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Spirit-Stone Palace at Dry-River Village (Ganhe cun Jingshigong 乾河村淨石宮) Taubes, Hannibal


The Pure-stone Palace is located at the northwestern edge of a village called Dry-River in Hongtong County of Shanxi (Shanxi sheng Hongtong xian Ganhe cun 山西省洪洞縣乾河村). The temple complex sits at the base of a large rock outcropping adorned with pavilions, hence presumably the origin of the shrine’s name. The shrine consists of a large central hall dedicated to the Perfected Warrior (Zhenwu 真武), faced across a courtyard by a two-story opera stage (xitai 戲台), with flanking galleries for spectators on either side. The temple and the murals are dated by two cartouches set high up on the eastern and western walls; these text of these (as well as all the other mural cartouches) is reproduced in: Hou Huiming 侯惠明, ‘Jingshigong “Xuantian shangdi yinghua tu” chutan’ 淨石宮 “玄天上帝應化圖” 初探. Shijie zongjiao yanjiu 世界宗教研究 no.6 (2015): 92-104. The east-wall cartouche reads (according to Hou Huiming’s transcription): ‘Yongrun Garrison has established a ‘Traveling Palace’ (i.e. a place where the deity might descend on his journeys) of the Lord Dark Emperor. The association □□ and donors etc / are listed □ / the head of the karmadanas Li □ / Li □ / Wang □ / Li Yong □ / Li □ / Hao Zheng □ / The ‘incense-elders’ Li Rudong, Li Maogui / The resident monk Jue Huan / The painters from Shiming district of Zhaocheng County / Yang … Zuobin / Yang … / Completed on □□□□ in the ‘leap’ fourth-month of the fifth year of the Shunzhi reign (1648).’ 水潤鎮創建 / 玄帝老爺行宮會□□緣人等 / 開列于□ / 維那頭李□ / 李□ / 王□ / 李永□ / 李□ / 郝正□ / 香老李如棟李茂桂 / 住僧覺寰 / 趙城縣石明里丹青 / 楊 … 作賓 / 楊 … / 時順治五年閏四月□□□□畢. The opposite wall gives a further list of painters: “Yang Chenglian, Yang □ lian, his son Yang □ cui, Yang □□, his disciple (?) □□□.’ 楊成廉楊□廉男楊□萃楊□有楊□□徒□□□. The main altar contains a bronze statue of the Perfected Warrior seated in state. Small figurines set above this show another palace scene with a male and female deity enthroned; these may represent the Perfected Warrior’s mother and father, a practice known from similar temples in the same region. The two rear (north) walls flanking the altar each have images of five Primordial Generals (yuanjiang 元將). Unusually, one of the generals on the west wall appears to be the popular deity Lord Guan (Guangong 關公). The two side walls show panel images depicting episodes from the Perfected Warrior’s hagiography, mostly but not entirely drawn from the ‘Record of the Emperor of the Dark Heavens’ Ascent to Sagehood’ (Xuantian shangdi qishenglu 玄天上帝啟聖錄). These walls are high, poorly lit, and heavily damaged, and thus difficult to photograph properly. A few selections from the murals are reproduced here, and a full transcription of all eighty-two cartouches with comparisons against standard written hagiographies can be found in Hou Huiming’s article, p.95-7.

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