Jinan is the second largest city in Shandong province, and a good place to see “normal China”; it is much more in the “concrete and motorbikes” mode than is Qingdao.
Qufu is the birthplace of Confucius, and a longstanding home of the Chinese nobility and Chinese scholars, with monument-building visits by various emperors. Reputedly the town is full of fine-featured individuals with very exact patterns of speech. In any case downtown is pleasant to walk and shop in, and has relatively few environmental problems.
The tomb of Confucius was my favorite site. There is a continuity of civilization (if not regime) for over 2500 years, and visiting the tomb drives this point home. Even the Cultural Revolution did not much damage this area of homage, in part because of loyalty to Confucius, itself a form of Confucian behavior.
Many of the flowers on the tomb were left by the national television station, perhaps as advertising and also signaling loyalty to Confucian ideals.
But that is not China’s oldest heritage, far from it:
This research reveals a 5,000-y-old beer recipe in which broomcorn millet, barley, Job’s tears, and tubers were fermented together. To our knowledge, our data provide the earliest direct evidence of in situ beer production in China, showing that an advanced beer-brewing technique was established around 5,000 y ago.
One local functionary said to me: “We think Trump will win. You always surprise us — he is the next surprise.”