An informal shrine to Confucius has materialized around a tree within a Chinese temple in rural Henan province. When I ask the temple’s custodian what the meaning of all the ribbons and strings represent, he explains that people prostrate and pray in front of the tree in the hopes of achieving a particular goal, and then standing up and tie a rope around the tree to represent the prayer (and mark the event). He says the tree “grows” the most around Chinese New Year and the time when high school students must sit for the “gao kao” (高考 ). He says he’s never had the heart to cut off any of the strings, despite that they may be injuring the tree. Also, he and has prayed there himself, and doesn’t want to risk negating said prayers’ fulfillment.
Prayer is popular around the tree these days before Chinese New Years, as denoted by the relatively pristine cardboard box placed next to the rug, repurposed to keep one’s knees off of the stone while bowing to the tree alongside someone else.