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Two Opera Stages (xitai 戲台) and a Dragon King Temple (Longwang miao 龍王廟) in Fu Village (Fu cun 富村) Taubes, Hannibal


Fu [Family] Village (Fu cun 富村) is a sprawling concatenation of what seem to originally have been several discrete settlements; it is unclear what relation, if any, the many ritual structures spread out along its streets had to the now long-vanished walls or gates of these original hamlets. This gallery represents three of these structures, none clearly dated, but all displaying paintings or graffiti from the late 19th or early 20th century. The first structure is an opera stage facing a temple to the god Wenchang (Wenchang miao 文昌廟). A stele sits outside relating the renovation of the temple and the addition of shrines to Lü Dongbin (Lü zu 呂祖) and the God of Wealth (Caishen 財神) in 1906, but nothing is said about the origin or painting of the stage. The stage walls are today un-painted, but the structure has an unusual ceiling of painted panels (tianhua ban 天花板). Lintels over the stage are ornamented with sculpted puttis, paintings of European-style castles, and, most unusually, four little ink-drawings of European men and women with top-hats and curly beards. Due to the height and very small size of these paintings, the photographs here are of rather low quality. Another structure, the town Dragon King Temple (Longwang miao 龍王廟), is also faced to the south by a large opera stage. Between the lintels of the temple are set four perspectival paintings depicting European or possibly Middle Eastern cities, with rows of windows facing the street and tall, minaret-like spires. Finally, a ‘split-center opera stage’ (chuanxin xilou 穿心戲樓) straddles a village street in the southern part of the town; this presumably once faced a temple, now vanished. The walls of the temple are heavily covered with late 19th- and early 20th-century performers’ graffiti, including splashes of ink and several drawings of phalluses. Together, these buildings represent an interesting snapshot of 19th-20th century rural visual and ritual culture in transition, as well as the vogue for what Kristina Kleughten has called ‘occidenterie’ in this period. See Kristina Kleughten, ‘Chinese Occidenterie: The Diversity of Western Objects in Eighteenth Century China,’ Eighteenth-Century Studies 47.2 (2014): 117–35.

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