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Temple to the Perfected Warrior 01 (Zhenwu Miao 真武廟) Taubes, Hannibal

Description

The temple is located in Yu County (Yu xian 蔚縣), Hebei 河北 Province. An approximate location has been provided and the village name and precise coordinates have been concealed to protect potentially vulnerable sites from looters. The temple faces south from the northern end of the axial street of the old walled village. Half-ruined bell and drum pavilions stand at either side. The northern wall of the temple has now entirely collapsed, and the altar and statues are long gone; all that remains are the two side walls. There is a stele outside recounting the renovation of the temple in the Qianlong reign (1735-1796), but the style of the paintings within seems unambiguously Ming (1368-1644). The two side walls show twelve generals of the Perfected Warrior (Zhenwu 真武, also known as Xuanwu 玄武 and Xuantian shangdi 玄天上帝), identified by cartouches. The roster of figures is similar to that of neighboring Qing dynasty (1644-1911) examples, but not identical. On the eastern wall, from south to north, the figures are: ""Quickfire Heavenly Worthy Deng"" (Chuahuo Deng tianjun 歘火鄧天君); ""Former Heaven Single-Qi Heavenly Worthy Zhang"" (Xiantian yiqi Zhang tianjun 先天一炁張天君); ""Chaos-Primordial Heavenly Worthy Pang"" (Hunyuan Pang tianjun 混元龐天君); ""Lefthand-Lightning Great Demon Heavenly Worthy Gou"" (Zuolei damo Gou tianjun 左雷大魔苟天君); [illegible]; ""Earth-Spirit Master of Commands Primordial General Wen"" (Dizhi zhuling Wen yuanshuai 地祗主令溫元帥). On the western wall, from south to north, the figures are: [illegible]; [illegible]; ""Righthand-Lightning Great Demon Heavenly Worthy Bi"" (Youlei damo Bi tianjun 右雷大魔畢天君); ""Grotto-God Heavenly Worthy Liu"" (Dongshen Liu tianjun 洞神劉天君); ""[Illegible] Lightning Heavenly Worthy Tao"" ([...] lei Tao tianjun [...]雷陶天君?); [illegible]. The triangular panels in the ceiling show standard scenes from the ""Apotheosis of the Perfected Warrior"" (Zhenwu qishenglu 真武起聖錄) story: The Perfected Warrior departs from his parents (cibie fumu 辭別父母); he encounters an old woman polishing an iron bar to a needle (fulao mozhen 婦老磨針); he receives a sword from the Jade Emperor (Yuhuang cijian 玉皇賜劍); and he encounters the Peach-Blossom Girl (Taohuanü 桃花女; this illustration is slightly ambiguous). Although these murals are heavily damaged, they are an important early example of Ming-dynasty Perfected Warrior temple paintings associated with the axial line of a village fortress. From a stylistic perspective they are extremely fine, especially for such a small and impoverished settlement.

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