Temple of Emperor Guan attracts worldwide visitors
A Chinese saying says: "Every village has a temple of Guan Gong."
Guan Gong is a reverent term of address for Guan Yu, a general in the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280), known for his exceptional valour and loyalty and deified as Guandi or Emperor Guan.
Among the countless temples of Guan Gong across the country, the one in Xiezhou, where Guan Yu was born, is the most typical, largest, best preserved and most skilfully constructed.
Situated in Xiezhou County of Yuncheng, the Xiezhou Temple of Emperor Guan was listed as a national key cultural relic protection unit in 1988, and rated as a national 4A-class scenic spot in 2005.
The Temple of Emperor Guan, or the ancestral temple, is part of a huge scenic resort, which also includes the ancestral hall and the ancestral grave.
North to the lofty Zhongtiao Mountain and west to the rippling blue Silver Lake, the ancestral temple, a large-scale ancient building complex of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, covers an area of 22,000 square metres.
The large temple has two sections. The southern section is the Garden of Sworn Brothers, including such buildings as the Pavilion of Men of Honour and the Pavilion of Three Friends. It was designed in accordance to the Peach Garden in Zhuozhou where Guan Yu and his two best friends became sworn brothers, according to a household story in China.
The northern section is the main temple of two courtyards. The calligraphy by three emperors of the Qing Dynasty has been well preserved as invaluable treasures, while the Tower of Spring and Autumn is regarded by experts as unique to China's ancient architecture history.
The ancestral hall, eight kilometres east of the ancestral temple, is the former residence of Guan Yu, with a total floor space of 15,000 square metres through expansions during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Its construction pattern is the same as that of the ancestral temple, with the front part serving as the office, and the rear part, the residence quarter.
The ancestral grave, located at the Shipan Ditch of the Zhongtiao Mountain and two kilometres from the ancestral hall, is where the grandfather of Guan Yu was buried. A magnificent base for shooting movies and TV plays, especially those about Guan Gong, has been established in the vicinity of the grave.
God in Heaven
Despite his military abilities, Guan Gong was killed in battle. He was almost immediately revered as an Immortal, and throughout many centuries people continued to believe Guan Gong was a god in Heaven.
Guan Gong is typically depicted as a tall man with a long black beard. As a statue at the temples, he is either standing or seated at a desk. His countenance is always stern and his face is red.
Guan Gong is venerated by those concerned with loyalty, military affairs, commerce, giving birth to sons, and exorcizing spirits.
One can easily find in a lot of shops and restaurants in China, the statue of Guan Gong placed with candles burning in the front, surrounded with fruit as offerings.
Guan Gong is highly respected by business people because of his extraordinary character. First of all, he was true to his promise, cheating neither the old nor the young. Today, such a merit is badly needed in the business community.
Furthermore, he was steadfast in the performance of his duty. Even in the contemporary business culture, dedication to duty is cherished as one of the most important ethics.
For these reasons, businesspeople from both home and abroad flock to the Xiezhou Temple of Emperor Guan every year to pay tribute, in the hope of securing peace of mind and a flourishing business.
(China Daily 07/25/2006 page20)
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