Jiali Zhen Xing Temple God Statues and Temple Art

Zhen Xing Temple in Tainan’s Jiali District, originally called Qing Shui Temple, was founded in 1723 and dedicated to Lord Qingshui. Early settlers to Taiwan brought with them ‘Lord Qingshui,’ — a deified monk — from their homeland, Anxi, in China’s Fujian Province. The idols were believed to have protected them in their dangerous crossing to Taiwan and were subsequently consecrated in a makeshift temple and worshiped by the people of the area.

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Jiali Zhen Xing Temple in Tainan, Taiwan

Zhen Xing Temple incorporates elements of traditional wood carvings, stone carvings, cut porcelain inlays, Koji Pottery arts and many symbolic and accomplished architectural components in its structure creating a temple with great cultural significance and artistic value. Note the beautiful ‘Hanfan’ statues straining to hold up the temple roof crafted by Koji Master Ye Wang.

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Clay God Statue Trio with Wooden Heads

In 2007, the Zhen Xing Temple regulatory committee passed a resolution to mold new god statues of their temple deities. The Tainan Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage brought the old clay statues to Tainan National Museum of the Arts and Graduate Institute of Conservation of Cultural Relics and Museology for temporary storage and restoration. In 2012 restoration work of the trio of statues began and they were recently moved to Soulangh Cultural Park’s Yizhen Exhibition 臺南藝陣館 (newly opened in September) to display.

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Jiali Zhen Xing Temple’s new deities

These somewhat garish statues replaced the elegant wood and clay statues. I visited the temple and asked for information about the new deities: who made them, where were they made, what they were made from; nobody knew. They were pleased that I was interested in their temple and generously gave me a 224 page hardback book that details the amazing artworks in their temple but there was no information on the new deities there either.

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Lord Qing Shui Mud God Statue with Wooden Head

These statues were consecrated in 1862 when the temple was renovated after being badly damaged by an earthquake, and they saw the temple, now renamed  Zhen Xing Temple, flourish and prosper for several years — until they were beheaded by the Japanese.

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Li Fu Qian Shui Mud God Statue with Wooden Head

The Japanese era on Taiwan (1895-1945) saw their ‘religion reorganization movement’ curtailing popular religions — one policy was to behead their religious statues — while promoting Buddhist religions. Because Zhen Xing Temple became Japan’s Linji Sect contact monastery, the temple’s beheaded statues of Lord Qing Shui and General Leifu were protected from complete destruction. The temple later retained a master carpenter to carve new wooden heads for the clay statues and Lord Qing Shui and General Leifu became precious and rare mud statues with wooden heads.

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General Leifu Mud God Statue with Wooden Head

The idols manifest the unique socio-cultural styles, arts, crafts and techniques of their times. These three statues — Lord Qing Shui, General Leifu and Li Fu Qian Shui — are a unique testimony to Zhen Xing Temple and Jiali’s heritage.

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Soulangh Cultural Park Yizhen Exhibit

Once religious statues have been un-consecrated they are often unceremoniously destroyed or dumped. Kudos to the Tainan Culture Bureau for receiving and preserving these historically valuable pieces along with other cultural treasures at the Soulangh Cultural Park’s Yizhen Exhibit 臺南藝陣館.

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Jiali Zhen Xing Temple incense Censer

Also in 1862, the now famous Master Ye Wang was commissioned to decorate the temple with exquisite Koji pottery art; turning the temple into a cultural treasure.

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Eight Immortals Cross the Sea by Koji Pottery Master Yeh Wang

Outdoors and unprotected from the elements, Eight Immortals Cross the Sea, is one of Master Ye Wang’s later works. The exquisite expressions and postures are well worth admiration.

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‘Bo Gu’ by Koji Pottery Master Yeh Wang

This Koji Pottery art of quite a different style was also one of Ye Wang’s later works. Called 博古 Bo Gu, the work is built into a square in the wall and each object as well as the objects altogether have auspicious meaning.

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Wang Bao Yuan’s Porcelain Inlay Art ‘Fan ?? Xi Hsi Shi’

Shown here is Wang Bao Yuan’s Porcelain Inlay Art ‘Fan ?? Xi Hsi Shi’ (Sorry, can’t read the characters ;-)) depicting a story from the Spring and Autumn Period of China.

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Detail of Eight Immortals Cross the Sea

Incidentally, there is an exhibit about Wang at the Soulangh Cultural Park which runs through to November 30th. 第三期王保原剪黏創作傳習工作坊」師生成果展

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Painted Door God 加冠 Jia Guan by Cai Cao Ru

Zhen Xing Temple’s San Chuan Doors (traditional style with a central doorway and two smaller side entrances) are original 1967 works by the famous Tainan area door god painter Cai Cao Ru,  and restored in 2001. The two doors that make the dragon (left) doors are literary gods holding an auspicious items that symbolize good fortune and promotion. Jinlu晉祿 holds a deer as ‘good fortune’ sounds the same as ‘deer’. Jiaguan (加冠) holds a crown, which sounds the same as ‘promotion’ in Chinese.

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Jiali Zhen Xing Temple Wood Art

Much of the temple’s fine carpentry was the work of Master carpenter Wei Li-zuo who was hired  by Zhen Xing Temple for the 1965 renovations.

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God of the Year’s Hall in Jiali Zhen Xing Temple

Love the translation!

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Jiali Zhen Xing Temple

Jiali Zhen Xing Temple is well worth a visit to admire the wood carvings, stone carvings, cut porcelain inlays, Koji Pottery arts and architectural elements but do visit the nearby Soulangh Cultural Park to see the original wood/clay statues at the Yizhen exhibit.

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Jiali Zhen Xing Temple Clay God Statue Trio behind glass

Jiali Zhen Xing Temple
Address: #325 Jiali Xing, Jiali District, Tainan City
地址: 722台南市佳里區佳里興325號
Soulangh Cultural Park
Address: #130 Jiali An, Liu An Li, Jiali District, Tainan City
地址:72242 臺南市佳里區六安里六安130號
Tel:06-7228488
A quick note: Much of the information about the statues in this blog was from a translation I did for the Soulangh Cultural Park. I believe the Chinese version was from the Bureau of Cultural Heritage. I took most of the photos of the clay/wood god statues for the Yizhen Exhibit before they were enclosed in glass. While the glass protects the statues it also makes it difficult to get good photos without glare.

Old Lin Department Store Tainan

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Photos of Lin Department store for Renaissance Magazine

Hayashi Hyakkaten, commonly called the Lin Department Store (林百貨), is a Japanese era department store that first opened in 1932. Taiwan’s second department store (the first was Kikumoto Department Store in Taipei), re-opened in June this year (2014).

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Lin Department Store

I blogged about the old building before Continue reading