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Dragon King Temple of Zhuangke Village (Zhuangke cun Longwang miao 莊窠村龍王廟) Taubes, Hannibal

Description

According to the plaques on the ceiling, the Dragon King Temple (Longwang miao 龍王廟) of Zhuangke village (Zhuangke cun 莊窠村) was founded in 1549, then renovated in 1625 and again in 1709. The murals date from this final renovation, in the hand of a painter-artisan (huajiang 畫匠) named Cui Wenxin 崔文新. According to villagers, during the Cultural Revolution, the wooden statue of the Mother of Waters (Shuimu 水母) was destroyed, the murals were covered over with curtains, and the building was used as a schoolhouse. Afterwards it was returned to its old use. In the mid-2010s, looters attempted to remove the panels of the central wall by cutting them out in vertical strips, but for unknown reasons they were unable to complete the theft, and only succeeded in leaving long vertical scars in the plaster. Around 2016, the village decided to renovate the building, which they did by encasing it in a concrete courtyard, adding a new door with a padlock, and inserting a large golden statue of a male Dragon King (Longwang 龍王) on the central altar, despite the fact that the original deity had been female. The 1709 murals (untouched by the renovation) are a beautiful example of the most common type of temple iconography in rural North China. The central wall shows the Mother of Waters (Shuimu niangniang 水母娘娘), flanked by her sons the Dragons of the Five Seas (Wuhai longwang 五海龍王) and the Master of Rain (Shiyu 雨師) in Daoist robes. The eastern side-wall shows the Dragon Kings processing out to dispense rain and storm on the world below, while the western side-wall shows them returning amidst rainbows. The lowest register of the western wall shows the harvest taking place, and then the villagers forming themselves into a Daoist shawm-band procession to give thanks at a recursive image of the temple. Two small north-facing panels flanking the door show ink-drawings of deities that villagers suggested should be the Gods of the Five Grains (Wugu shen 五穀神); this may be correct, although only four gods are depicted in the panels.

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