State Temple of the Martial God

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State Temple of the Martial God
祀典武廟
台南武廟.jpg
Basic information
Location West Central, Tainan, Taiwan
Architectural type Temple

State Temple of the Martial God, also called Tainan Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple (Chinese: 祀典武廟; pinyin: Sìdiǎn Wǔmiào) or Grand Guandi Temple,[1] is a temple located in Yongfu Rd., West Central District, Tainan, Taiwan. This temple was previously the palace of Ko-xin-ga(國姓爺)and Prince of Ning-jing(明寧靖王, members of the Ming royal family who retreated to Taiwan in the dying days of the Ming dynasty.

This temple is dedicated to the deity Guan Gong, who is the most widely worshipped deity in Taiwan and Mainland China. The statue of Guan-Gong in this temple was brought to Taiwan from Fu-Chien Province, China by relatives of Prince of Ning-jing during the Ming dynasty.

There are also two smaller temples on the site. The temple of Guan-Yin, a Buddhist fertility goddess whose image can be found in nearly every Taoist temple, and the temple of Yue-Lao, where single people pray for luck to find their soul mate. There is also a horse-god temple located across the Yong-Fu Rd. The horse-god takes the form of a soldier who looks after the horses. Because Guan-Gong was always assisted in his work by horses, his followers build this temple to show their respect and appreciation.

History[edit]

The temple was built in 1663 by Zheng Jing, eldest son of Koxinga. It was renovated, modified and expanded in 1690. It was again renovated and expanded to its present form in 1716. A shrine for 3 generations of Guan Yu's family was added in 1725 for their worship, and in 1727, the temple's status was elevated to that of an official temple.[2]

Features of The temple[edit]

The State Temple of the Martial God is a typical “Southern Min” building style temple, this building style was common in Fujian Province around the Ming dynasty.

Wall[edit]

This first noticeable feature of this temple is the long, high red wall along Yung-Fu Rd, which called “horseback style wall”, named from its appearance which is similar to the horse bare back.

Five Roofs[edit]

Looking above the wall, we can easily see five different kinds of roof. The most decorated one, is called “swallows tail” style, is also a typical of the “Southern Min” building style. As other traditional temples, the roofs of Tainan Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple also decorated with dragons.

Door Knobs[edit]

Moving around to the main entrance of the temple, you will see three red doors. The larger central door is decorated with 72 studs, and the other two smaller doors have 54 studs in each. These are all multiples of 9, “9” is a royal symbolic number, and this temple was previously the palace of Ko-xin-ga(國姓爺)and Prince of Ning-jing(明寧靖王), members of the Ming royal family who retreated to Taiwan in the dying days of the Ming dynasty.

Animals feature decorated[edit]

Looking up above the entrance, you can see carving of a number of animals, including elephants, dragons, and the mythical Chinese flying creature the “Qi-Lin”(麒麟), which has a head like a dragon, and the body of a winged horse. These animals are placed here to protect the temple and ward off evil. At the meeting points of columns and beams, you will see lotus shaped decorations, those decorated conceal studs that secure the beams’ structure, as the whole temple does not contain a single nail.

Historical Name Plates[edit]

There are many famous and historical name plates in the temple. After you enter the temple, turn around and look above the door, you will see a large name plate with the three Chinese characters “Da Zhang Fu”(大丈夫)carved in it. In Chinese culture, “Da Zhang Fu” represent courage, strength and loyalty, the traits of Guan-Gong. The name plate was presented to the temple by a Qing dynasty general in A.D.1791.

Statues of Guan-Gong[edit]

Moving past the entrance courtyard, you will come to the main altar of Goan-Gong. The statue of Guan-Gong in this temple was brought to Taiwan from Fu-Chien Province, China by relatives of Prince of Ning-jing during the Ming dynasty, and has remained here ever since.

Statues of Guan Gong’s Son and Bodyguard[edit]

On the right of the statue in a red and gold rope is Guan Gong’s son, Guan Ping. On the left, holding a huge weapon and wearing a fearsome expression, is Zhou Cang, he was fabled to be Guan Gong’s loyal general and bodyguard. On hearing of Guan Gong’s death, he immediately committed suicide as a further demonstration of his loyalty.

Window Decoration[edit]

There are passages past the altar on either side. The windows along the passages are shaped like traditional Chinese coins – round shape and with a square hole in the middle. When the sun shines go through the windows, the floor seems to be covered with money. Guan-Gong is reported to have advised his followers to spend every coin wisely, and not to waste money. This is perhaps another reason why he has become the patron saint of accountants!

Guan-Yin Statue[edit]

After walking out the back of the first part of the temple, in the left side, you will enter to another smaller temple. This is the temple of Guan-Yin, although Guan-Yin is a Buddhist goddess, her association with fertility with Taoists, and her image can be found in nearly every Taoist temple. This particular statue is famous because of the smiling, benevolent expression on her face. Her eyes are slightly downcast, and appear to be looking at the visitors. On either side of the Guan Yin Temple there is a row of 9 Buddhist monks, called “18 arhats” (Luo-han/ 羅漢), who are the protectors of Buddhist gods.

The Examination Gods[edit]

Outside the Guan-Yin temple, and to the left is the temple of the five examination gods. Students and examinees are often go to this temple to pray for good luck in examinations. The students and examinees write their names, and the time and place of their examination on slip of pink paper. If they pass the exam or get great grade in the exam, they will often come back and hang a red string decoration as a sign of gratitude, or worshiped with flowers and fresh fruit as appreciation.

Yue-Lao Temple[edit]

On the opposite side of the Guan-Yin temple is the “Yue-Lao” temple. Single people visit here and pray for luck to find their soul mate. If they successes, they usually bring wedding cake and fruit to the temple as appreciation.

Read Courtyard[edit]

Behind the Guan-Yin temple is a small courtyard. The building on the right of the courtyard is the temple which worshipped the deity of fire. Every Saturday, a traditional Chinese music group used to practice and perform traditional Chinese music here. This courtyard also has a small fish pond. Small goldfish are often kept in Taoist temples because they are believed to bring prosperity (gold/money) to the people. The plum tree is held to be more than 300 years old, and in the old days people would sit beneath it and compose poetry, play musical instruments or enjoy wine in its shade.

Ma Shi Ye (The Horse God Temple)[edit]

Nearly every Guan-Gong Temple has a horse –god temple associated with it. The horse-god temple here is located across the Yong-Fu Rd., where the road curves opposite the entrance to the Guan-Gong temple. The horse-god takes the form of a soldier who looks after the horses. Because Guan-Gong was always assisted in his work by horses, his followers build this temple to show their respect and appreciation.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The State Temple of the Martial God". Bureau Of Cultural Heritage,Ministry Of Culture. 
  2. ^ "The State Temple of the Martial God, Taiwan". Taiwan Religious Scenes. Ministry of Interior Affairs, Republic of China. 

Coordinates: 22°59′47″N 120°12′08″E / 22.99639°N 120.20222°E / 22.99639; 120.20222