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Emperor Guan Temple and Relevant Festivals and Customs in Wenling
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Source: Taizhou Evening News


Emperor Guan Temple in Muyu Town, Wenling

As the broadcasting of the new TV play series “Three Kingdoms” is in full swing, the role of Guan Yu is spoken highly of for his loyalty and integrity by the audiences.


In ancient times, the titles of Marquis or Duke were granted to Guan Yu posthumously and called Guandi (Emperor Guan) or Guangong (Lord Guan) by followers, he was worshiped in temples scattered everywhere.


Taizhou is no exception in the custom with Emperor Guan Temples built in all parts of Wenling such as Chengguan, Xinhe, Songmen, Ruoheng, Zeguo, Shizhan, Shiqiao, and Dalu, etc.


Emperor Guan Temple at Chengguan, Wenling is the most famous, dating back to the Ming Dynasty. After being burnt down in the ninth year of Emperor Jiaqing’s reign in the Qing Dynasty with only the rear hall and the main entrance left, the temple was rebuilt in the twentieth year of Emperor Jiaqing’s reign and renovated in the seventh year of Emperor Daoguang’s reign. The construction was funded by the government and the public. As Lord Guan was esteemed as Saint of War or God of War, the government and the military made the donation of funds earnestly in the construction. The urban and rural gentlemen were also active in contributing the funds. Thanks to the efforts, the temple took on a new and magnificent look of red and golden painting, consisting of the main hall, wing halls, middle hall, decorated archway, stage and rear hall, etc.


On the thirteenth of the fifth month of the lunar year every year, the anniversary of Emperor Guan’s birth, grand temple fairs and festive activities are held in all parts of Wenling. According to the records, in the county seat on the day every year, “Young people were eager to get together at Emperor Guan Temple, becoming sworn brothers, performing the martial arts of scimitar or wrestling. The painting of Emperor Guan hung in the main hall of the temple with endless streams of painting admirers and worshipers burning incense all the day. If it happened to rain that day, it was called the rain of Lord Guan sharpening dao (his weapon), which was a propitious sign of good harvest.”


In Ruoheng, the plays were put on in the temple for quite a few days and nights to celebrate Lord Guan’s birthday. “Ruoheng Place Names and Legends of the Thirteenth of the Fifth Month” compiled and edited by Zhou Xinglin and Lin Fuchu describes in detail, “From the late Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China periods, it was observed on the streets of Ruoheng as a custom that every time the plays were put on in the land deity temples, every family would go to their relatives’ with food gifts to invite them to appreciate the plays. At the moment, they were not busy with the work in the fields, plus it was the time between the spring and the summer for changing to unlined garments, so new clothes would be made before the thirteenth of the fifth month for family members, especially for the children. When the guests came, every household would make wheat cakes to serve them.


In Ruoheng, the day was universally recognizes as the “emperor mercy day of the thirteenth of the fifth month”, when the people clad in new clothes were free from any farm work, even the laborers employed by the rich got a one-day holiday and some “fried beans” and gift money. After the lunch of the wheat cakes, which was the same in every household, people would have fun on the streets till the night. Most of the families would try to bring pleasure to the children by giving them some “fried beans” and gift money. On the day, all the shops on the streets would be open, the houses were decorated with lanterns and other ornaments, and the bustling streets were crowded with people in colorful clothes enjoying various entertaining activities such as shopping and viewing the magic tricks or peep shows. The competition between the plays put up at two different temples attracted throngs of audiences with various traditional activities adding more fun around. Gradually, the day was observed as a festival and a custom around Ruoheng, especially for children, who would long for the spring festival in the last half of the year and the thirteenth of the fifth month in the first half of the year.


When recallig his interesting childhood, Wang Zheng, a Wenling native painter, said that the statue of Lord Guan was worshiped in the Emperor Guan Temple with his two loyal assistants Guan Ping and Zhou Cang standing by his sides, and the walls were painted with murals depicting fairy tales. Opposite the main hall was a small stage with extremely excellent colorful paintings on the arched roof. It was actually his art gallery.

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