Every morning at 7:30 am, the Dacheng Gate of the Confucius Temple in Qufu, Jining, opens slowly accompanied by the booming voice of the ceremonial host, or mingzan, which was a position for courtesy officers in ancient China and now refers to inheritors of ceremonial hosting skills.
The scene, which is known as the "opening gate ceremony", is part of the Confucius worship ceremony – a national intangible cultural heritage representative item.
Kong Lingkai has been the mingzan of the Confucius worship ceremony for nine years. During this period, he practices at 6:30 am every day without interruption, aiming to showcase the Confucian culture to every spectator with his best voice and most accurate gestures.
The 36-year-old cherishes his work very much. "For me, each line I rehearse is a conversation with the ancient sage beyond time and space," Kong said, adding that only the most accurate gestures can create a vicarious experience for audience members.
He said that the Confucius worship ceremony teaches the audience how ancient people paid their respect, which was not only to Confucius, but to all great sages and the traditional Chinese culture.
In 2004, the Confucius worship ceremony that took place during the annual China (Qufu) International Confucius Cultural Festival was re-categorized from being a folk worship activity to an official Confucius worship event.
In 2006, the ceremony was included in the first batch of the national intangible cultural heritage items.
As an inheritor of ancient courtesy, Kong often gives lectures on his profession at schools and traditional Chinese culture institutions, and teaches the ceremonial norms at Confucius temples across the nation.
In Kong's view, the courtesy should not be passed down as red tape, but as a deep understanding of its connotation, which will inspire people's spirit and rectify people's behaviors.