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Temple to Lord Guan and the Goddesses at Flower Pot Village (Huapen cun Guangong, Niangniang miao 花盆村關公、娘娘廟) Taubes, Hannibal


The main street of Flower-Pot Village (Huapen cun 花盆村) extends east-west along the valley floor; the temple is located at the western outskirts of the village, on the north side of this street. If this village was ever fortified or had gates, no trace of these structures now remains. The date of the temple structures is unclear, although based on style the murals should be from the 19th century. A heavily effaced stele stands in the courtyard, on which it’s possible to make out the date of the fourteenth year of the Jiaqing era (1809). At the southern part of the courtyard is a large opera stage, facing north towards the shrine rooms. The main temple hall is dedicated to Lord Guan (Guan gong 關公). The statues and east wall have all been recently repaired, but the west wall still retains original murals, with an unusual collocation of themes in three horizontal registers. The upper register of the wall shows scenes from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo yanyi 三國演義). The narrative would have begun on the now-destroyed east wall, and what remains on the west wall represents the latter half of the story. The cartouches read as follows: Top row, left to right: 袁本初損兵折將, 懸印封金辭曹歸漢, 霸靈橋餞別, 洛陽關斬韓福孟坦, 臥牛山收周倉, 古城斬蔡陽, 兄弟重會; bottom row, left to right: 徐庶走馬薦諸葛, 三顧草蘆, 博望坡火燒曹兵, 關公華容義釋曹操, 單刀赴會, 龐德擡櫬戰關公, 噲川口渰七軍. In the middle register of the wall, we see the return of the gods from a rain-making procession, which would have ridden out on the east wall. The identities of the deities in this procession are unclear. Some of them seem to be the Dragon Kings (longwang 龍王), while the Horse King/Hayagrīva (Mawang 馬王) can be recognized by his many arms and wrathful mien. Another figure is the “Water and Grass King” (Shuicao wang 水草王), a rarely-labeled subsidiary figure to the Horse King, identified by a banner that reads: “With the protection of Water and Grass, the whole family will be at peace” (shuicao baoyou quanjia ping’an 水草保佑全家平安). The narrow bottom-most register of the wall shows a harvest festival scene. On the left, peasants carry sacks marked for “The Hall of Excess Grain” (Yumai tang 餘麥堂). On the right, they gather before a recursive image of the temple to watch an opera performance on the stage. Behind the Hall to Lord Guan is a smaller building dedicated to the three Goddesses (Niangniang 娘娘, shengmu 聖母). Behind the central statue (newly repaired) is a trompe-l’œil depiction of the back of an elaborately carved wooden throne, complete with realistically hanging tassels and what appear to be glass lamp fixtures hung from the ceiling. The east and west side walls depict the courts of hell (diyu 地獄). The captions read as follows: East wall: top row, right to left: 二殿楚江王, 三殿宋帝王, 一殿秦廣王, 四殿五官王, 六殿卞城王; middle row, left to right: 孝親司地獄, 蛇咬司地獄, 金橋司地獄, 鐵坑司地獄, 炮烙司地獄; bottom row, right to left: ☐☐司地獄, 虎咬司地獄, 礳☐司地獄, 搶?劫司地獄, 刀斬司地獄. West wall: top row, right to left: 七殿泰山王, 八殿都市王, 五殿閻羅王, 九殿平?等王, 十殿轉輪王; middle row, right to left: 刀山司地獄, 割督司地獄, 修橋司地獄, 大斗小秤地獄, 寒水司地獄; bottom row, left to right: 箭射司地獄, 錘擂司地獄, 斬腰司地獄, 餓狗司地獄, 油鍋司地獄.

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