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Temple of the Five Gods at Chaili Village (Chaili cun Wushen miao 釵里村五神廟) Taubes, Hannibal


The Temple of the Five Gods (wushen miao 五神廟) is located in Chaili Village of Ying County in Shanxi Province (Shanxi Ying xian Chaili cun 山西應縣釵里村). The temple was repaired in 2016-17, but no pre-Revolution inscriptions survive to date it prior to this. According to locals, the village was originally walled and had a gate that opened to the east; the temple is situated just outside the north-east corner of this now-vanished fort. There was originally also an old opera stage facing it to the south, which has been replaced by a large modern stage made of concrete. The building contains three halls, a wide central hall with images of three deities and two narrower flanking halls each with one. All of these halls are painted in a crude but always bright and lively 19th-century hand. The central image of the main hall is to Lord Guan (Guan gong 關公). A wooden shrine box has been built around this altar, the inner sides of which are painted with trompe-l’œil images of hanging scrolls with moral admonitions. To the east of the shrine box is an image of the Horse King (Hayagrīva, Ma wang 馬王). To the west is an image of the Hu or Hudu God (Hu shen 胡神, Hudu laoye 胡都老爺), a local deity of northern Shanxi. This is one of extremely few surviving pre-Revolution images of this god. The two side-walls of the main hall show captioned scenes from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo yanyi 三國演義). While all of the episodes are taken from the novel, the sequence is rather garbled, and in some cases it’s difficult to know in which order the rows are to be read: East wall: top row, right to left: 酒樓相會, 桃園結義, 蘇張賜馬, 三聖授軍, 大破黃巾, 怒斬華雄, 鞭打督郵, 三戰呂布, 三☐徐州; second row from top, left to right: 夜斬車冑, 下邳送女, 北海解圍, 平原三縣, 大戰紀靈, 轅門射戟, 借兵伐術, 許田射鹿, 大戰徐晃; third row, left to right: 土山義說, 下馬奉銀, 上馬奉金, 曹賜錦袍, 曹賜美女, 漢壽亭侯, 聞雷失筯, 曹進赤兔, 秉燭達旦; bottom row, left to right: 白門誅呂, 大戰曹☐, 刀劈願良, 怒誅文醜, 刀劈荀正, 寫表辭曹, 城下☐馬, 三☐曹公, 府庫封金. West wall: bottom row, right to left: 霸橋餞別, 獨行千里, 廖化獻功, 胡華寄信, 刀劈孔秀, 立斬韓孟, 怒殺卞喜, 怒砍王植, 夜赫胡班; second row from bottom, left to right: 大戰秦棋, 曹送文憑, 收伏周倉, 智斬蔡楊, 收☐關平, 路遇趙雲, 古城聚議, 三顧芽蘆, 火燒博望; third row, right to left: 兵避汝南, 應戰呂昌, 大戰袁術, 大斬龐德, 水渰七郡, 斬夏侯恩, 白河放水, 活捉王忠, 生擒劉代; top row, left to right: 河樑赴會, 華容當曹, 義釋黃忠, 魏獻長沙, 單刀赴會, 怒戰龐德, 立斬潘漳, 神誅呂蒙, 玉泉顯聖. The eastern side-hall is devoted to the Goddesses (niangniang 娘娘, shengmu 聖母). The inner parts of the two side walls both have images of a mother surrounded by children in interior quarters, either breast-feeding or putting infants to sleep. The outer sections of both walls have captioned panels showing episodes from chapters forty-six through fifty of the Romance of the Investiture of the Gods (Fengshen yanyi 封神演義), in which the three goddesses avenge their brother Zhao Gongming 趙公明 by constructing the magical Nine Bends Yellow River Formation (Jiuqu Huanghe zhen 九曲黃河鎮) to entrap their enemies. A number of similar such narrations exist from this time period in northern Shanxi. In this version, the three goddesses apparently do not die in the end as they do in the novel, but instead are shown returning to their mountain home. The text reads: East wall: top row, right to left: 子牙與公明下書, 趙公明見書大怒, 趙公明初?會子牙, 趙公明大戰子牙, 子牙燃請燈下山 [sic], 燃燈道來見子牙; second row from top, right to left: 燃燈道大戰公明, 趙公明首借金剪, 二次下山遇燃燈, 趙公明二借金剪, 遇燃燈傷壞梅花, 子牙祭禳害公明; third row, right to left: 趙公明陳唐得病, 二門人盜☐大☐, 二門人盜書廢命, 申公豹上山報信, 三聖母一齊下山, 五道姑初會文仲; bottom row, right to left: 三聖母見兄[披?]哭, ☐聖母初會陸壓, 祭金斗☐拿陸壓, 射陸壓與兄報仇, 陸道人見剪逃走, 三聖母初會子牙. West wall: top row, right to left: 金木二吒探黃河, 三聖母祭画黃河, 聖母立拿金木吒, 三聖母初會黃龍, 三聖母立拿黃龍, 三聖母拿磁丸?道☐; second row from top, right to left: 聖母拿太乙真人, 二十仙童遭大戰, 聖母立拿雲中子, 聖母拿廣法天尊, 金木二吒探黃河 [again], 祭金斗姜尚逃走; third row, right to left: 聖母拿金木二吒, 聖母拿普仙真人, 聖母怒擒廣成子, 聖母大戰赤金子, 聖母立拿巨留孫, 姜尚楊吉探黃河; bottom row, right to left: 聖母拿玉頂真人, 祭金斗立拿楊☐, 三聖母得勝回營, [...], 崑崙山元始落凡, 三聖母歸山. The western side-hall is devoted to the Dragon Kings (Long wang 龍王); the central image shows the Mother of Waters (Shuimu 水母) surrounded by her five sons and the Master of Rain (Yu shi 雨師). The west wall shows the Dragon Kings riding out in the lower register and returning in the upper register. The east wall shows a complex scene of the five kings in draconic form crossing a bridge, where they are met or accompanied by multiple figures. In the upper register a roster of “high gods” presides over the scene. These are, from right to left: Zhenwu 真武, Tianyou 天佑 (?), the Jade Emperor (Yuhuang 玉皇), Yisheng 翊聖 (?), Laozi 老子, the Buddha (Fo 佛), Confucius (Kongzi 孔子), the Earth Emperor Shennong (Tianhuang Shennong 地皇神農), the Heaven Emperor Fuxi (Tianhuang Fuxi 天皇伏羲), the Emperor of Men Xuanyuan (Renhuang Xuanyuan 人皇軒轅), and Tianpeng 天篷. Alternately, the figures identified as Tianyou and Yisheng may represent Rahu (Luohou 罗睺) and Ketu (Jidu 計都). Heavily damaged versions of this unusual “crossing the bridge” iconography exist at several other villages in the plain south of Datong City 大同; this mural at Chaili may now be the only intact example.

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