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Temple to the Dragon Kings at Gou Family Hollow Village (Goujiaqian cun Longwang miao 苟家淺村龍王廟) Taubes, Hannibal


The Dragon King Temple at Gou Family Hollow (Goujiaqian 苟家淺) is located just outside the south gate of the old walled village, itself facing south into the fields. The temple is abutted to the west by an opera stage, which faces north towards another shrine now destroyed. The murals inside were relatively intact in 2014, but by 2018 had been entirely cut off the walls and removed by looters, except for a small and heavily-damaged section of the northern wall. The murals are undated but clearly 18th-century in style. The iconography is standard for a Dragon King temple. The two side walls show the Dragon Kings processing out from the Crystal Palace (shuijing gong 水晶宮) to dispense rain on the east. On the west, a fierce dragon has been chained to a pine tree, and the procession returns amidst rainbows. As is common in such images, a figure on the west wall holds a scroll with an invocation for rain: ‘The Jade Emperor issues an order to the Crystal Palace. Rain and cloud should be issued all across the broad earth, that the five winds and ten rains may irrigate the crops, and in all four seasons the three farmers may celebrate [/ make music for] the ascendant peace. [The dragons] should ride out from their palace, and in auspiciousness return’ (玉帝降旨水晶宮,普降霄霖大地中,五風十雨滋苗[稼?],四序三農樂昇平,出宮吉祥回). The central north wall would have shown the Five Dragon Kings, the Mother of Waters (Shuimu 水母), and the Master of Rain (Yushi 雨師) standing to receive homage surrounded by their entourage. Now only the Master of Rain survives intact, identified by his Daoist eight-trigram robes (bagua yi 八卦衣). The opera stage adjacent to the temple also had murals, although these were heavily damaged even in 2014. The front-stage (northern) murals show folding screens to provide a back-drop to the plays, while the one surviving backstage (southern) mural has a monochrome image of a languorous woman peering from a balustrade. A few opera troupes’ graffiti also survive on the back stage wall, including one from the Tongzhi reign (1861-75). Even today, village temples are often used as store-rooms for unused coffins or collectively-owned agricultural devices; a pre-Revolution wooden threshing machine (shanche 扇車) still sits in the ruins of the opera stage.

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