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Temple of the God of Fire at Ever-Peaceful Town (Yongningzhen Huoshen miao 永寧鎮火神廟) Taubes, Hannibal


The Fire God Temple of Ever-Peaceful Town (Yongning zhen Huoshen miao 永寧鎮火神廟) is located on a back street in the south-west quarter of the old walled town, and was under reconstruction at time of visit. The two flanking walls show a procession scene in which the God of Fire in wrathful form rides out on the east wall, and peacefully returns on the west. In the lower register of the east wall, complex battle scenes take place, with soldiers shooting cannon, arrows, and fire-lances (huoqiang 火槍), and complex charges and counter-charges of infantry and cavalry across the field. On the west wall, the battle has been won, and the victorious soldiers march home. No other temple murals with battle-scenes like this exist elsewhere. According to the elderly caretaker, in his youth there had been a plaque on the wall which explained that the temple was originally a Ming-dynasty (1368-1644) Banner Temple (qidao miao 旗纛廟). After the Qing takeover in 1644, this military shrine was converted into a Temple to the God of Fire. While impossible to authenticate, this account seems plausible; the temple murals are seventeenth century in style, and the shrine’s origin as a military temple would explain the unique battle scenes. The two northern walls which flank the now-vanished altar have images of divine generals (shenjiang 神將) in a far-inferior 19th century hand. This same painter has added now half-destroyed images of banner-bearers on the outside walls of the temple.

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