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|The City God temple in the Forbidden City.|
There are temples dedicated to local town gods in many cities of China. Much like the ancient Greeks, the Chinese traditionally believe that guardian gods watched over cities. City gods are believed to be involved in several areas of city life, including the built environment within the city walls,[clarification needed] communal concerns such as the need for rain, and personal requests such as recovery from illness. Town residents may appeal to the city god for help in a natural disaster or other crisis. The city god may also be called upon to help those who are accused of crimes. The accused appear before the god and ask for a sign to help prove their innocence.
Different towns have their own city gods; usually, these patron gods are deified deceased officials. City gods are believed to hold an important position in the divine bureaucracy, and their role in the spiritual world is much like the role of an official in the human world. In Imperial times it was often debated whether local gods such as the city god held more power than the local officials. There could also be a relation between the city god and the official. The official or magistrate would often turn to the city god for advice and help in governing the city. Many of the walled cities in China contained a temple referred to as the city god temple. These cities were of no particular size[clarification needed] but were dedicated to one or more gods who watched over the walled city.
Worshiping city gods 
In Chinese culture there is a distinction between official religion and popular religion. In official religion, worshiping a city god was complex and can only be performed by officials and degree holders. These activities helped legitimize the state in the eyes of the common people and preserved local status distinctions. The prescribed sacrifices for a city god are described in the "Auspicious Rites" section of the Da Qing Tongli, the Qing Dynasty manual for rituals. The official worship of a city god was a solemn and dignified event, and these ceremonies were held inside the temple. The animals and food that were sacrificed to the city god were carefully inspected by the religious officials to make sure that they are good enough for the city god.
The popular worship of a city god is much more flexible. People come from rural and urban areas to pray to him or her and ask for specific favours. The most common favour requested in these prayers is good health. On the city god's birthday the people of the town or city have a huge celebration to honour the city god. These ceremonies often draw huge crowds of people and involve theatrical performances, sales of refreshments, fireworks, firecrackers, noises of gongs and drums, and incense burning.
Hong Kong city gods 
During the Qing dynasty, the emperor appointed a city god (Shing Wong) for all major cities in mainland China to govern and look after their land. Hong Kong had no appointed magistrate and therefore no protection of a Shing Wong.
In 1877 Hong Kong built their first Shing Wong temple, which was originally named "Fook Tak Tsz". It remains there today, at the junction of Shau Kei Wan and Kam Wa Street, in Shau Kei Wan, on Hong Kong Island. It has undergone many updates and name changes. A new outer wall was built in 1974, giving the feeling of a temple within a temple. The temple is now officially called the Shing Wong Temple.
The deities Tu Di Gong (土地), Shing Wong, and Ng Tung (五通神) are enshrined in the temple. Tu Di is the "place god". The powers this god has are up to the residents of the city.[clarification needed] This "place" could be anything – a jurisdiction, a block or an entire park. Tu Di was then under the command of the Shing Wong of that city. Ng Tung is in charge of wealth, time, good fortune, and has a festival named after him called "The Gods of Five Lucks Festival", on the fifth of the first month. The Tu Di festival is held on the second day of the new year in honor of the Earth deity. The Shing Wong festival is held bi-annually in Hong Kong on the eleventh day of the fifth lunar month, and the twenty-fourth day of the seventh lunar month (Shing Wong's personal anniversary) where people praise and give sacrifice to their city-guarding deity.
There is some evidence that, prior to the building of the Fook Tak Tsz temple in Shau Kei Wan, there was a Shing Wong temple built at the junction of Shing Wong Street and Hollywood Road, where Queen's College later stood. However, both buildings have been torn down.
Shanghai city gods 
The City God Temple in the city of Shanghai is known as the "Old City God Temple", but it was originally called the "Jinshan God Temple" and dedicated to the spirit of Jinshan. Jinshan, or "Gold Mountain", is an island off the coast of Shanghai and was converted into a City God temple in 1403, during the Ming Dynasty. The "Old City God Temple" is located by the Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai. It grew into a very popular site for citizens to come to pray and ask favors of the city god. In 1951 The Board of the Trustees of the City God temple fell apart and the Shanghai Taoist Association decided to put the focus of the temple onto Taoist tradition. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, (1937–1945) Shanghai was taken over by Japanese soldiers and due to them citizens were unable to get to the "Old City Temple" so the local people decided to build a "New City God Temple". After the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II the "New City God Temple" became less popular because people preferred to worship at "The Old City God Temple". The "New City God Temple" was destroyed in 1972.
The "Old City God Temple" is dedicated to three different gods: Huo Guang, Qin Yubo, and Chen Huacheng. Huo Guang (d. 68 BCE) was a famous general and chancellor of the Han Dynasty. Little is known Huo Guang's life, but he is remembered for overthrowing a young emperor in favor of a new one. He was appointed as the original city god of Shanghai in the Yuan Dynasty. Qin Yubo (1295–1373) lived in Shanghai during the Yuan Dynasty and worked in the civil service. Qin Yubo had many roles in the government, including Chief Imperial Examiner. After he died the emperor bestowed upon him the honor of being a city god in Shanghai. Chen Huacheng (1776–1842) was a Qing Dynasty general who is remembered as being brave and courageous. He fought in the First Opium War and was adamant in his defense of the Yangtze. He was killed in 1842 in a battle against the British. The "Old City Temple" is one of Shanghai's most famous attractions and is the center of a retail and entertainment district.
See also 
- OrientalArchitecture.com, Shanghai City God. Retrieved June 14, 2011
- Zito, A. R. (1987). City Gods, Filiality, and Hegemony in Late Imperial China. Symposium on Hegemony and Chinese Folk Ideologies Part II, 13, 333-371. Retrieved October 27, 2008, from JSTOR Database
- Johnson, D. (1985). The City-God Cults of T'ang and Sung China. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 45, 363-457. Retrieved October 27, 2008, from JSTOR Database
- City God Temple, 2005
- Temples of the State Cult.(2007). http://afe.easia.Columbia.edu/cosmos/irc/temples.htm Retrieved October 26, 2008.
- Huters, Theodore.(1988). Modern China. 344-346. Retrieved October 26, 2008, from JSTOR system database.
- Evolvement of a Fishing Village : Shau Kei Wan
- Chinese Temples Committee : Shing Wong Temple, Shau Kei Wan
- (City God Temple in Shanghai reopens to Public, 2006)
- Ching,Frank. (1988). Ancestors: 900 Years in the Life of a Chinese Family. Pan Books: United Kingdom.
- Chinese Temples Committee. (2008). Retrieved October 26, 2008
- Government of Hong Kong's Antiquities and Monuments Office/Leisure and Cultural Services Department. (2004). Retrieved October 27, 2008.
- Gray, J. H. (2003). China: A History of the Laws, Manners and Customs of the People. New York: Dover Publications.
- Pui-tak, L. (2006). Colonial Hong Kong and Modern China. Washington, D.C.: University of Washington Press.
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