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Ancestral Hall of the Liu Family (Liu jiazu zongci 劉家族宗祠) Taubes, Hannibal


Village name and precise coordinates concealed to protect potentially vulnerable sites from looters; the temple is located in Yu County, Hebei Province 河北省蔚縣. The temple is located down a back street in the old walled village. The building faces north, and there is a small ruined shrine to the Gods of the Five Ways (Wudao shen 五道神) on one side of the courtyard. As of 2018, the family temple was being used as a storage shed for a village house, and the clutter filling the darkened room makes it difficult to move about to take full-wall photographs. The central wall shows an image of a geomantically ideal grave plot, with a mound at the north and two rivers flowing down around it, then a painted ‘spirit-way’ (shendao 神道) leading from the tablet of the apical ancestor (one Liu Zhirong 劉志榮) to a ceremonial arch (pailou 牌樓) at the entrance to the pictorial graveyard. From the sides, male and female family members and retainers gather to pay homage to the Liu family lineage. The side walls and rafter panels have ink-paintings depicting scenes of Confucian filiality, mainly drawing on the Twenty-Four Paragons of Filial Piety (Ershisi xiao 二十四孝), individuals who showed remarkable devotion to their parents, often with supernatural results. The figures shown here include: Meng Zong 孟宗, whose filiality caused bamboo to sprout for his parents to eat; Tanzi, who disguised himself as a deer to obtain doe’s milk as medicine for his parents; Emperor Shun 舜, who inspired Heaven’s aid through wild animals; Ding Lan 丁蘭, who worshipped wooden images of his deceased parents that shed real blood; and Madame Zhangsun 長孫夫人, who breast-fed her mother-in-law. Any steles which might have dated the structure are now vanished, but on the basis of style the murals seem eighteenth or early-nineteenth century, which would put it in a similar period to other extant family temples in Yu County.

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