty on the Korean Peninsula. Many of his descendants became officials, and three of them were prime ministers of Goryeo as well.
Kong Zhao’s tomb is in Changwon, South Korea. The Korean descendants of Confucius pay homage to their ancestors every year. Whenever they are asked about their roots, they say that they are Chinese and their ancestral home is in Qufu, Shandong.
The majority of Confucius’s descendants still live in China, but the family has spread all over the world. Korea, which has Confucius memorial halls across the country, has an estimated population of 80,000 descendants. About 10,000 more can be found throughout Japan, the U.S., and Canada.
Translated by Chua BC and edited by Mike Davis.