The archives provide a record of the life and activities of the Confucius family descendants over the 400 years from 1534 – 1948. They consist of 9,021 volumes and are held in the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu, Shandong Province, China, which was the residence of the direct descendants of Confucius. Few documents prior to 1534, the middle of the Ming dynasty, have survived. Most of the documents are from the Qing dynasty (6,256 volumes) and the Republic of China (2,433 volumes). Only four volumes from the period are known to be missing.
A family tree of direct descendants from Confucius has been maintained and covers the most generations of any family tree in China and possibly the world. The Archives also include records of how the family kept the ideology of Confucius alive. The temple and cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1994.
The Archives of the Confucius Family are significant because of their quantity, long time span and coverage of both domestic and official activities. They complement the official files of the time and offer insights into many aspects of the life of the family. They include documents on the visits of emperors, Chinese feudal society, religious practices, domestic life, social affairs and many other activities. They also include correspondence with the royal court and officials and are an important contributor to the study of the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the Republic of China during the period.