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Temple to the Gods of the Five Ways (Wudao miao 五道廟) Taubes, Hannibal


Village name and precise coordinates concealed to protect potentially vulnerable sites from looters. The village is located in Yu County of Hebei Province (Hebei sheng Yu xian 河北省蔚縣). The temple to the Gods of the Five Ways (Wu dao shen 五道神) faces east, in through the west-facing gate of an old walled village. According to the gatehouse plaque, the gate was repaired once in 1576, but no other information dates these structures. By style, the murals should be from the 19th or early 20th century. The central (western) wall shows seven main deities plus attendants, being the Gods of the Five Ways, the God of the Earth (tudi shen 土地神, a dark-faced warrior) and the God of the Mountains (shanshen 山神, an old man with a long white beard). A wolf and a tiger, emblems of the Gods of the Earth and Mountains respectively, are depicted tied at the base of the image. At the time of visit in 2018, the shrine also contained a small clay statue of the King of Ghosts (Guiwang 鬼王); whether the pre-Communist shrine originally contained such an image is unclear. The two side walls show the gods riding out and back in an exorcistic procession. In the upper right-hand corner of the north wall they are shown approaching a cave where a woman drinks together with a monkey with a pheasant-cap hat, presumably representing a lascivious scene. The monkey character appears in other such murals in the area, and is sometimes depicted as a man wearing a mask. The figure probably represents the costumed ‘Chicken-Feather Monkey’ (Jimao hou 雞毛猴) who was driven out of villages in this region as part of exorcist rituals during the lunar new-year. An English-language description of such a ritual is found in David Johnson, Spectacle and Sacrifice: The Ritual Foundations of Village Life in North China (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 200), 69; a description of such rituals in Yu County specifically is found in Wang Zhizhun 王志君 and Tian Yongxiang 田永翔, Zhongguo Yuzhou minsu wenhua jicheng: Difang juzhong gaishuo 中國蔚州民俗文化集成: 地方劇種概說 (Beijing: Zhongyang xiju chubanshe, 2012), 31. The south wall shows the gods riding back, leading a group of evil spirits in chains. These little roadside shrines to the Gods of the Five Ways were once extremely common in this region, but very few now remain intact.

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