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Liu Family Household Shrine, Red Fort Village (Hongbuzi cun Liushi jia miao 紅堡子村劉氏家廟) Rouhana, Adam


The Red Fort (Hong buzi 紅堡子) is a small walled village about five kilometers to the southwest of the town usually known in English as New Taozhou (Taozhou xincheng 洮州新城, now formally Lintan xian Xincheng zhen 臨潭縣新城鎮). The place was historically at the border between the normal Chinese county jurisdiction and the territory of the old Tibetan principality of Choné (Tb. Co ne, modern Ch. Zhuoni xian 卓尼縣), equidistant to the southwest. The Liu Family dwell in a two-story courtyard house set beneath the center of the northern wall, facing south. The house is a lovely example of pre-Revolution Gansu wood and brick vernacular architecture. The family keeps photographs of a genealogy (jiapu 家譜) recently removed for storage by members of the local Cultural Bureau, which purports to reproduce official edicts from 1380 and 1440. The 1380 edict enfeoffs their ancestor Liu Gui 劉貴, a soldier in the Ming armies, with the position of hundred-household head (baihu 百戶) at that location. The 1440 edict confirms Liu Gui’s descendants in the same position, and subsequent undated prefaces describe the latter history of the family in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The soldier Liu Gui is also held to be one of the so-called Eighteen Lake-Spirits of Taozhou (Taozhou shiba qiushen 洮州十八湫神), draconic deities who control the weather of the region. In this aspect, Liu Gui is also worshiped as a statue of a Dragon King (longwang 龍王), which is moved according to a yearly schedule between a temple above the Liu Family house on the northern fortress wall (rebuilt in 1988) and a second temple in the fields about a hundred meters to the northeast. While the Liu family shrine has undoubtedly stood in the house’s main hall (zhengfang 正房) for generations, the paintings on the altar are not old; the family maintains a tradition of having the cloth hangings repainted every twelve years. From left to right, the deities are Lord Guan (Guan gong 關公), a figure marked ‘The Gray Horse General’ (Qingma jiangjun 青馬將軍, i.e. probably Erlang 二郎), a figure in a dark robe marked “Enfeoffed as Red Horse Official Appointment” (chifeng hongma xuanfeng 敕封紅馬宣封), and the Goddess (Niangniang 娘娘). These deities are depicted in procession surrounded by retinue, with votive figures placing offerings beneath.

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