The Duke of Yansheng (Chinese: t 衍聖公, s 衍圣公, p Yǎnshèng Gōng, lit. "Duke Overflowing with Sagacity"), sometimes translated as Holy Duke of Yen, was a title of nobility in China. It was originally created as a marquisate (侯, hou) for a direct descendant of Confucius during the Western Han dynasty. The 11th-century Song Emperor Renzong later elevated the 46th-generation descendant to the rank of duke (gong).1
The dukes enjoyed privileges that other nobles were denied such as the right to tax their domain in Qufu while being exempt from imperial taxes. Their fiefdom had its own court of law and the power of capital punishment, although such sentences had to be ratified by the Emperor.
During the Southern Song dynasty the Duke Yansheng Kong Duanyou fled south with the Song Emperor to Quzhou in Zhejiang, while the newly established Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in the north appointed Kong Duanyou's brother Kong Duancao who remained in Qufu as Duke Yansheng. From that time up until the Yuan dynasty, there were two Duke Yanshengs, once in the north in Qufu and the other in the south at Quzhou. During the Yuan dynasty, the Emperor Kublai Khan invited the southern Duke Yansheng Kong Zhu to returned to Qufu. Kong Zhu refused, and gave up the title, so the northern branch of the family kept the title of Duke Yansheng. The southern branch still remained in Quzhou where they lived to this day. Confucius's descendants in Quzhou alone number 30,000.23
After the republican revolution, the dukes lost their privileges, but Duke of Yansheng was the only title of Chinese nobility retained. Yuan Shikai conferred the title of Prince on the Duke during the Empire of China (1915–16).4 In 1935, the Nationalist government changed the title to Sacrificial Official to Confucius (大成至聖先師奉祀官), which still exists as a hereditary office of the Republic of China.5 Until 2008, the Sacrificial Official to Confucius was ranked and compensated as a cabinet minister. This office is currently held by Kung Tsui-chang, a 79th-generation descendant in the main line, who was appointed in September 2009 following the death of his grandfather Kung Te-cheng the previous year. Kung Te-cheng was the last person to hold the original title and first to hold the current title. The ROC Ministry of Interior has now declared that the position will no longer receive remuneration and that female descendants of Confucius will be eligible for future appointment. There is also a "Sacrificial Official to Mencius" for a descendant of Mencius, a "Sacrificial Official to Zengzi" for a descendant of Zengzi, and a "Sacrificial Official to Yan Hui" for a descendant of Yan Hui.
Tombs of the Dukes of Yansheng under the Ming and Qing dynasties can be seen in the Cemetery of Confucius in Qufu; the Ming burials are primarily in the western part of the cemetery and the Qing in the eastern.6
- Family tree of Confucius in the main line of descent
- Song (state) - Confucius was descended from the Shang dynasty Kings through the Dukes of Song
- Shang dynasty
- Descent from antiquity
- Marquis of Extended Grace - Ming dynasty descendants
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tombs of the Ming Dukes of Yansheng.|
- "Updated Confucius family tree has two million members". News.xinhuanet.com. 2008-02-16. Retrieved 2010-11-07.
- "Nation observes Confucius anniversary". China Daily. 2006-09-29.
- "Confucius Anniversary Celebrated". China Daily. September 29, 2006.
- 孔林: 墓葬 (Cemetery of Confucius: Burials)