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.
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.2 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.3 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.
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.4
|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.
- 孔林: 墓葬 (Cemetery of Confucius: Burials)