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Temple to Avalokiteśvara-Guanyin, Lord Guan, and the Perfected Warrior (Guanyin, Guan gong, Zhenwu miao 觀音、關公、真武廟) Taubes, Hannibal


Village name and precise coordinates concealed to protect potentially vulnerable sites from looters. The village is located in Xiahuayuan District of Zhangjiakou City in Hebei Province (Hebei sheng Zhangjiakou shi Xiahuayuan qu 河北省張家口市下花園區). The temple is located in a small field in the middle of the village, which extends along a narrow loess valley. If the temple originally had some relation to village walls or gates, these are now long-vanished. The temple building faces south and has three bays (jian 間). The room on the west was dedicated to Lord Guan (Guan gong 關公) and the room on the east was dedicated to the Perfected Warrior (Zhenwu 真武); the central room would have been devoted either to Avalokiteśvara-Guanyin (觀音) or to the Buddha (Fo 佛). The temple is faced to the south by an opera stage (xitai 戲台). The murals are not dated. The two buildings contain paintings in several different hands, and some sections seem to have been repainted. Based on style, the bulk of the murals in the temple are from the late Ming or early Qing (i.e. roughly the 17th century). The outer (eastern) wall of the Zhenwu shrine collapsed in the early twentieth century and was repaired and repainted from scratch by a rather unskilled villager, within living memory of locals today. All of the murals were plastered over and doors were cut through the side-walls during the Maoist period. This plaster has now been partially scraped off, revealing non-contiguous sections of mural beneath. The central shrine to the Buddha or Avalokiteśvara-Guanyin is painted with life-sized depictions of the Arhats (luohan 羅漢). These murals have small cartouches identifyingthe individual arhats by name, along with the local family that funded their painting, another dedicatory practice that points to a Ming or early-Qing origin. The shrine to the Perfected Warrior contained a lower register with images of the Divine Generals (shenjiang 神將), and an upper register showing images from the Apotheosis of the Perfected Warrior narrative (zhenwu qisheng lu 真武啟聖錄). The murals in the Lord Guan shrine depicted scenes from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo yanyi 三國演義). While the temple is now sadly derelict, the quality of the murals is very fine.

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