China Qinghai Tibet Translation

Some Early Chinese Descriptions of the A Mye rMa Chen Range

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Above upper: The holy peak of the Great Grandfather of the Yellow River, A Mye rMa Chen.
Above middle: Tibetan nomads shifting pastures on the plains of rMa Stod County, south of the mountain.

Above lower: An encampment on the plains by the Yellow River in rMa Stod.

Early last month, I ordered a cheap reprint of the 1695 Wanli era “Gazetteer of Xining Commandery” 西寧衛志. The second chapter, titled “Mountains and Rivers” 山川, begins as follows:

崑崙山 在衛治西北故臨羌縣境. “漢書: 地理志” 注云: “崑崙在臨羌, 西北有王母石室, 仙海, 鹽池. 西有弱水, 崑崙山祠. 唐長慶中, 劉元鼎使吐蕃云: 三山中高四下, 曰紫山, 古所謂崑崙. 魯曰悶摩黎.” 元潘昂霄 “黃河志” 云: “吐蕃朵甘思東北鄙有大雪山, 即崑崙. 自山腹至頂皆雪, 炎夏不消, 遠年成冰.” 洪武間, 西平侯沐英, 征西將軍鄭愈追羌俱至此山. […]
Mount Kunlun: This mountain is located within the borders of Bordering-on-the-Qiang County, which is to the north-west of the commandery seat. The Geography section of the Han History says of it, ‘Mount Kunlun is in Bordering-on-the-Qiang. To the north-west there is the stone house of the Queen Mother [of the West], the Sea of the Immortals, and the Salt Lake. To the west there is the Weak Water and the Temple of Mount Kunlun. During the Changqing reign of the Tang Dynasty (AD 821-824), an envoy to the Tibetans, Liu Yuanding, wrote: ‘There are three mountains of which the middle is the tallest, and it descends steeply on all four sides. This is called the Purple Mountain, and it is this which was in ancient days called Mount Kunlun. The barbarians call it Men Mo Li. During the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) Pan Angxiao wrote in ‘Gazetteer of the Yellow River’: ‘In the north-eastern borders of Tibetan mDo Khams, there is a great snow mountain. This is Mount Kunlun. From the waist of the mountain to the peak it is entirely covered in snow. Even in the heat of summer it does not melt, and over many years it has become ice.’ During the Hongwu reign (1368-1398) the Duke of Xiping, Mu Ying, and the general of the western armies Zheng Yu both pursued the barbarians and reached this mountain.”

Mount Kunlun is a mythical paradise or axis mundi of Chinese legend. It is the pillar of heaven: shamans live on this mountain, various Daoist visionaries journey to it, the Yellow River and other rivers as well flow out from it. The most detailed classical sources for this place are the “Narrative of Mu, Son of Heaven” 穆天子傳  and the Classic of Mountains and Seas 山海經. (I’ve translated all of the sections about the Kunlun from the latter source in a previous post.) I was thus intrigued here to discover that in the 16th century, the inhabitants of Xining City where I live in modern Qinghai province considered the Kunlun to be an actual mountain, located within the jurisdiction of their commandery. The place was distant and the accounts contradictory. Nonetheless, various historical people who were not flighty Daoist poets had reached this mountain and left descriptions of the place and the journey, including transcribed toponyms from the local non-Chinese languages.  

The obvious candidate for such a mountain is the most famous peak in north-eastern Tibet, A Mye rMa Chen (Amne Machen). At 6282 meters, this mountain absolutely dwarfs anything in hundreds of kilometers. The god who lives in this mountain, rMa Chen sBom Ra, is worshiped throughout mDo-Khams as the great genius loci (gZhi bDag) of the entire upper Yellow River regions. (The name A Mye rMa Chen means “Great Yellow-River Grandfather”). In a very real sense, this mountain defines the Yellow River in its upper reaches. The Yellow River rises from pools on the plateaus some 350 kilometers to the west, passes through the two great lakes of sKya Ring and sNgo Ring, and continues east along the southern flank of A Mye rMa Chen. When it reaches the plains of mDzod dGe, the river loops north and then west, flowing parallel to its earlier route along the northern slope of A Mye rMa Chen. In this way the mountain defines the first thousand kilometers of the Yellow River’s flow. Although the mountain was located deep in the country of the feared mGo Log tribes, the deity was worshiped all over Amdo. By 1695, surely knowledge of this had made its way to Xining, the nearest Chinese city. If we should search for an actual holy Kunlun Mountain which is the pole of heaven and from which the Yellow River flows, and which also was located somewhat south of Xining and had a name that was knowable in the Tibetan language, surely this is our candidate.

Since my good friend Anna Sehlanova is writing a PhD thesis at Oxford about this mountain and its god, I decided to see if I could pull up any references in early Chinese sources that seemed to be clearly describing this mountain. This was done by following up the references in the above article and also by scanning through this book “Study on the Kunlun and the Origins of the Yellow River”, 崑崙河源考, a Qing-dynasty kaogu 考古學 work that compiles various legendary and true accounts. Through this method I was able to find four accounts that seemed like they referred to A Mye rMa Chen, all translated in full below. These accounts stretch in time from AD 635 to 1382. Of them the first account seems most sketchy to me (it could refer to A rMye rMa Chen, it could not). The second seems like it probably does and the third and fourth accounts certainly do describe this mountain. The fourth account even provides a poem about the place and a brief description of rMa Chen sBom Ra‘s worship by Tibetans.

The essential bit of evidence demonstrating that all of these accounts do refer to A Mye rMa Chen is a correct hydrological description of the region. All of these accounts state, in one way or another, that the Yellow River rises in a series of pools and then flows into lakes. (The accounts usually refer to these as the “Lakes where Stars Rest” 星宿海, I’m not sure where this name originates.) From there after several hundred kilometers (the number differs) the river passes under the foot of a great snowy mountain, and this is usually given a name in the barbarian language and is stated to be the Kunlun of Chinese legend. This hydrology, given separately in each account, is essentially correct – and the “Kunlun Mountain” in question is mt. A Mye rMa Chen.

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Above upper: The plain of the Yellow River in rMa sTod County.
Above middle: The view from a pass in rTsi Kong Thang County, on the way to A Mye rMa Chen, and a ceiling in a monastery near Xia Dawu.
Above lower: A nomad encampment west of the mountain in rMa Stod County.

The earliest account is the most sketchy, but it seems worth translating if only for interest.

A bit of explanation is needed for this and further accounts. In at some point between BC 138 and BC 125, the Han emissary Zhang Qian reached Lop Nor in modern Xinjiang. The account of this provided in the Sima Qian’s “Historical Records” 史記 would confuse Chinese geographers literally for the next two thousand years:

于窴之西,則水皆西流,注西海;其東水東流,注鹽澤。鹽澤潛行地下,其南則河源出焉。多玉石,河注中國。
“West of Khotan, the water all flows to the west, and from there enters the Western Sea. East of Khotan, the water flows east, and flows into the Salt Marsh (eg. Lop Nor). From the Salt Marsh the water sinks down and goes underground. South of it [Khotan?] is the origin of the Yellow River. There is much jade here. The Yellow River flows into the Middle Kingdom.

史記, 列傳, 大宛列傳, 6
Historical Records, The Exemplary Account of Da Wan, 6

From this Zhang Qian deduced that the water in Lop Nor lake (which has no outlet to the sea) in fact flowed underground and burst out into China as the Yellow River. The mountains south of Khotan were, therefore, the Kunlun:

而漢使窮河源,河源出于窴,其山多玉石,采來,天子案古圖書,名河所出山曰崑崙云。
“The envoy of Han [eg. Zhang Qian] exhausted the source of the Yellow River. It flows from Khotan, and in these mountains there is much jade, which is mined and brought forth. The Son of Heaven consulted with old maps and books, and called these mountains from which the Yellow River emerges “The Kunlun”.

史記, 列傳, 大宛列傳, 26
Historical Records, The Exemplary Account of Da Wan, 26

Interestingly, Sima Qian himself didn’t totally buy this story about Kunlun. In his “appraisal” at the end of the biography of Zhang Qian, Sima Qian quotes the now-lost “Basic Record of Yu” for a description of the Kunlun:

太史公曰:《禹本紀》言「河出崑崙。崑崙其高二千五百餘里,日月所相避隱為光明也。其上有醴泉、瑤池」。今自張騫使大夏之後也,窮河源,惡睹本紀所謂崑崙者乎?故言九州山川,《尚書》近之矣。至《禹本紀》、《山海經》所有怪物,余不敢言之也。
“The Grand Historian Says: According to ‘The Basic Record of Yu’, ‘the Yellow River flows out of the Kunlun. The Kunlun is three thousand five hundred li tall. This is where the sun and moon hide from each other in order to shine and glow by turns. On the top there are the Sweet Springs and the Jade Lake’. In recent times the envoy Zhang Qian reached behind Parthia, and exhausted the source of the Yellow River. Did he actually see what the ‘Basic Record’ calls the Kunlun?

Therefore I say that that for the mountains and rivers of all the nine parts of the world, the record in the “Book of Documents” [eg., ‘The Tribute of Yu’] is near to describing them correctly. As for the fantastic creatures described in ‘The Basic Record of Yu’ and the ‘Classic of Mountains and Seas’, I won’t even speak of them.”

史記, 列傳, 大宛列傳, 37
Historical Records, The Exemplary Account of Da Wan, 37

Despite this well-placed skepticism of the emperor’s pronouncement that the Kunlun had been located, Sima Qian was doubting only that the mountains Zhang Qian had seen were indeed the mythical axis mundi. He did not dispute that source of the Yellow River had been found. Thus the idea that Zhang Qian had discovered the source of the river in Xinjiang remained a widely accepted in China until the 19th century. The statement “The envoy of Han exhausted the source of the Yellow River” 漢使窮河源 even became a set phrase, and we shall see it repeated in the later accounts. Indeed, this is why the range that borders the Tarim Basin to the south even today bears the official name “Kunlun”. Later on multiple people would reach the actual source and write accurate accounts of it in Chinese. Nevertheless, the powerful orthodoxy of these classical accounts kept everyone arguing back and forth for the next two millenia.

As a corollary to the above, a second mountain was identified as the point from which the Yellow River spilled out of its underground channel and into the known lands of China. This was called the Mountain of Piled Rocks 積石山. The basic source for this is a brief mention in the “Tribute of Yu” section of the Book of Documents, which was one of the Four Books and Five Classics 四書五經 of Confucian orthodoxy.

導河、積石,至于龍門;南至于華陰
[Yu the Great] channeled the Yellow River from the Mountain of Piled Rocks to the Dragon Gate, and thence south to the northern side of Mount Hua.

尚書, 夏書, 禹貢, 17
The Book of Documents, The Book of Xia, the Tribute of Yu, 17

In Yu’s great re-ordering of the world during the legendary Deluge, the Mountain of Piled Rocks was the highest point along the Yellow River to which he reached, and therefore the western boundary of known China. For all we know this Mountain of Piled Rocks was probably A Mye rMa Chen too. Later (at least by the fourteenth century) on it came to refer to a particular hill on the river-side west of Lanzhou, which bears this name today. In any case in the following account it seems that the “Mountain of Piled Rocks” may refer to A Mye rMa Chen.

The below comes from the section of the New Tang History 新唐書 on the lands of the Tuyuhun. The Tuyuhun were a nomadic state in that occupied the northern part of the Tibetan Plateau from the third century AD until the first half of the seventh, at which point they were defeated and their lands seized by the expanding Tibetan Empire. The section below describes the victorious campaigns of the celebrated Tang general Li Jing against the Tuyuhun Khagan Murong Fuyun. This took place in AD 635, or just before the advance of the Tibetan armies under Srong bTsan sGam Po into Qinghai:

伏允走圖倫磧,將托於闐,萬均督銳騎追亡數百里,又破之。士乏水,刺馬飲血。君集、道宗行空荒二千里,盛夏降霜,乏水草,士糜冰,馬秣雪。閱月,次星宿川,達柏海上,望積石山,覽觀河源。執失思力馳破虜車重。兩軍會於大非川、破邏真穀。
[The Tuyuhun Khan] Murong Fuyun had gone to the plain of Tulun, and from there intended to escape to Khotan. [The general] Ci Wanjun led riders in pursuit for about a hundred li, and defeated him. But the troops lacked water, to the extent that they had to cut their horses and drink the blood. [The generals] Hou Junji and Li Daozong rode across the empty wasteland for over two thousand li. [In this place] there was frost at the height of summer, and little grass or water. The soldiers ate ice and the horses had snow as fodder. After a month, they passed the River [sic] Where Stars Rest and arrived at the upper part of Bo Lake. They gazed upon the Mountain of Piled Rocks, and viewed the source of the Yellow River. [The general] Chi Shi Si Li led riders to strike at the baggage train of the barbarians. The two armies met at Da Fei river and the valley of Po Luo Zhen.

新唐書, 列傳146上, 西域上, 32
New Tang History, Exemplary Accounts 146 A, “The Western Regions A”, 32

The Old Tang History 舊唐書 biography of Hou Junji 侯君集 gives a slightly different account: 

…盛夏降霜,山多積雪,轉戰過星宿川,至於柏海,頻與虜遇,皆大克獲。北望積石山,觀河源之所出焉。
…[In this place] there was frost at the height of summer, and on the mountains there were great masses of snow. In continuous battles they fought past the River Where Stars Rest, and reached the Bo Lake. Each time they met the barbarians, they achieved great victories and spoils. In the north they could see a Mountain of Piled Jade [sic]. They observed that the source of the Yellow River flowed out of it.

舊唐書, 卷七十三, 二
Old Tang History, Volume 73, 2

The battles around this mountain are described in somewhat more detail in the Exemplary Accounts biography of Xue Wanjun 薛萬均:

俄為沃沮道行軍副總管,從李靖討吐谷渾。軍次青海,萬均、萬徹各以百騎行前,卒與虜遇,萬均單騎馳突,無敢當者。還語諸將曰:「賊易與。」復馳進擊,斬數千級,勇蓋三軍。追奔至積石山,大風折旗,萬均曰:「虜且來!」乃勒兵。俄而虜至,萬均直前斬其將,眾遂潰,追至圖倫磧乃還,與靖會青海。
At this point Xue Wanjun was promoted to the vice-commander of the Qiemo Route army, and followed Li Jing on his campaign against the Tuyuhun. The army passed by Qinghai Lake. Xue Wanjun and [his younger brother] Xue Wanche each took a hundred soldiers and rode ahead of the main army. They came across the barbarians. Xue Wanjun rode out alone against them, and none dared face him. He returned and told all of the generals, “It will be easy to deal with these bandits.” He returned and pressed the attack, killing over a thousand. He was as brave as three armies. The barbarians fled to the Mountain of Piled Rocks. A great wind lifted the banners, and Xue Wanjun said, “The barbarians are coming!” and he roused the soldiers. Thereupon the barbarians arrived. Xue Wanjun rode straight ahead and slew their general. The rest of them fled away. He pursued them to the wastes of Tulun and then returned, meeting Li Jing at Qinghai Lake.

新唐書, 列傳 19, 侯張薛 17
New Tang History, Exemplary Accounts 19, “Hou, Zhang, and Xue”, 17

In the wake of these campaigns, the entire region of modern Amdo was put under direct Chinese control. The area was organized into thirty two counties (ch. zhou 州), with the regional command at Song Zhou 松州, modern Songpan. The section the Western Regions in the New Tang History comments on the Tang dominion in this area as follows:

於是自河首積石山而東,皆為中國地。
Under this system, east from the head of the Yellow River and the Mountain of Piled Rocks, all the country belonged to the Middle Kingdom.

新唐書, 列傳146上, 西域上, 5
New Tang History, Exemplary Accounts 146 A, “The Western Regions A”, 5

As to the identity of this Mountain of Piled Rocks, a few things can be pointed out. The first is that the description of Li Jing and his generals’ campaigns puts them in roughly the right area to stumble upon A Mye rMa Chen – and all the accounts have this mountain at or near the Yellow River source. Second, the Tang soldiers are described as seeing both the source of the Yellow River and a “River Where Stars Rest”, which presumably corresponds to the lake of the same name in later descriptions. 

Third, the “Bo Lake” 柏海 is an interesting question. Earlier in the same New Tang History passage quoted above the general Li Daozong says that “The Bo Lake is near to the source of the Yellow River. No one has ever reached it before.” 柏海近河源,古未有至者。Six years later in AD 641, Li Daozong would visit this lake a second time, this time escorting the famous princess Wencheng 文成公主 to meet her betrothed, the Tibetan emperor Srong bTsan sGam PoThe Old Tang History says, “Srong bTsan sGam Po led his tribes and soldiers past the Bo Lake, and came himself to meet [Princess Wencheng and Li Daozong] at the source of the Yellow River.” 弄贊率其部兵次柏海,親迎於河源。[舊唐書, 卷二百七, 五 / Old Tang History, Volume 207, 5.] The supposition that Li Daozong’s “Bo Lake[s]” is the present day sNgo Ring and sKya Ring thus makes some sense – these lakes are near the source of the Yellow River and are a natural point at which to meet an envoy, located roughly half-way between the last Chinese cities on the Huangshui River and the Tibetan capital at Lhasa.

Finally, this Mountain of Piled Rocks, whether or not it was A Mye rMa Chen, was considered important enough to Li Jing’s campaigns that a replica of it was actually built on his wife’s grave in inner China. 

其妻卒,詔墳制如衛、霍故事,築闕象鐵山、積石山,以旌其功.
When Li Jing’s wife died, the emperor ordered that her tomb be built according to the example of [the Han Dynasty generals] Wei Qing and Huo Qubing. It was constructed in the shape of the Steel Mountain and the Mountain of Piled Rocks, in order to display Li Jing’s victories.

新唐書, 列傳 18, 二李勣 11
New Tang History, Exemplary Accounts 18, “The Two Lis, Jing and Ji”, 11

So it may be that Li Daozong and Hou Junji and their troops riding across the highlands in pursuit of the Khaghan of the Tuyuhun in AD 635 were the first Chinese people in history to lay eyes on the great mountain of A Mye rMa Chen. Or it may have been a totally different mountain and the Bo Lake a totally different lake. Hard to prove with certainty, but it seems possible, and interesting to imagine…

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Above upper and lower: Two views of the A Mye rMa Chen massif from Great Horse Pass (rTa mChog Nya Kha) on the south-western side of the sKor Ra route. 
Above middle: A herdsman in rTsi Kong Thang county

The second account seems much more certain than the first. It takes place about two hundred years after the first in AD 822, during the waning years of the Tang dynasty. The account and particularly the famous stele inscription of the treaty described in the account are well-known in Tibetological literature, and both have been translated in full before (see Bushell, 519 for the below account). Nevertheless just for fun I’ve done it again here, with commentary. 

The first account we have read above, of Li Jing, his gallivanting generals, and their triumphant adventures across the highlands of Qinghai, is full of the strength and confidence of the early Tang 初唐. Two hundred years later, the second account is redolent of the decline and conquest of that once-great dynasty. A bit of background is needed to make sense of the narrative in this account, which is intended not simply to describe a diplomatic mission but to also evoke a particular historical memory.

After Li Jing’s original conquests in the 630s, the area of modern Amdo would remain contested between the Tang and the Tibetans for over a hundred years. The Tang built military garrisons and tuntian forts where they could, and the mobile Tibetans would attack these settlements or raid their fields and flocks when opportunities presented themselves. This long struggle culminated for the Chinese at least in the siege of Rock-Castle Fort 石堡城. The traditional location for this fort has it atop the Mountains of the Sun and Moon (ch. 日月山, tb. Nyi Zla Ri) in Huangyuan County, just over the pass from the eastern edge of Qinghai Lake. (There’s an interesting minority opinion that has it on the south side of the Tao River in modern Jo Ne County 卓尼縣, but I’ll leave that argument for now.) 

hacheng and riyue shan small

Above: The walls of the Qing-dynasty Black Fort 哈城 in Huangyuan County 湟源縣, with the Mountains of the Sun and Moon and the putative location of the Rock-Castle Fort in the center background. According to the generally accepted geography, the “Red Ridge” 赤嶺 which was the Tang-Tibetan boundary established in 733 was at the top of the pass suggested to the left of this picture.

The Tibetans occupied the Rock-Castle Fort in 741 and the Tang could not ignore it – the fort commanded one of the main passes leading onto the northern plateau and directly threatened the Chinese farmland of the Huangshui Valley. The general Huangfu Weiming 皇甫惟明 laid siege to the place in the following year but was unable to take it. The place remained a dagger aimed at the heart of Tang for eight more years until in 749 the famous general Geshu Han 哥舒翰 was sent to reduce it, which he did, with catastrophic losses. The “Comprehensive Mirror of Resources for Governance” 資治通鑑 gives an account of the battle: 

上命隴右節度使哥舒翰帥隴右、河西及突厥阿布思兵,益以朔方、河東兵,凡六萬三千,攻吐蕃石堡城。其城三面險絕,惟一徑可上,吐蕃但以數百人守之,多貯糧食,積檑木及石,唐兵前後屢攻之,不能克。翰進攻數日不拔,召裨將高秀巖、張守瑜,欲斬之,二人請三日期可克;如期拔之,獲吐蕃鐵刃悉諾羅等四百人,唐士卒死者數萬。
“The emperor ordered the commandant of Right-of-the-Long-River Commandery Geshu Han to take the troops of the Right-of-the-Long-River and West-of-the-Yellow-River Commanderies, as well as the troops of Abusi of the Turks, and add to these with troops from the Northern Regions and East-of-the-Yellow-River Commanderies, in total sixty three thousand, and take the Rock Castle Fort of the Tibetans. This fort was defended by sheer cliffs on three sides, and there was only one path up to it. Although there were only a few hundred Tibetans within the fort, they had got much rations. They had also piled up wooden rams and boulders [for rolling down on attackers]. The Tang soldiers attacked the fort from both the front and the rear, but were not able to subdue it. Geshu Han made an assault [continually] for several days but could not take it. He summoned his lieutenants Gao Xiuyan and Zhang Shouyu and wished to execute them [for their failure]. The two of them begged for three days of life in which to achieve victory. They were able to take the fort within the limit. They captured the Tibetan Xi Nuo Luo of the Steel Knife [Fort], as well as four hundred others. The dead among the Tang armies were numbered in the tens of thousands.”

資治通鑑 216, 24
The Comprehensive Mirror of Resources for Governance 216, 24

Incidentally, this is probably what the famous poet Du Fu was talking about with his reference to “the head of Qinghai Lake” in his famous “Song of Soldiers and Carts” 兵車行. In the poem he stands on the bridge at Xianyang 咸陽橋 north of the capital, watching soldiers march west towards the front.

君不見,青海頭,”For sir have you not seen – at the head of Qinghai Lake
古來白骨無人收。Those ancient white bones which now no man collects.
新鬼煩冤舊鬼哭,The new ghosts lament their sorrows, the old ghosts cry –
天陰雨濕聲啾啾。Beneath the darkened heavens and in the wet of rain, their voices rise up.

In any case, when the An Lushan rebellion broke out seven years later, Geshu Han and all his armies holding the garrisons on the Tibetan border were recalled to defend the capital. In a series of events immensely famous in Chinese history, Geshu Han was posted to the Tong Pass 潼關 east of Chang’an, forced by court politics to make an attack on the rebels at Luoyang 洛陽, defeated, and captured, and eventually executed. The rebel armies marched over the pass and took and sacked what was perhaps the greatest city in the world. The Tang dynasty was crippled and for a thousand years no Chinese army marched again into the  highlands of Amdo.

Sixty years later, the account given here is in some sense a bitter journey through that history. In 821, the envoy Liu Yuanding was sent to Tibet to negotiate the fixing of the border between the two nations. This border stood nowhere near the original Tang garrisons along the Yellow River high up in Amdo, but instead ran along the line of the Qinling 秦嶺 range, a dangerous and humiliating few hundred kilometers from the Tang capital. The account describes Liu Yuanding crossing this range and traveling up the valley of the Wei , Yellow 黃, and Huangshui 湟水 rivers through Tibetan-held territory, meeting hordes of Chinese people eager to greet a Tang envoy after sixty years of foreign rule. Everywhere he sees the remnants of China’s past greatness – the destroyed walls of Lanzhou, the toppled boundary stones at the Red Ridge, the abandoned fortifications built by Geshu Han all those years ago. When he reaches the Stone-Castle Fort he beholds it with a sad fascination – it is the site of China’s last, bloody victory over the Tibetans before the whole empire was shattered, the scene of Geshu Han’s last pyrrhic victory before the catastrophe at the Tong Pass, the grave of tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers, the end of Chinese civilization before the high wilderness of Tibet, and he probably the first Chinese official in sixty years to lay eyes on the fabled walls of this place.

Beyond the Red Ridge and the Stone-Castle Fort, Liu Guanding has entered into an alien land. Strange tombs of dot the hillsides, and he journeys on an ancient and crumbling road through a weirdly fertile waste. Finally (and the length of this journey is elided), he reaches the bTsan Po’s summer court on the upper pastures of the sKyid Chu river, and here is all barbaric splendor. A huge ring of pikes is set in the grassland, guarded by soldiers and shamans, and surrounding a massive tent where the Tibetan emperor sits in state, flanked by war chieftains and Buddhist monks. But even the very opulence of this foreign court reminds him of his own dynasty’s fall – the entertainers are all Chinese, no doubt carried off by the Tibetans, and as the envoys feast they play sad old Chinese court songs. 

Finally, on the return journey, Liu Yuanding inquired to his Tibetan escorts as to the source of the Yellow River. Perhaps this took place as they were fording it along the upper reaches in rMa sTod, because he mentions the conditions of the crossing here. The Tibetans told him, and perhaps he saw in the distance, that the river arose in a place called “flooding and welling” 洪濟, and that it flowed down from here a distance of some many li, and that there stood a great mountain which the local people called Men Mo Li and the Chinese had once known as Kunlun.

The 822 stele recording the terms of this treaty still sits outside the Jo Khang temple in Lhasa. Liu Yuanding’s name is recorded on it in Chinese 劉元鼎 and in Tibetan, as Le’u ‘Gwan Deng. I’ve translated the full account from the New Tang History section on Tibet below, with some help from the modern-Chinese version found here. I took the Tibetan names in this version from Li Fang-Kuei and Pan Yihong’s articles, see the bibliography for details.

長慶元年,聞回鶻和親,犯清塞堡,為李文悅所逐。乃遣使者尚綺力陀思來朝,且乞盟,詔許之。崔植、杜元穎、王播輔政,議欲告廟。禮官謂:「肅宗、代宗皆嘗與吐蕃盟,不告廟。德宗建中之盟,將重其約,始詔告廟。至會平涼,不復告,殺之也。」乃止。
“In the first year of the Changqing Reign (AD 821), when they heard that a princess had been given in a marriage alliance to the Uyghurs, [the Tibetans] attacked Clear-Border Fort. They were driven away by Li Wenyue. Then the envoy Qi Li Tuo Si arrived at the court and asked for a treaty to be made. The emperor allowed it. Cui Zhi, Du Yuanying, and Wang Bo assisted in the process. They recommended that the treaty be reported to the Imperial Temple. The Official of Rites told them, ‘The emperors Suzong and Daizong both tried to make treaties with the Tibetans, and they did not report it to the Temple. The Dezong Emperor made a treaty during the Jianzhong reign, and in order to strengthen the bonds of the agreement, began the custom of reporting it to the Temple. After the treaty meeting at Pingliang, it was not again reported. The practice has been ceased.’ Therefor the officials dropped the matter.

以大理卿劉元鼎為盟會使,右司郎中劉師老副之,詔宰相與尚書右僕射韓皋、御史中丞牛僧孺、吏部尚書李絳、兵部尚書蕭俯、戶部尚書楊於陵、禮部尚書韋綬、太常卿趙宗儒、司農卿裴武、京兆尹柳公綽、右金吾將軍郭鏦及吐蕃使者論訥羅盟京師西郊。
[Note: All of the names here are preceded by elaborate bureaucratic titles, which I’m not going to try to translate, so this is approximate.] They appointed the official Liu Yuanding as the envoy to the treaty meeting. His subordinate was Liu Shilao. The prime minister as well as the high officials Han Gao and Niu Sengru, Li Jiang of the Ministry of Personnel, Xiao Fu of the Ministry of the Armies, Yang Yuling of the Ministry of Households, Wei Shou of the Ministry of Rites, as well as the other high officials Zhao Zongru, Pei Wu, Liu Gongchuo, Guo Cong, as well as the Tibetan envoy Na Luo all had a treaty meeting in the western suburbs of the capital.

贊普以盟言約:「二國無相寇讎,有禽生問事,給服糧歸之。」詔可。大臣豫盟者悉載名於策。方盟時,吐蕃以壯騎屯魯州,靈州節度使李進誠與戰大石山,破之。虜遣使者趙國章來,且致宰相信幣。
For a message to the treaty meeting, the bTsan Po sent the following: ‘Our two nations should not raid each other. If there are any who should flee to the other side, they should be given grain and clothes and returned.’ The emperor assented to this. All of the the officials signed their name onto the treaty document. Just at the time this treaty was taking place, the Tibetans sent riders and attacked Lu zhou. The commandant of Ling zhou Li Jincheng met them in battle at the Great Stone Mountain, and defeated them. After this the barbarians sent another envoy, Zhao Guozhang. They also sent gifts of confidence [?] to the Prime Minister.

明年,請定疆候,元鼎與論訥羅就盟其國,敕虜大臣亦列名於策。元鼎逾成紀、武川,抵河廣武梁,故時城郭未隳,蘭州地皆杭稻,桃、李、榆柳岑蔚,戶皆唐人,見使者麾蓋,夾道觀。至龍支城,耋老千人拜且泣,問天子安否,言:「頃從軍沒於此,今子孫未忍忘唐服,朝廷尚念之乎?兵何日來?」言己皆嗚咽。密問之,豐州人也。
The next year, envoys were received asking to settle the border. Liu Yuanding met with the Tibetan official Na Luo in his nation, and demanded that all of the barbarians affix their names to the treaty documents. Yuanding passed through Chengji, Wuchuan and arrived at the Guangwu range near the Yellow River. Previously, before the walls of this city had been destroyed, the area around Lanzhou was all paddy fields, with peaches, pairs, and lush green willows, and the inhabitants were all people of the Tang dynasty. Now when they saw the banners and canopies of an envoy, they crowded either side of the road to look on. When Yuanding arrived at the city of Longzhi, a thousand old men came weeping to pay their respects, asking if the Son of Heaven was well. One of them said to Yuanding, “It was not long ago that the Chinese armies left here – even today our sons and grandsons have not forgotten the garb of the Tang dynasty. Does the court remember us here? When will our armies return?” When he finished speaking they all began to wail. Yuanding pressed this man more closely, and found that he was originally from Feng County [in the interior].

過石堡城,崖壁峭豎,道回屈,虜曰鐵刀城。右行數十里,土石皆赤,虜曰赤嶺。而信安王禕、張守珪所定封石皆僕,獨虜所立石猶存。赤嶺距長安三千里而贏,蓋隴右故地也。曰悶怛盧川,直邏娑川之南百里,臧河所流也。
From there they passed by the Stone Castle Fort. This is built on a cliff wall which is extremely sheer, and the path leading to it is twisting. The barbarians call this the Steel Knife Fort. Going right from there about ten li, the rocks are all red, and the barbarians call this the Red Ridge. The boundary stones that An Wangyi and Zhang Shougui once set here [in 733] had all been upended, and only those stones put their by the barbarians still stood. The Red Ridge is more than three thousand li from Chang’an. In previous days this was located within the commandery of Longyou. This is called the Menhuanlu River, from which it is about a hundred li south to the Lha Sa [ch. Luo suo] river. This is a tributary of the gTsang [ch. Zang] River.

河之西南,地如砥,原野秀沃,夾河多檉柳。山多柏,坡皆丘墓,旁作屋,赬塗之,繪白虎,皆虜貴人有戰功者,生衣其皮,死以旌勇,徇死者瘞其旁。度悉結羅嶺,鑿石通車,逆金城公主道也。至麋谷,就館。
South west of the Yellow River, the land is flat as a whetstone. The plain is a wilderness but very fertile. In the valleys along the rivers there is much tamarisk, and on the hills there are cedars. On the slopes there are a great many grave tumuli, and besides each one is built a little room. These are all painted red, and upon them are drawn white tigers. These are all the graves of barbarian nobleman who committed great deeds in war. In life they wore tiger skins as clothes, and in death these drawings advertise their bravery. Those who died along with them are buried to the sides. From there they crossed the Xi Jie Luo Range. The road here is made of drilled stones, such that carts could travel upon it. This was the road that Princess Jincheng once traveled to Tibet on. From there they arrived at the Valley of Elk [ch. Mi Gu], and stayed in that place.

臧河之北川,贊普之夏牙也。周以槍累,率十步植百長槊,中剚大幟為三門,相距皆百步。甲士持門,巫祝鳥冠虎帶擊豉,凡入者搜索乃進。中有高臺,環以寶楯,贊普坐帳中,以黃金飾蛟螭虎豹,身被素褐,結朝霞冒首,佩金鏤劍。缽掣逋立於右,宰相列臺下。
The northern tributaries of the gTsang River are the summer encampment of the bTsan Po. At the four corners of the camp were spears, and every ten paces were planted long white pikes. In the middle were set great banners so as to create three gates, which were separated at about a hundred paces. Soldiers guarded these gates, as well as shamans with bird hats and tiger belts, holding drums. Anyone who entered this enclosure was searched. In the center of the encampment there was a tall pavilion, surrounded by treasured balustrades. The bTsan Po sat here in a great tent, which was ornamented with gold in the manner of dragons, tigers, and leopards. His hair was tied in a knot which looked like the morning clouds, and he carried a sword enameled with gold. [The monk named] dPal Chen Po [ch. Bo Che Bu] stood  on the bTsan Po’s right, and all of the ministers arrayed themselves beneath the pavilion.

唐使者始至,給事中論悉答熱來議盟,大享於牙右,飯舉酒行,與華制略等,樂奏《秦王破陣曲》,又奏《涼州》、《胡渭》、《錄要》、雜曲,百伎皆中國人。盟壇廣十步,高二尺。使者與虜大臣十餘對位,酋長百餘坐壇下,上設巨榻,缽掣逋升,告盟,一人自旁譯授於下。已歃血,缽掣逋不歃。盟畢,以浮屠重為誓,引鬱金水以飲,與使者交慶,乃降。
When the Tang envoys first arrived here, the official named Xi Da Re came to the treaty meeting. A great entertainment was put on to the right of the court, with food and wine, as it would have been done in China. For music they sang “The Song of the King of Qin Breaking Formations”, as well as “Liang County”, “The Barbarians on Wei River”, “Important Records” and various other songs. All of the hundreds of performers were people from the Middle Kingdom. The plinth for the meeting was ten paces wide, and six feet high. The Tang envoys and about ten of the barbarian officials sat across from each other, while about a hundred chieftains sat beneath. Above them was set a great couch. dPal Chen Po ascended this, and announced the treaty, while another man standing at his side translated. The envoys smeared the blood of the sacrificial animals on their lips [to formalize the treaty], while dPal Chen Po did not. At the conclusion of the meeting, they once again swore their allegiance to the image of the Buddha. They drank water with tumeric, and all the envoys wished each other well, then descended from the meeting plinth.

元鼎還,虜元帥尚塔藏館客大夏川,集東方節度諸將百餘,置盟策臺上,遍曉之,且戒各保境,毋相暴犯。策署彞泰七年。
On Liu Yuanding’s return journey, he was a guest of the barbarian general Zhang lTa bZan (ch. Shang Ta Zang) on the Great Xia River. He gathered more than a hundred of the eastern officials [of the Tibetan empire] and posted the treaty text upon a high pavilion, so that all would know it. In this way each would be restrained by the treaty to protect his own land and not invade the other side. He dated it to the seventh year of the Tibetan sKyid rTag reign.

尚塔藏語元鼎曰:「回鶻小國,我嘗討之,距城三日危破,會國有喪乃還,非我敵也。唐何所畏,乃厚之?」
Zhang lTa bZan said to Liu Yuanding, “The Uyghur are a small nation. Once I undertook an expedition against them. I reached to within three days of their city and was about to take it. Then I received word that our bTsan Po had died, and so I returned. And yet they are not truly my enemies. Why are the Tang so afraid of them, that they favor them so?”

元鼎曰:「回鶻有功,且如約,未始妄以兵取尺寸地,是以厚之。」塔藏默然。
Liu Yuanding replied to him, “The Uyghurs have merit, and they respect the terms of treaties. Never have they caused chaos or advanced soldiers to seize a single inch of our territory. Therefore we favor them.” By this Zhang lTa bZan was silenced.

元鼎逾湟水,至龍泉穀,西北望殺胡川,哥舒翰故壁多在。湟水出蒙穀,抵龍泉與河合。河之上流,繇洪濟梁西南行二千里,水益狹,春可涉,秋夏乃勝舟。其南三百里三山,中高而四下,曰紫山,直大羊同國,古所謂昆侖者也,虜曰悶摩黎山,東距長安五千里,河源其間,流澄緩下,稍合眾流,色赤,行益遠,它水並注則濁,故世舉謂西戎地曰河湟。河源東北直莫賀延磧尾殆五百里,磧廣五十里,北自沙州,西南入吐谷渾浸狹,故號磧尾。隱測其地,蓋劍南之西。元鼎所經見,大略如此。
Liu Yuanding forded the Huangshui River, and reached the Valley of the Dragon Springs. From there to the north-west one can see the Barbarian-Killing River. The old walls built by Geshu Han were scattered all over this place. The Huangshui River exits from the Meng Valley, and when it arrives at the Dragon Springs it merges with the Yellow River. As for the upper course of the Yellow River, it rises at the Flooding-and-Welling Ridge and then flows to the south-west for two thousand li. The water here is narrow. In the spring it can be forded, while in the summer and autumn it must be crossed on boats. About three hundred li south of it are three mountains, of which the middle is highest, and they descend steeply on all four sides. This is called the Purple Mountain. It is located in the land of Yang Tong. What was in ancient days called the Kunlun is this. The barbarians call it Men Mo Li Mountain. To the east it is a five thousand li distance to Chang’an. The Yellow River has its source in the midst of this, and from there it flows slowly down, gathering together many streams. It’s color here is red, and the distance of its flow is very great. Where it joins other waters it becomes muddy. For this region for generations the lands of the western barbarians have been called the lands of the Yellow and Huangshui Rivers. From the source of the Yellow River, it’s about five hundred li to the north-east to the “sand tail” called Mo He Yan. The sands are about fifty li wide, north of Sha County. To the south-west where they enter the land of the Tuyuhun, the sands narrow, and for this reason it’s called the “sand tail”. It can be conjectured that this is located south of the place called South-of-Sword-Gate. That which Liu Yuanding experienced and saw, can be roughly summarized as above.

新唐書, 列傳141下, 吐蕃下, 25-27
New Tang History, Exemplary Accounts 141 B, “The Tibetans B”, 25-27

Despite some garbling as to the direction of flows and which river is a tributary of which, the hydrology here is essentially correct. The Yellow River wells out of the ground beneath high ridges and flows down for at least a thousand Chinese li (Liu Yuanding has it at two thousand, going south-west) before reaching a great snow mountain of multiple peaks. This is the Chinese Kunlun of old and the local people of Yangtong call it (Middle Chinese) Mòn Mwâ Liei 悶摩黎. This name may (or may not) be the earliest attestation of sBom Ra, and seems to have some continuity with the name given in the next account three hundred years later, (Modern Mandarin) Yi Er Ma Bu Mo La or Middle Chinese Jek Ńɨ́ [Ma] Pǝw Mâk Lât 亦耳麻不莫剌. The brief description also carries with it the interesting suggestion that this name sBom Ra (which has no clear meaning in Tibetan) might have originated in the non-Tibetan language of Yangtong 羊同, the land in which this mountain is supposed to be located. Yangtong is a very obscure kingdom which receives a one-paragraph description in the Tang Comprehensive Encyclopedia 通典, which tells us little useful about this place and people other than that it was indeed located in modern Qinghai province. 

 

IMG_1175

IMG_1529

IMG_1542

Above upper: A valley on the road to A Mye rMa Chen in rTsi Kong Thang county.
Above middle and lower: Three scenes along the Yellow River, I think near the area that Du Shi called “The Nine Fords” (Modern Khalkha. 
Yesön Garam), now in rMa sTod County. In the middle two A Mye rMa Chen (Du Shi’s “Mountain of Heaven”, Turkic. Tenghri Tagh) is visible on the northern horizon.

The third account comes from the Geography 地理 section of the Yuan History 元史. The text more or less tells its own story. As a brief background, over the course of the early 13th century, the Mongol Empire conquered most of Asia, including by the 1240s the Tibetan Plateau. In 1271 Qubilai Qaγan declared the Yuan Dynasty in Northern China, and by 1279 the conquest of all of China was complete. The next year, presumably in response to having become the most powerful man in the history of the world, Qubilai Qaγan decided to settle once and for all the whole issue of where the Yellow River came from. To this end he chose a Mongol officer named Du Shi and sent him off to Amdo to figure this out. 

The description of Du Shi’s journey is preserved in a peculiar dual-format, which is explained in the text itself below. The description is fairly garbled and the toponyms are hard now to trace, but nevertheless the basic description seems clear. With google maps and some familiarity with the region, one can easily follow the river from the source of the river west of rMa sTod down past sNgo Ring and sKya Ring, along the southern flank of A Mye rMa Chen, down through the gorges in the south of mGo Log, and out to the great riverine plains of mDzod dGe.

A few clues in the text allow us to reconstruct in more detail the Mongol explorer’s precise itinerary through this country. The narrative states clearly that he began his voyage from He County 河州 (modern Linxia 臨夏) and proceeded over the mountains and west from there. The description of the Yellow River between modern roughly rMa Chu County and Gui De 貴德 is accurate but extremely sparse, suggesting that the Du Shi did not actually follow the river in this section. Finally, there’s a confused reference apparently to a lake and a river which are well north of the Yellow River’s route, Alag Lake and the Ulaan River in modern Dulan County.

From this we can speculate that the account given below (which runs from the source down-stream) is the opposite of the direction in which Du Shi actually made his journey. He set out from He County, reached the river at the garrison and postal relay station somewhere on the plains of modern mDzod dGe, and followed the river up from there along the south side of the A Mye rMa Chen range to the source. Having achieved his objective, he took a faster route home, riding north via the above-mentioned Alag Lake and Ulaan River back to the city of Gui De. From there he used river transport to return all the way back along the Ordos Loop to the Central Plains and made it back to Khanbaliq by winter. Later on, the Chinese compilers of his journey confused Alag Lake with rGya Ring and sNgo Ring and thoroughly muddled the various Mongol and Tibetan hydronyms of the mDzod dGe plains, leaving the garbled account below.

I’ve made this speculative map of Du Shi’s journey in Amdo with annotations here. The blue represents the route of the Yellow River, the black is my guess at Du Shi’s route.

A few other interesting things can be pointed out. Perhaps most curious is the great diversity of languages found in the toponomy – Du Shi gives place names in both in Mongol and in Tibetan, with a few more apparently in Chinese, as well as at least one (that of A Mye rMa Chen!) in some form of Turkic. Another worthwhile point to notice here is that sometime between the 8th century and the 13th, the “Mountain of Piled Rocks” seems to have migrated from it’s high-Tang position at A Mye rMa Chen to its current location as a hill (and county) on the Yellow River west of Lanzhou. Finally we can note the mention of the “Envoy of Han” 漢使” and the “exhausting” 窮 of the Yellow River source, a reference to which we will return again later. 

河源附錄:
ADDENDUM ON THE SOURCE OF THE YELLOW RIVER:

河源古無所見。《禹貢》導河,止自積石。漢使張騫持節,道西域,度玉門,見二水交流,發蔥嶺,趨於闐,匯鹽澤,伏流千里,至積石而再出。唐薛元鼎使吐蕃,訪河源,得之於悶磨黎山。然皆歷歲月,涉艱難,而其所得不過如此。世之論河源者,又皆推本二家。其說怪迂,總其實,皆非本真。意者漢、唐之時,外夷未盡臣服,而道未盡通,故其所往,每迂回艱阻,不能直抵其處而窮其極也。
In ancient times, nobody knew the source of the Yellow River. “The Tribute of Yu” traces the source of the Yellow River, but it stops at the mountain called Piled Rocks. In the Han Dynasty, The Envoy of Han Zhang Qian was granted a seal and sent out on a mission to reach the Western Regions. [He wrote that] passing the Jade Gate, he saw two rivers meeting in confluence. [One of these rivers] took its source in the Onion Range, passed by Khotan, and flowed into the Salt Lake. From there it went underground for a thousand li, until it arrived at Piled Rocks Mountains and there re-emerged. During the Tang, Liu Yuanding was sent to Tibet. He made inquiries as to the source of the Yellow River, and arrived at the answer at Men Mo Li Mountain. Therefore for all of the years and months of history, to plumb the depths of this was a great difficulty, and what knowledge had been attained was not more than the above. Of all those over the generations who have discussed the source of the Yellow River, only those two truly sought out the root of the matter. The other explanations are strange and circuitous, and none of them are true. The reason for this is that during the ages of the Han and Tang, the outer barbarians had not all been fully conquered, and the roads were not all fully opened. Therefore such a journey was winding and difficult, and nobody was able to easily reach these places and exhaust their extremities.

元有天下,薄海內外,人跡所及,皆置驛傳,使驛往來,如行國中。至元十七年,命都實為招討使,佩金虎符,往求河源。都實既受命,是歲至河州。州之東六十里,有寧河驛。驛西南六十里,有山曰殺馬關,林麓穹隘,舉足浸高,行一日至巔。西去愈高,四閱月,始抵河源。是冬還報,並圖其城傳位置以聞。其後翰林學士潘昂霄從都實之弟闊闊出得其說,撰為《河源志》。臨川硃思本又從八里吉思家得帝師所藏梵字圖書,而以華文譯之,與昂霄所志,互有詳略。今取二家之書,考定其說,有不同者,附注于下。
The Yuan Dynasty possessed all beneath heaven. From the edge of the sea and all within and without, wherever the footsteps of men reached, they set up postal relays, and wherever these messengers went it was [as convenient] as if they were travelling in the very center of the country. In the seventeenth year of the Zhiyuan Era (1280), Du Shi was made an Official with Power of War and Amnesty, granted a Golden Tiger Seal, and sent to find the source of the Yellow River. Du Shi accepted the order, and that year arrived in He County. Sixty li east of the county seat, there is a place called Pacifying-the-River Station. Another sixty li south-west of the station there is a mountain called Horse-Killing-Pass, where the forest is thick and the barriers are high. From there lifting his feet he went gradually higher, until after a day he had reached the top. Journey west the land became even higher. After four months travel Du Shi reached the source. That winter he returned to make his report, and described the locations of the things he had heard [?]. Later on, the Hanlin scholar Pan Angxiao got a report of Du Shi’s journey from Du Shi’s younger brother Kuokuo, and wrote it up as “Gazetteer of the Yellow River”. Zhu Siben of Linchuan also got from Balijisi’s [an obscure Mongol official] family an illustrated volume in Brahmi characters [sic, probably means Tibetan] which came from the archive of the imperial tutor, and translated it into Chinese. When compared to the gazetteer by Pan Angxiao, both have areas which are more or less detailed. Therefore today we have taken the two books and set down their narratives here, and where they differ, we have annotated them below.

按河源在土蕃朵甘思西鄙,有泉百餘泓,沮洳散渙,弗可逼視,方可七八十里,履高山下瞰,燦若列星,以故名火敦腦兒。火敦,譯言星宿也。思本曰:「河源在中州西南,直四川馬湖蠻部之正西三千餘里,雲南麗江宣撫司之西北一千五百餘里,帝師撒思加地之西南二千餘里。水從地湧出如井。其井百餘,東北流百餘里,匯為大澤,曰火敦腦兒。」
According to these accounts, the source of the Yellow River is in the western extremity of Tibetan mDo Khams.  In this place there are a hundred springs welling forth, pouring out in all directions. Du Shi was not able to examine them all closely, since the area is about seventy or eighty li square, all looked down on by a great mountain. The springs sparkle and shine like stars, and therefore they are called huodun nao’er. “Huodun” means “The Resting Place of Stars”. [Modern Khalkha. Oddyn Nuur “Lake of Stars”] Balijisi’s version reads, “The Yellow River has it’s origin in the south-west of the central continent, three thousand li directly west from the Southerner [ch. Man] Department of Sichuan’s Horse Lake, a thousand five hundred li north-west of Yunnan’s Lijiang district, and two thousand li south-west of Sa Si Jia [tb. Sa sKya?] in the imperial military region. The water comes welling out of the ground here as if it were a well. There are about a hundred such wells. They flow to the north-east for about a hundred li, and then combine to form a great lake, which is called Huodun Nao’er.”

群流奔輳,近五七里,匯二巨澤,名阿剌腦兒。自西而東,連屬吞噬,行一日,迤邐東騖成川,號赤賓河。又二三日,水西南來,名亦裡出,與赤賓河合。又三四日,水南來,名忽闌。又水東南來,名也裏術,合流入赤賓,其流浸大,始名黃河,然水猶清,人可涉。思本曰:「忽闌河源,出自南山。其地大山峻嶺,綿亙千里,水流五百餘里,注也裏出河。也裏出河源,亦出自南山。西北流五百餘里,始與黃河合。」
The various streams here flow together, and at nearly five or seven li from this place, they converge into two huge pools, which are called Ala Nao’er. [There is today a lake Alag Nuur “The Speckled Lake” located about sixty kilometers across the ranges north of sKya Ring and sNgo Ring. There seems to be some confusion here with this lake and the Ulaan River (Du Shi gives Hu Lan; it means “red”) which flows down from it.] Going west and then east, [the two lakes] are joined and are subsumed into each other. Travelling for one day, gradually it turns laterally to the east and becomes one river. This is called the Red Treasure [ch. Chi Bao] River. After another two or three days, another river comes from the south-west, which is called the Yi Li Chu. This joins with the Red-Treasure River. After another three or four days travel, another river comes from the south, which is called Hu Lan. After this comes another river, which is called the Ye Li Shu, which flows into the Red Treasure River. By this point the flow has gotten large, and it begins to be known as the Yellow River. At this point the color is very clear, and it can be forded by a person.

Balijisi’s version reads, “The source of the Hu Lan River is in the mountains to the south. In this place there are great mountains and lofty ranges, which stretch laterally for a thousand li. This river flows for about five hundred li, until it merges with the Ye Li Chu river. The source of the Ye Li Chu river is also in the southern mountains. This river flows north-west for five hundred li, until it finally joins the Yellow River.”

又一二日,歧為八九股,名也孫斡論,譯言九渡,通廣五七里,可度馬。又四五日,水渾濁,土人抱革囊,騎過之。聚落糾木乾象舟,傅髦革以濟,僅容兩人。自是兩山峽束,廣可一里、二里或半里,其深叵測。
After another one or two days’ travel, the river branches into eight or nine legs. The name of this place is Ye Xun Guan Lun, which can be translated as “Nine Crossings” [Modern Khalkha Yesön Garam]. This place is about five or seven li wide, and can be forded by horses. Traveling another four or five days, the water becomes muddy. The local people inflate leather sacks, and ride these to cross it. In other cases, they bind together wood and shields in the form of a boat, tie it together with hair and leather, then cross on it. These boats can only fit two men at a time. From here two mountains press the river on either side to form a gorge, at a distance of sometimes one li, sometimes two or only half a li. The depth of this gorge can only be guessed.

朵甘思東北有大雪山,名亦耳麻不莫剌,其山最高,譯言騰乞里塔,即昆侖也。山腹至頂皆雪,冬夏不消。土人言,遠年成冰時,六月見之。自八九股水至昆侖,行二十日。思本曰:「自渾水東北流二百餘里,與懷裡火禿河合。懷裡火禿河源自南山,水正北偏西流八百餘里,與黃河合,又東北流一百餘里,過郎麻哈地。又正北流一百餘里,乃折而西北流二百餘里,又折而正北流一百餘里,又折而東流,過昆侖山下,番名亦耳麻不莫剌。其山高峻非常,山麓綿亙五百餘里,河隨山足東流,過撒思加闊即、闊提地。」
In the north-east of mDo Khams there is a great snow mountain, which is called Yi Er Ma Bu Mo La [tb. A Mye sBom Ra?]. This mountain is the highest of all, and its name can be translated as Teng Qi Li Ta [Presumably Turkic Tenghri Tagh, “The Mountain of Heaven”]. This is Mount Kunlun. From the waist of the mountain to the peak it is all snow, and it does not melt in winter or summer. The local people say, that after many years it becomes ice, and this can be seen in the sixth month [sic]. From the where the river splits into eight or nine legs, it flows to Mount Kunlun, traveling for about twenty days.

Balijisi’s version says, “From the place with the muddy water, the river flows north-east for two hundred li, until it merges with the Huai Li Huo Tu river. The Huai Li Huo Tu river has its origins in the mountains to the south. It flows directly north and then turns west, flowing for about eight hundred li until it meets the Yellow River. From here the Yellow River once again flows to the north-east for another hundred li, until it passes the region called Guo Lang Ma Ha. From there it flows directly north a hundred li, then turns and goes to the north-west for two hundred li. It turns once again and flows directly north for a hundred li, then turns once again and flows east, passing beneath Mount Kunlun. The Tibetans call this Yi Er Ma Bu Mo La. This mountain is extraordinarily tall. The mountain range stretches across the land for about five hundred li, and the Yellow River follows its foot, flowing east. It passes the two places called Sa Si Jia Kuo Ji and Kuo Ti.

河行昆侖南半日,又四五日,至地名闊即及闊提,二地相屬。又三日,地名哈剌別里赤兒,四達之沖也,多寇盜,有官兵鎮之。近北二日,河水過之。思本曰:「河過闊提,與亦西八思今河合。亦西八思今河源自鐵豹嶺之北,正北流凡五百餘里,而與黃河合。」
The Yellow River flows about half a day’s ride south of Mount Kunlun, and from there west for about five days, until it reaches the regions called Kuo Ji and Kuo Ti. These two places are connected to each other. After another two days, it reaches the place called Ha La Bie Li Chi Er. This is an important place from which roads lead in all directions, and there are many brigands here. An official and soldiers have a garrison here. Close to it, about two days ride to the north, the Yellow River passes by.

Balijisi’s version reads, “the Yellow River passes Kuo Ti, and merges with the Yi Xi Ba Si Jin River. The Yi Xi Ba Si Jin River arises north of the Steel Leopard Range, and flows directly north for a total of five hundred li, until it merges with the Yellow River.”

昆侖以西,人簡少,多處山南。山皆不穹峻,水亦散漫,獸有髦牛、野馬、狼、包、羱羊之類。其東,山益高,地亦漸下,岸狹隘,有狐可一躍而越之處。行五六日,有水西南來,名納鄰哈剌,譯言細黃河也。思本曰:「哈剌河自白狗嶺之北,水西北流五百餘里,與黃河合。」
West of the Mount Kunlun, people are extremely few. Most of them live south of this mountain. The mountains here are not particularly tall, and the river is therefore scattered and winding. Of wild animals there are yaks, wild horses, wolves, leopards, and ibex. East of the Kunlun, the land gradually drops down, and there are cliffs and gorges and barriers, and places so narrow that a fox could jump [from one side to the other]. Travelling for about five or six days, another river comes from the south-west, which is called Na Lin Ha La, which can be translated as “The Narrow Yellow River”. [Presumably Modern Khalkha Nariin Shar, “Narrow Yellow”. It seems to me also that this river has been conflated with the Qi Er/Li Ma Chu (tb. dKar rMa Chu, “White Yellow River”?) below, and that both of them probably refer to the river which is marked on modern maps as the White River 白河.]

Balijisi’s version reads, “The Ha La River arises from north of the White Dog Range. The water flows to the north-west for five hundred li, until it merges with the Yellow River.”

又兩日,水南來,名乞兒馬出。二水合流入河。思本曰:「自哈剌河與黃河合,正北流二百餘里,過阿以伯站,折而西北流,經昆侖之北二百餘里,與乞里馬出河合。乞里馬出河源自威、茂州之西北,岷山之北,水北流,即古當州境,正北流四百餘里,折而西北流,又五百餘里,與黃河合。」
After another two days, a river comes from the south, which is called the Qi Er Ma Chu. The two rivers [sic] merge into the Yellow River.

Balijisi’s version reads:  “From the place where the Ha La River and the Yellow River merge, the river flows due north for two hundred li, passing the A Yi Bo Postal Station, then turns to the north-west. From here it flows along the northern flank of the Kunlun for two hundred li, where it merges with the Qi Li [sic] Ma Chu. The Qi Li Ma Chu arises to the north-west of Wei and Mao Counties, on the north side of the Min Mountains. The water flows north, passing through the territory of ancient Dang County, where it flows due north and then turns to the west for about four hundred li, turning then to the north west, and after another five hundred li, it merges with the Yellow River.”

河水北行,轉西流,過昆侖北,一向東北流,約行半月,至貴德州,地名必赤裏,始有州治官府。州隸吐蕃等處宣慰司,司治河州。又四五日,至積石州,即《禹貢》積石。五日,至河州安鄉關。一日,至打羅坑。東北行一日,洮河水南來入河。
The Yellow River flows north, and then turns west, passing north of the Kunlun. Then it flows to the north-east, and after about half a month’s travel, it arrives at Gui De County. This place is called Bi Chi Li. From early times it was made a county and had a government by officials. This county is within the prefecture which governs the Tibetans and other areas, which has its seat at He County. Another four or five days from there, one reaches the county called Piled Rocks. This is the “Piled Rocks” from the “Tribute of Yu”. After another five days, one reaches the Peaceful-Village Border Gate in He County. Another day’s journey down, there is the place called the Casting-Nets Pit. From here the Yellow River goes north-east for one day, until the Tao River merges with it from the south.

思本曰:「自乞里馬出河與黃河合,又西北流,與鵬拶河合。鵬拶河源自鵬拶山之西北,水正西流七百餘里,過札塞塔失地,與黃河合。折而西北流三百餘里,又折而東北流,過西寧州、貴德州、馬嶺凡八百餘里,與邈水合。邈水源自青唐宿軍穀,正東流五百餘里,過二巴站與黃河合,又東北流,過土橋站古積石州來羌城、廓州構米站界都城凡五百餘里,過河州與野龐河合。野龐河源自西傾山之北,水東北流凡五百餘里,與黃河合。又東北流一百餘里,過踏白城銀川站與湟水、浩亹河合。湟水源自祁連山下,正東流一千餘里,注浩亹河。浩亹河源自刪丹州之南刪丹山下,水東南流七百餘里,注湟水,然後與黃河合。又東北流一百餘里,與洮河合。洮河源自羊撒嶺北,東北流,過臨洮府凡八百餘里,與黃河合。」
Balijisi’s version reads, “From the place where the Qi Li Ma Chu river merges with the Yellow River, the river goes north-west, and merges with the Peng Za river. The Peng Za river has its source north-west of Peng Za mountain. The water flows due west for seven hundred or so li, passing the place called Zha Sai Ta Shi, until it meets the Yellow River. Then the river turns to the north-west and flows for three hundred li, then turns to the north-east, where it passes Xi Ning County, Gui De County, Horse Ridge, in total eight hundred li, until it merges with the Miao river. The Miao River has its source from near the military hostel at Qing Tang valley. It flows due east for five hundred li, passing Er Ba Postal Station until it merges with the Yellow River. From there the river flows to the north-east, passing Earth-Bridge Postal Station and the Receiving-the-Qiang Fort in old Piled Rocks County. From the edge of Gou Mi Postal Station in Guo County the capital [sic] is in total about five hundred li. The river passes He County and merges with the Wild [ch. Ye Pang] River. The Wild River has its source north of Westward-Leaning Mountain. The water flows north-east for about a hundred li, where it merges with the Yellow River. From there the river flows north-east for about a hundred li, passing Treading-On-White Fort and Golden River Postal Station to where it merges with the Huangshui River and the Great Flow [ch. Hao Men] River. The Huangshui River has its source beneath the Qilian Mountains. It flows due east for about a thousand li, and the Great Flow River pours into it. The Great Flow River has its origin in Shan Dan County, south of the county seat beneath Shan Dan Mountain. The water flows south-east for seven hundred li, and then merges into the Huangshui River. Then both of these merge with the Yellow River. The Yellow River flows again about a hundred li to the north-east, where it merges with the Tao River. The Tao River has its source north of the Sheep-Scattered [ch. Yang Sa] Range. It flows to the north-east, passing Along-the-Tao Governorate, in total about eight hundred li. Finally it merges with the Yellow River.”

又一日,至蘭州,過北卜渡。至鳴沙州,過應吉里,正東行。至寧夏府南,東行,即東勝州,隸大同路。自發源至漢地,南北澗溪,細流傍貫,莫知紀極。山皆草石,至積石方林木暢茂。世言河九折,彼地有二折,蓋乞兒馬出及貴德必赤裏也。
After another day, the Yellow River arrives at Lan County [eg. Lanzhou]. It passes the North Bu Ford and arrives at Singing Sands County. From here it passes Ying Ji Li and flows east, passing south of Ning Xia Governorate. From there it flows east, arriving at Eastern-Victory County, which belongs to the Da Tong Route. From its source to the lands of the Han, this river merges and strings together all of the narrow creeks and streams from the north and the south. And yet nobody knew or had recorded its extremity. All of the mountains were covered in grass and stones, and once you arrived at Piled Rocks, they were entirely covered in forest which was extremely thick. It is said that the Yellow River has nine bends. This area recorded has two bends, [one of which is?] from Qi Er Ma Chu to Bi Chi Li at Gui De County.

思本曰:「[…] 大概河源東北流,所歷皆西番地,至蘭州凡四千五百餘里,始入中國。又東北流,過達達地,凡二千五百餘里,始入河東境內。又南流至河中,凡一千八百餘里。通計九千餘里。」
Balijisi’s version reads, “[Here follows a longish paragraph describing the known route of the Yellow River from Lanzhou to the point where it exits onto the North China plain. This isn’t terribly interesting so I’ll leave it out.] It can roughly be said that as the Yellow River flows north-east from its source, all of the land that it passes belongs to the Tibetans [ch. Xi Fan]. From the source to Lan County [Lanzhou] it’s about four thousand five hundred li, and it is at this point that the Yellow River enters the Middle Kingdom. From there it flows again to the north-east, passing the lands of the Tatars, at a length of two thousand five hundred li. From there it first enters the prefecture of East-of-the-River. There it flows south into the prefecture of Central-River, in total a thousand eight hundred li. In total it can be computed at nine thousand li.

元史, 志15, 地理6, 500-504
Yuan History, Gazetteer 15, Geography 6, 500-504

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Above upper: Another view of the A Mye rMa Chen, at sun-down at Great Horse Pass.
Above middle and lower: nomad children in a school at rMa Chu Zhang (ch. Huang He Xiang 黃河鄉) and an encampment in the snow on the plains of the Yellow River south-west of the mountain in rMa sTod.

The final reference to A Mye rMa Chen comes from a text called Compilations on the Western Regions 西域集, which was written by a Chan monk named Zong Le 宗泐 sometime in the 1380s. This text is apparently lost but it’s briefly quoted in the “Study on the Kunlun and the Origins of  the Yellow River”, 崑崙河源考. In 1369 the Yuan Dynasty fell and the Ming Dynasty was declared in its place. Ten years later in 1379 the monk Zong Le had the back luck to annoy the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋. The famously irascible emperor told him to go across the Himalayas to India and “find more Buddhist scriptures”. Zong Le was 61 years old at the time. Judging from his account and the poetry attached to it he seems to have taken the whole thing with a sense of humor.

He traveled to He County and from there made his way across the Tibetan Plateau, crossing the Yellow River on the frozen ice, to reach mNga’ Ris. From there he crossed the Himalaya to Nepal and visited the Buddhist holy sites of northern India and then returned the way he came, arriving back in China five years after he left in 1382.

Zong Le’s writing is both vivid and erudite, and he is refreshingly willing to question his own Sino-centric knowledge. He is also interested in Tibetan religion and seems to have understood some of their language. The below is as quoted in “Study on the Kunlun and the Origins of  the Yellow River”, 崑崙河源考:

河源出自茂必爾徹伯爾山番人呼黄河為茂處氂牛河為必力處赤巴者分界也其山西南所出之水則流入氂牛河東北之水是為河源予西還宿山中嘗飲其水番人戲相謂曰漢人今飲漢水矣
“The origin of the Yellow River is at Mao Bi Er Che Bo Er Mountain. The Tibetans call the Yellow River Mao Chu [tb. rMa Chu]. The Yak River is called the Bi Li Chu [tb. ‘Bri Chu, “The Female-Yak River” eg., the upper Yangzi]. Chi Ba [Mountain] divides the regions [of flow]. The water which arises from the south-west of this mountain flows into the Yak River. The water which comes out on the north-east side is the source of the Yellow River. When at the western Mountain of Returning Stars I tasted this water, the Tibetans all joked with each other, ‘The Chinese is drinking the Chinese water!’.”

其源東抵崑崙可七八百里今所涉處尚三百餘里下與崑崙之水合流中國相傳以為源自崑崙非也崑崙名茂布拉克其山最高大四時常雪有神居之番書載其境内祭祀之山有九此其一也并記之
“From the source of the Yellow River it is about seven or eight hundred li east to reach Mount Kunlun. For about three hundred li the river is fordable. Then it goes under the Kunlun and merges with the Kunlun rivers. The traditional account of the Middle Kingdom is that the Yellow River has its source at the Kunlun, but this is not true. The Kunlun is called Mao Bu La Ke. This mountain is the greatest and tallest. In all the four seasons it is covered with snow, and a god lives there. The Tibetan books have descriptions of how within the realm [of this god] he is to be worshiped. There are nine mountains, and this is one of them. These are also recorded [sic].”

The same source, “Study on the Kunlun and the Origins of  the Yellow River”, 崑崙河源考, also contains the following wry poem by Zong Le. The poem is about the the mythical Kunlun, the real mountain A Mye rMa Chen, the god rMa Chen sBom Ra, and that “Envoy of Han” who claimed to have “exhausted the source of the Yellow River” all those fifteen hundred years before. I’m sure there are other interesting Chinese accounts of A Mye rMa Chen, but right now this poem is the last thing I feel like translating.

《望昆仑》GAZING UPON MOUNT KUNLUN

積雪覆崇岡 The massed snows covered high in mists
冬夏常一色 Whether winter or summer, the color never changes.
群峰譲獨雄 The ranks of peaks give way to a lone hero –
神君所棲宅 The abode of a gentleman god.
傳聞嶰谷篁 Legend has it that in the bamboo thickets of Mount Xie
造律諧金石 They make flutes with sound sweet as gold.
草木尙不生 But here no grasses have ever grown
竹産疑非的 And I doubt you could get any bamboo.
漢使窮河源 “The Messenger of Han exhausted the source of the Yellow River”
要領殊未得 And yet perhaps in truth we still haven’t yet reached the point –
遂令西戎子 And it’s been making these western barbarians
千古笑中國 Laugh at our Middle Kingdom for the last thousand years.
老客此經過 This old traveler passing here
望之長嘆息 Gazes upon it all and heaves a long sigh
立馬北風寒 With our horses stopped the north wind is cold
回首孤雲白 and when I look back, the lonely clouds are white.

IMG_1322 (1)

IMG_1351

Below Upper: Looking east towards the A Mye rMa Chen massif on the plain of rTa Bo Zhol Ma.
Below Lower: The glacier at Little Cliff Settlement Pass (tb. ‘Brag sDe’u Nya Kha) on the A Mye rMa Chen circumambulation road. 

[Note: all the pictures in this post come from a walking trip from sKu ‘Bum Monastery to rMa sTod County via A Mye rMa Chen and its circumabulation route in spring 2009]

 

Bibliography:

Generally speaking, please excuse my atrocious bibliography habits.

The following works I got from the Chinese Text Project: (Sturgeon, Donald. Chinese Text Project. Web. 18 May 2016. <http://ctext.org>.) This is bad bibliographic practice, but, the precise editions I used are “wiki” versions found there. In rough chronological order:

  • 尚書 “The Book of Documents”
  • 史記 “Historical Records”
  • 舊唐書 “The Old Tang History”
  • 新唐書 “The New Tang History”
  • 通典 “Comprehensive Encyclopedia”
  • 資治通鑑 “Comprehensive Mirror of Resources for Governance”
  • 元史 “Yuan History”
  • 崑崙河源考 “Study on the Kunlun and the Origins of  the Yellow River”

Secondary works are as follows:

  • Bolor Dictionary. Bolorsoft LLC. Web. 18 May 2016.
  • Bushell, Stephen W. The Early History of Tibet from Chinese Sources. London: Trübner, 1880. Print.
  • Dorofeeva-Lichtmann, Vera. “Where Is the Yellow River Source? A Controversial Question in Early Chinese Historiography”. Oriens Extremus 45 (2005): 68–90. Web…
  • Enoki, Kazuo. “Tsung-Le’s Mission to the Western Regions, 1378-1382.” Oriens Extremus 19 (1979): 47-53. Print.
  • 何, 孝荣. “元末明初名僧宗泐事迹考.” 中國民族宗教網. 中國民族报社, 22 Dec. 2014. Web. 18 May 2016.
  • Li, Fang-Kuei. “The Inscription of the Sino-Tibetan Treaty of 821-822.” T’oung Pao44.1 (1956): 1-99. Web.
  • 劉, 敏寬. 西寧衛志 (明). Ed. 繼光 王. 西寧: 青海人民出版社, 1993. Print.
  • Pan, Yihong. “The Sino-Tibetan Treaties in the Tang Dynasty.” T’oung Pao 78.1 (1992): 116-61. Web.
  • “新唐書, 列傳一百四十一譯文.” 詩詞吧. 古詩文網. Web. 18 May 2016.

EDIT: One last source; the title in English is “Machen Pomra in Chinese-Language Historical Sources”. I didn’t actually use the below when writing this, but afterwards someone sent it to me and it covers basically the same territory as what I wrote, with a few more Qing Dynasty sources (I didn’t bother with these) and interesting stabs at getting the original Tibetan names. The author of this paper (a scholar at Lanzhou University of Nationalities named Liu Tiecheng) and I came to most of the same conclusions. So, if you want an actual well-cited academic paper about this topic, see the below, it’s very good! 

  • 劉, 鐵程. “漢文史料中的”瑪卿邦熱”(19th-20th Century).” 中國民族學 10 (2013): 99-104. Print.

 

Art China Qinghai Tibet Translation

The Long Valley of Trefoils, or, Some of the Outer Regions of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring

bon rgya dgom pa

IMG_5562

'ol mo lung ring stretched FULL

Above upper: The monastery of Hundred Bon (tb. Bon brGya dGon Chen) in a the mountains above Rebgong.
Above middle: Inside the big new pagoda in Bon brGya
Above lower: A map of the Bon holy realm ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring, which hangs in the main prayer hall.

Last November, my friend Jasper Henderson and I made a trip up to Rebgong to attend a ‘Cham dance at Hundred-Bon Monastery (bon brgya dgon chen). While we were there, we took the opportunity to photograph the details of a giant map of the Bon holy land ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring which hangs in the main prayer-hall there (see picture above). This was apposite since at the time I was being bothered by some Ukrainian kid who showed up from this left-fascist group Sut’ Vremeni and in good Nazi-esotericist style seemed convinced that “Dark Bonpo” was the key to their movement’s world domination and that Sergei Kurginyan and the other luminaries at the top where in on this too. Against this background of general Russo-Tibetan weirdness it seemed useful to go and see some Dark Bonpo for ourselves. And since the whole Sut’ Vremeni Bon interest was apparently influenced by the zany late-60s theories of Whatshisface Kuznetsov and Lev Gumilyov about Bon geography being an elaborately disguised map of Sasanian Persia, it seemed worth it to photograph the big ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring diagram too.

(It’s worth stating at the outset here that I’m a skeptic about the whole “Bon texts contain information brought from Central Asia” theory. Among other things the whole Bon holy-land called sTag gZig equals “Tajik” idea, which is quoted as fact in a whole number of sources, seems extremely unproven to me. These Tibetological authors seem blithely content to ignore the complicated history of that ethonym in Central Asia, as well as the fact that sTag gZig already has a perfectly good mythical-toponym meaning in Tibetan [“Tigers and Leopards”]. The rest of the not-obviously-invented geography about this place seems to refer fairly explicitly to Mount Kailash and the regions surrounding it. I’m not saying that some aspects of Bon didn’t come from Central Asia but this seems very unproven to me at present.)

Anyways photographing this map was easier said than done – the map hangs quite high up in the dimly lit hall. The monks brought us two tall stools, and we balanced precariously there. Jasper shone a flashlight on the painting and I, trying to keep my hands steady, was able to photograph some of the lower bits. Then, because this blog is generally about sacred geography, world mountains, and visual lists and itineraries in Asian art, I’ve tried to translate some of the captions here.

Katie Buffetrille published an article in 2009 (“Khyung Mo Monastery [A’mDo] and it’s ‘Map’ of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring”) which briefly describes a nearly identical map which hung another nearby Bon monastery, Khyung Mo dGon Pa in Tri Kha / Guide 貴德. Later on I went to this monastery but wasn’t able to see the map there. In any case her pictures and descriptions demonstrate that the two maps were almost identical. Buffetrille’s map in Khyung Mo monastery was produced in the ’70s or ’80s by a local painter who copied it from an original by one sBra Ser Pandita, who was active in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At least one other copy of the map exists, located in dGa ‘Mal dGon Pa in Shar Khog (Buffetrille, 323). If there is such a detailed dedication on the Hundred-Bon map I didn’t see it, but it’s unarguably another late 20th century copy of this, no doubt made from one of the neighboring maps.

The dedication on the map (located just beneath the palace of Sham Po in the lower-center) reads as follows:

mchan yig bris pa dge slong bsod nams g.yung drung dang / lha bzo ‘od gsal lha mgon rnam sras sku mched gsum / rgyu ‘byor yon bdag dad ldan so nag dbang phyug gis  / dmangs sgor stong phrag gnyis bcas phul ba’i bsod nams kyi / dge ba’i mthu la brtan nas zhing ‘dir myur du skye bar shog / sarba mngaga lam /

The notes were written by dGe sLong bSod Nams g.Yung Drung / The artists [lit: “god-makers”] were the three brothers, ‘Od gSal, Lha mGon, and rNam Sras / The donor of the wealth [for the painting], the faithful one, Black-Tooth dBang Phyug / made an offering of two thousand yuan / may the power of the meritorious virtue quickly arise at this place / Sarva Mangalam!

As both Katia Buffetrille and Dan Martin point out, there seems to have been a slow process of elaboration of this sacred geography over the centuries. The earliest eleventh or twelfth century Bon geographical descriptions give a fairly sparse list of countries which seem to be derived partly from early Buddhist sources – of the non-Buddhist locations which appear in these lists, one of them is sTag gZig ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring (Martin, 260). Later on these geographies became increasingly elaborate and, to my eye, increasingly fantastical, until at least by the 19th century gigantic maps such as the one above were being produced, containing hundreds of individual place-names. The one below is reproduced in both Snellgrove (plate XXII) and Martin (p. 270) – Dan Martin speculates that it was created based on 12th century geographical texts and some other source, possibly the 14th century gZi brJid (Martin 275). He also points out that it seems to be mainly a gazetteer of places associated with the life of the mythical Bon founder, sTon Pa gShen Rab.

from snellgrove

I don’t think I’m up to a full comparison of all these sources at the moment, which would necessitate a full transcription of the entire map and a long paper in itself. In any case the map in Hundred-Bon and the one supplied by Martin and Snellgrove seems to have one major difference, which is that in their version there are in total six rings of earth and water, while the Hundred-Bon and Khyung Mo versions only have five.

There’s also the below Thang Ka. This is reproduced in Dan Martin (Olmo Lungring, a Holy Place Here and Beyond) and also on the wikipedia page for sTag gZig ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring, which is where I downloaded the image. According to the citation in Martin’s article, this is a 19th century Tibetan production which is currently in the possession of the Rubin Museum in New York, and that’s all the information I’ve been able to get on it.

Homeland_of_Tonpa_Shenrab_Miwo_Olmo_Lungring._Tibet,_19th_century,_Rubin_Museum_of_Art

Speculatively, it could also be pointed out regarding the apparently rather recent production of all of these Bon maps, that there are two fairly obvious and nearby Buddhist inspirations for the large-scale depiction of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring. The first is the big depictions of Shambhala commonly found on the flanking walls of the entrances of large Buddhist monasteries in at least in Amdo and probably elsewhere too. These usually show the circular realm of Shambhala (tb. Sham BHa La) surrounded by mountains and the armies of Raudra Chakrin (tb. Drag Po ‘Khor Lo Can, “The Fierce One of the Wheels”) marching out to defeat the forces of evil at the end of this age. If Buddhists were going to depict their Central Asian holy realm in their monasteries, the Bonpo obviously felt the need to match them.

IMG_5680

IMG_5692

Above: The holy realm of Shambhala, arranged like an eight-spoked wheel. 

IMG_5681

Above: Raudra Chakrin slaying the king of the Mleccha.

The second inspiration for the Bon ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring drawing is probably the great cosmological diagrams which can less commonly be found flanking the same entrances as the Shambhala drawings. These usually show the great axis-mundi Mount Meru, with the concentric rings of mountains, seas, and continents spreading out at its foot. This concentric cosmology is suggested in the Bon map by the nested squares of lands and seas, which increase in sanctity as one travels inward and culminate in the white mountain of Kailash (tb. Gangs Ti Se) at the center.

IMG_6321

Above: An cosmological diagram showing Mt. Meru with the heavens extending from its tip, surrounded by rings of mountains and nine continents. Taken from sGo dMar dGon Pa in Rebgong.

IMG_5828

Above: Another more contemporary-style image of the Buddhist cosmos from La Mo bDe Chen in gCan Tsha.

Depictions of Mount Meru go back to even before the birth of the Buddha, but the detailed diagrams of Raudra Chakrin’s ride out of Shambhala seem to have been a fairly recent topic in Tibetan monastic art. Speculatively, this may suggest something as to the impetus for the Bonpos to start producing pictures of their own holy land.

Returning to our original Bon map of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring, I’ve tried to translate some of the place names attached to the pictures. Going in a widdershins Bon kora, I’ve started out from the lower-left corner and swung right from there to the central palace in the lower part of the picture. The upper parts, while maybe more interesting, were too high up to photograph easily and so I haven’t been able to reproduce or translate them in detail. East faces down in this map, hence the great palace of Sham Po on the eastern river Na Ra Dza Ra there. Thus west is at the top, north to the right, and south to the left. Excuse my bad Tibetan translation skills please, and correct all mistakes you find!

 

The Lower Left Corner:

lower left - FULL

lower left charnel ground

dur khrod // mya ngam thang nag sdobs chen khyab pa bsgral ba’i dur khrod // dpal mgon // dur khyi //  dur bya // ma mo yum // dbal bon // sa ‘dul mchod rten // tur me //

Charnel Ground // The Liberating Charnel Ground [called] Black Plain of Suffering, Full of Powerful Ones. // The Glorious Protector // Charnel Dog // Charnel Birds // Female Ma Mo // A Bonpo of Fire // An Earth Subduing Stupa // Charnel Fire /

lower left - bya ri gtsug ldan

g.yung drung gtsug gshen rgyal ba // bya ri gtsug ldan ‘bar ba naks tshal gyi dgon pa /

The Eternal Highest gShen King // The Forest Monastery of the Bird Mountain of Shining Peacocks

 

lower left - rtag gzigs bya ri

lower left - rtag gzigs bya ri - detail

rtag gzigs bya ri gtsug ldan gyi grub gnas /

Perfected Place of the Bird Mountain of Peacocks in rTag gZigs /

lower left - rang byung mchod rten

rang byung mchod rden dkar po // phyag [ ] mchod pa’i zhing mchog /

A Self-Arising White Stupa // The Pure Realm of Hand [ ] Offerings /

lower left - gser gling

lower left - gser gling - detail 01

gser gling gser rgyud ces pa rgyal po’i khab / gnod sbyin pho mos sgo khyi byas pa’i tshul /

The House of the King who Speaks the Golden Tantra of the Golden Realm / The Place Where Male and Female Yakshas Act as Door-Dogs /

lower left - gser gling - detail 02

gnod sbyin pho /

A Male Yaksha /

lower left - brag seng ge rgyab bsnol

lower left - brag seng ge rgyab bsnol - detail 01

lower left - brag seng ge rgyab bsnol - detail 02

brag seng ge rgyab bsnol /

The Lions of the Cliffs, Opposite to Each Other /

lower left - phya rje rgyal po

phya rje rgyal po’i rgyal sa / [ ] ling ma’i yul // btsun mo /

The Kingdom of the King [called] the Lord of Fate / The Land of the [ ] Ling Ma. // A Pure Woman /

lower left - dga' ldan lha yi yul

lower left - dga' ldan lha yi yul - detail

lower left - dga' ldan lha yi yul - detail 02

dga’ ldan lha yi gling / ston pas lha sa bon ‘khor bskor ba’i gnas yin /

The Realm of the Joyful God / This is the Abode where the Buddhas of the God’s Place Bon Turn the Wheels /

lower left - gsas khang pad ma

gsas khang pad ma ba bkra gling / lha mo su brgya’i pho brang / btsun mo phya za ‘gu li[ ] ma’i sgrub pa sbyang ba’i […]

The Brilliant Realm of the Lotus Temple / The Palace of a Hundred Goddesses / […] of the Practice and Attainment of the Pure Woman of Fate [‘gu li{ } ma?]

 

The Lower Left Center:

lower center left - FULL

lower center left - bdud ma hrang khagrub pa thob pa stong dang rtsa brgyad bzhugs / shin tu gnyan pa’i gangs yin sgom pa dka’ // bdud ma trang [?] kha chen btul ba’i gnas //

The Dwelling of the One Thousand and Twenty Eight Achieving and Attaining Ones / The Snow is Extremely Fierce, and [there is?] Very Austere Meditation // The Abode of the Taming of the bDud Demon, the Great Trang Kha.

lower center left - charnel ground

sos med khrag mtsho dge stig lam bsgral ba’i dur khrod // sa ‘dul mchod rden // dbal bon khro gtum gdang bkra // dur bya // dur khrod // dur me // bstan pa’i zhing// mkha’ ‘gro // / bdud rgyal stong dur shing // dpal mgon keng chen rag gcod /

The Charnel Ground of Liberation from the Road of Good and Evil, [Called] The Lake of Blood from which there is No Resurrection// Earth Subduing Stupa // A Wrathful and [gdang] Splendid Bon of Fire // Charnel Bird // Charnel Ground // Charnel Fire // The Plane of the Teachings // A Dakini // The Charnel Tree of the Thousand bDud Demon Kings // The Blood-Cutting [?] Glorious Lord, the Great Keng /

lower center left - chu bon ra dza ra la

chu bo na ra dza ra la gru gzings kyis bsgrod pa’i tsul /

The River Na Ra Dza Ra La, the Place Where One Must Travel by Boat /

lower center left - dben gnas shel brag

lower center left - dben gnas shel brag - detail 01

lower center left - dben gnas shel brag - detail 02

dben gnas shel brag gnam skas can /

The Crystal-Cliff Hermitage, which has a Sky Ladder /

lower center left - gsas rje lhos kyi zhing khams

gsas rje hos kyi zhing khams / hos dang ba yi rang gi rgyal sa /

The Realm of the Holy Lord of the Hos / The Royal Land of the Pure Hos /

lower center left - od kyi lha ri

rin chen khrus kyi rdzing bu / dpag bsam shing skyid tsul // ‘od kyi lha ri spo mthon / khams chen po brgyad dang dge bsnyen theg pa gsungs pa’i gnas // a mo li ka’i  rta rgyang grag gcig gis [ ] ba yong /

The Pool where Jewels are Washed / The Happy Realm of the Wish-Granting Tree // The Lofty Summit of the Mountain of the God of Light / The Eight Great Realms and the Realm of the Words of the Vehicle of Those who Approach Virtue / The Horse of A Mo Li Ka which Arrives [ ] over a Distance of One rGyang Grag [~two miles] /

lower center left - phyags gyung trung ba

lower center left - phyags gyung trung ba - detail 01

shar phyogs [?] gyung trung ba gling chen /

The Great Swastika Realm of the Eastern Regions /

lower center left - ri bo sha kya seng ge

ri bo shakya seng ge rtsa ba rgya mtsho gling drug ‘khyil ba’i dbus / mchod rtan bkra shis mang gi gtsos cir yang sprul sku’i mchod rtan brgya dang brgyad / rgyal bu dge ba’i ‘khor lo can la bstan pa rjes su bzhag /

In the Midst of the Six Ocean Realms of the Shakya Lion Mountain Peak / There are Many Auspicious Stupas and Everywhere There are One Hundred and Eight Stupas of Reincarnated Lamas / [?] These Were Placed After the Teachings [by the?] Virtuous Prince who Holds the Wheels /

lower center left - sman la nyams len

sman la nyams len mdzad pa’i dgon pa /

The Monastery of Acting Upon Experience in Medicine /

 

The Lower Central Palace:

lower center palace - FULL

shar phyogs gsas mkhar sham po lha rtse gnas / 
The Realm of the Holy Peak of Sham Po, in the Fortress of the gSas in the Eastern Regions.

lower center palace - mtha' yi rgyal phran

lower center palace - mtha' yi rgyal phran - detail 01

lower center palace - mtha' yi rgyal phran - detail 02

lower center palace - mtha' yi rgyal phran - detail 03

mtha’ yi rgyal phran nams kyis [ ] rigs kyi rgyal sa nas che rtags [?] yig tshang blangs nas phyir pebs pa’i tsul /

The Place where All the Greatest Feudal States Take The Insignia and Documents of their Greatness from the Kingly Realm of [ ], and then Return /

lower center palace - gyung drung dgu brtsegs

lower center palace - gyung drung dgu brtsegs - detail 01

lower center palace - gyung drung dgu brtsegs - detail 02

g.yung drung dgu brtsegs mthong ba’i shar phyogs na rgyal rigs la skad rigs mi gcig pa sum cu yod / grong khyer ‘bum tso brgyad yod / 

In the Eastern Regions there are Thirty Different Languages of Each Royal Line of the Nine Swastika of the Thousand Tiers / There are Ten Thousand and Eight Cities /

lower central palace - rin chen khrus gyi rdzing bu

rin chen khrus kyi rdzing bu /

The Pool of Washing Jewels /

lower central palace - rin chen khrus gyi rdzing bu - detail 02

lower central palace - rin chen khrus gyi rdzing bu - detail 01

chu bo chen po na ra dza ra la zam pa btsugs pa’i tshul /

The Place Where a Bridge Has Been Erected on the Great River Na Ra Dza Ra /

lower center palace - kun bzang rgyal ba

kun bzang rgyal ba rgya mtsho’i sku /

The Oceanic Body of the All-Good King /

 

The Dividing Rings:

The central realm of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring is separated off from the outer realms by five rings of mountains and five rings of water. From the innermost to the outermost, these are the First Ring, the Mountains of Gold (ra ba gcig pa gser gyi ri), the Second Ring, Mountains of Silver (ra ba gnyis pa dngul ri), the Third Ring, the Mountains of Conch Shells (ra ba gsum pa dung gi ri), a fourth ring of red mountains which is not labelled in my pictures at least, and the Fifth Ring, the Mountains of Pearl (ra ba lnga pa mu tig gi ri). Each of these is separated by a lake (mtsho) of the same substance. This regions is marked as “Belonging to the King of the Nagas, Takshaka” (klu rgyal ‘jog pos bdag byed). A few pictures:

ringed rivers 01

ringed rivers 02

ringed rivers 03

 

The Inner Realm:

center sanctum FULL straightened

The inner realm of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring is surrounded by a ring of great palaces and kingly seats. After another ring of water, it becomes a land of stupas, monasteries, and siddhas, rising up in nine tiers to the great world-mountain at the center. A sKor Ra path leading around the mountain can be seen at the base the first tier. Generally speaking though this was all too high up in the dim rafters of the prayer-hall for me to photograph in detail, so I’ve only got a general description.

The mountain is labeled:

g.yung drung dgu brtsegs ri’i rtse mo / srid pa’i gangs ri dkar po / shel dkar gyi mchod rten brtsegs [?] pa’i tshul /

The Female Peak of the Nine Swastika Tiered Mountain / The White Snow Mountain of the Universe / The Land of the Layered Stupa of White Crystal /

From the top it seems that there is a route leading up to a higher paradise, but this was entirely too high to see clearly or photograph.

IMG_5412

 

The ‘Cham

trumpeter

initial procession panorama

As for the ‘Cham itself, it was pretty cool. I’ve attached a few pictures. The order of dances and processions was as follows:

  1. A parade of all of the members of the ‘Cham and monks from the monastery: carrying tall banners and following white chalk marks left on the courtyard floor.
  2. Zhwa Nag brGyad: “Eight Black Hats”
  3. mChod Pai Lha Mo bZhi“Four Offering Goddesses”
  4. Keng Rus bZhi“Four Skeletons”. These came out to bring a heart on a chopping block to the big torma in the center of the ‘Cham. Later on they walked around among the spectators to collect money.
  5. dMu bDud Tang Srid Pa rGyal Mo gNyis“The dMu bDud Demon and the Queen of Existence”
  6. sTag Ri Rong: “The Tiger of Mountains and Valleys” This was by far the most popular god in the ‘cham. The whole monastery went crazy when stag ri rong came out, screaming out the name and going into byin ‘bebs trances.
  7. rMa rGyal Pom Ra: “The King of the Yellow River, Pom Ra”. (Another name for A Mye rMa Chen)
  8. A bSeSo far as I know, this name doesn’t have a meaning.
  9. dMag dPon gNyis“Two War Chiefs”
  10. Shel Khrab Can“The Crystal-Armored One”
  11. Bya Tang Seng Ge gNyis“The Bird and the Lion”
  12. Once again the keng rus “skeletons”
  13. All of the dancers came down together, along with many of the monks: They continued to dance around the courtyard for almost an hour, as many different things took place – the people crowded together to pass under the torma, fireworks were set off, etc., until all the gods and monks were slowly sent back up into the monastery one by one.

019 the mass dance, a bse

gshin rje yab and dmu bdud 02

022 rma chen pom ra tang stag ri rong tang dmu bdudl

Works Cited:

  • Buffetrille, Katia. “Khyung Mo Monastery (A’mDo) and Its ‘Map’ of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring.” East and West 59.1-4 (2009): 313-26. Web.
  • Martin, Dan.
    • “Olmolungring: A Holy Place Here and Beyond.” Bon, The Magic Word: The Indigenous Religion of Tibet. Ed. Samten G. Karmay and Jeff Watt. New York, NY: Rubin Museum of Art, 2007. 99-123. Print.
    • “‘Ol-Mo-Lung-Ring, the Original Holy Place.” Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places in Tibetan Culture: A Collection of Essays. By Toni Huber. Dharamsala, H.P.: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1999. 258-97. Print.
  • Snellgrove, David L. The Nine Ways of Bon. London: Oxford U, 1967. Print.
China Gansu Inner Mongolia Photos Qinghai

A Shout-Out for a Friend

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Above: Our camel, Subutai the Magnificent, resting on the grasslands in the Qilian Mountains

This is super after-the-fact, but I thought I’d put up a link here to my friend Adam Rouhana’s photo site, www.adamrouhana.com. Among other things, this has got pictures from a walking trip we made from Lanzhou-ish to Dunhuang in the summer of 2014, partially in company of an extremely truculent camel that we bought in Alashan. The trip went Jingtai 景泰 – dPa Ris / Tianzhu 天祝 – Wuwei 武威 – Minle 民樂 – Zhangye 張掖 – Alashan Right Banner 阿拉善右旗 – Sunan 肅南 – Qilian 祁連 – Yumen 玉門 – Dunhuang 敦煌. I think Adam’s pictures at their best really get to the austere weirdness of rural west China, whether it’s camel-wrangling in the Gobi desert or the surreal lives of the petite-bourgeoisie in boom-town county-level Communist Gansu. Not many people genuinely attempt to see that world in all it’s weird glory, and in that sense I think these photos are actually something quite rare.

There’s also awesome photos from Morocco, the US, Palestine, and other places. So, you should check it out. Here are some of my favorite China pictures. All photos copyright Adam Rouhana, etc.:

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Click here for more!

Art China Fortresses Hebei Shanxi Yu, Guangling, and Yangyuan

ILLUSTRATING GROOTAERS, or, the Principle Gods of Rural Xuan-Da and their Iconographies, Part 1

[Note that this post has been broken up into four parts; click to jump to part 2, part 3, and part 4.]

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Images from the Xuanhua region in the early 20th century, taken from this blog.

Willem Grootaers (1911-1999) was a reverend father in the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae, a Belgian Catholic missionary organization that operated in East Asia and especially in northern China and Mongolia. Grootaers was posted to Datong in northern Shanxi and spent over ten years there, surviving through the civil war and the Japanese invasion of the ’30s, until he was finally expelled with the rest of the CICM missionaries at the Communist victory in 1951. He was a deeply intellectual man, whose abiding scientific fascination seems to have been the spread and flow of abstract traits across geographic space – beyond the mapping of village cults discussed below, he produced some of the first serious studies of Chinese and especially Japanese dialectology.

In the mid and late-1940s, with the Chinese civil war raging around him, Grootaers set out to produce a series of studies illustrating “the geographical method applied to folklore”. What this meant essentially was that he walked to every single village in three different counties of war-torn northern China and wrote down all of the temples that he could find in each one, noting any inscriptions or other interesting information he could acquire. The surveys were published in several volumes: (1945) Les Temples Villageois de la Region au Sud de Tat’ong (Chansi Nord): Leurs Inscriptions et Leur Histoire”, (1949) “Temples and the History of Wan-Ch’uan 萬全 (South Chahar): The Geographical Method Applied to Folklore”, (1951) “Rural Temples Around Hsuan-Hua (South Chahar), Their Iconography and History”. He also published a survey of the temples of Xuanhua City, “The Sanctuaries of a North-China City: A Complete Survey of the Cultic Buildings in the City of Hsuan-Hua (Chahar)” and a brilliant study of the movement of cultural traits between Chinese villages, “The Hagiography of the Chinese God Chen-Wu: The Transmission of Rural Traditions in Chahar”. These studies represent the most complete survey we have of the religious and cultural monuments of any chunk of the Chinese countryside, anywhere in China, before the Cultural Revolution wiped it all away.

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Grootaers’ survey team in 1948 Xuanhua: Left to right, William A. Grootaers 賀登崧, Li Shiyu 李世瑜, a student named Delinger, and Wang Fushi 王輔世. Image from “Sanctuaries”, p.177.

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Left to right Wang Fushi 王輔世, Willem Grootaers 賀登崧, and Li Shiyu 李世瑜, reunited in Tokyo 1994. Image from “Sanctuaries”, p.235. Grootaers would pass away in his home in Japan five years later.

The villages that Grootaers saw have been changed totally in the last fifty years, and nearly none of the temples that he recorded now exist. That said, there is one place where the physical and religious culture he described can still be seen. Apparently due to a policy difference in building new villages starting from the 1970s, the three counties of Yu 蔚縣, Guangling 廣靈縣, and Yangyuan 陽原縣 have preserved in a somewhat intact state the original pre-Communist form of Xuan-Da villages. I spent nearly a year in 2014 surveying villages in this area, is adjacent to and more or less culturally coterminous with the areas that Grootaers worked in. Below is a map of our respective survey areas, in which my area is marked in ORANGE and Grootaers’ area is marked in BLUE.

Xuan Da Research Areas Map (small letters)

The temples in my research area were heavily impacted by the Cultural Revolution, and have been further decimated by neglect and looting since. I’m not aware of a single religious statue which survives from before the Chinese takeover, but in some cases frescoes have made it through wholly or partially intact. From these I’ve attempted to gather together here examples which can illustrate what Grootaers was talking about. The value of these is that they exist in archaeological situ – that is, with some minor regional variation, they can be securely tied to the cultural assemblage which Grootaers describes.

It’s also my opinion that Grootaers was wrong or at least confused about a bunch of things, and that later scholars haven’t understood him particularly well. To that end I’d like to offer a brief explanatory guide to both the works of Willem Grootaers and to the Xuan-Da villages and temples he was writing about, in the hopes that future scholars using him as a source will google this and find it useful. Those who aren’t interested can just skip down to the pictures.

 

 

 

 

Making Sense of Willem Grootaers:

1) The Villages and their History

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inside the southern barbican of warm-springs fort

The villages surveyed by Willem Grootaers belonged to a specific cultural assemblage which was common to the whole area north of the Taihang Shan 太行山 and Yan Shan 燕山 in northern Shanxi and Hebei provinces. This area is known as Xuan-Da 宣大, referring to the cities of Xuanhua 宣化 and Datong 大同. The rural cultural assemblage was defined first by the existence of fortress walls around each village, and second by a specific package of temples which were built into and associated with these walls. (Unfortunately, Grootaers doesn’t really differentiate which settlements he visited were walled, although it’s clear from his descriptions that almost all of them were.) For all their emphasis on mapping regional variation, Grootaers’ studies clearly demonstrate that the form of these villages and the main religious figures worshiped within them were broadly common to villages across all of the areas he surveyed.

Although particular elements of this culture have existed all across China from antiquity, the cultural assemblage that Grootaers described essentially came into existence in the late fifteenth and the first half of the sixteenth century. This can be demonstrated simply enough by graphing the dates given in Grootaers’ surveys. Although Grootaers doesn’t provide a full range of all collected dates, for each different cult he gives a series of “earliest dates” found in temple epigraphy. These represent the earliest point from which he was able to establish the existence of a particular cult. The below graph represents all of these “rural” dates from the countryside of Datong, Wanquan, and Xuanhua. This omits dates from sites which Grootaers specifically notes were not villages, as well as dates from the small collection of stone dharani pillars found in Datong county. (If you want a detailed methodology, I suppose you can just email me.)

grootaers dates graph

The graph tells a fairly clear story: The religious landscape that Grootaers was describing came into existence basically out of nowhere in the second half of the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth. The reason for this explosion of dates wasn’t clear to Grootaers; my research in Yu County and its surrounds can provide the answer. To make a long story short, it turns out that the villages themselves came into existence in the same period, or at least were destroyed and rebuilt en masse at this time. The below graph represents dates given on village fort gatehouses from my research area, which as we have seen in the map above lay adjacent to Grootaers areas in both the east and the west. These dates represent the year in which that particular walled village was constructed.

fortress dates from yu county

The reader will see that the two graphs match each other almost exactly. Historical records allow us to elaborate. After the Tumu Incident in 1449, the Ming dynasty gradually lost control of its northern borders and suffered repeated and destructive raids from the Mongols. Government policy during this period was to build walls – the present Great Wall system across northern China largely dates from this period. In the rural areas along the frontier, policy encouraged population consolidation and fortification. Even without this government encouragement, yearly Mongol raids made it imperative for villages to take defensive action. The result was the massive reshaping of the rural landscape over the course of roughly eighty years, and the large scale (re-)creation of villages and temples. The change was so complete that, as these graphs indicate, almost nothing remained from before the start of the fortification period.

Further, the religious culture Grootaers described physically could not have existed before the fifteenth century. These temples were built as structural and geomantic elements of the fortress, such that they could not have pre-existed it. Many of the most important cults were associated with the cardinal axis route of the fort (The Perfected Warrior 真武, the Jade Emperor 玉皇 and Avalokiteshvara 觀音), the fortress gate (Wenchang 文昌 and the Kui-Star 魁星), or crossroads within or without the fort (The God of the Five Ways 五道神). Even in cases where the temple habitually sat at some distance from the fort, the precise direction and distance from the walls could be strictly dictated by custom (The Dragon Kings 龍王). If the fortresses did not exist before 1475, then this culture of temple building could not have either, and the concurrence of the two graphs indicates that the fortresses and the temples came into existence hand in hand. Further, the epigraphy of these village temples strongly supports the idea that villagers were actively thinking about the geomantic relationship between temple and fort during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Out of the chaos of the Mongol wars in the mid-Ming, a new religious system was created in the villages of Xuan-Da. (The one important exception to this story is the existence of large Buddhist monasteries, which were often fortified in their own right and seem to have been spared the brunt of the Mongol attacks. These are the only type of structure in rural Xuan-Da which was sometimes able to persist through this period.)

So to summarize here, Grootaers’ temples belong to a very specific village culture which existed in the region along the Sino-Mongol frontier, characterized by fortified settlements and a specific set of gods worshiped in temples that were structurally connected to the fortresses. This culture came into being as result of Mongol raiding and population consolidation schemes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. I would caution the reader on this basis to treat with extreme caution Grootaers’ attempts to push his geographic analysis back beyond the mid-fifteenth century. It’s also worthwhile to note here that this was a culture that tended to think spatially – these temples were intentionally set in particular relationships to the village walls and streets, often in ways that suggest interpretation. We will return to this point when we talk about the composition of the temple frescoes.

2) The Temples and the Gods

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a ruined temple to the three officials outside of a fortress gate

When looking at Grootaers’ numbers it’s crucial to understand that he was not counting temples, he was counting instances of worship of a particular god. Grootaers refers to this as a “cultic unit”. The need for this term arises from the fact that in some cases a god might be worshiped in its own temple, which is known by that name to all of the villagers, and in other cases a god might be found worshiped in a lateral shrine or image in the temple officially devoted to another deity.

The “cultic unit” is actually a very useful and necessary concept, but organizing a survey on this basis also elides some extremely important differentiations. According to this method of counting, all temples are created equal. Massive Buddhist monasteries with recorded histories stretching into the Song or even Tang periods are unceremoniously lumped in with tiny one-room village shrines, simply because the deity worshiped therein is called “Buddha” 佛. Particular deities jump or dive in the ratings because of this. The God of the Five Ways 五道神, a minor deity worshiped at small crossroad shrines, is the second most important god when measured by number of “cultic units”. Meanwhile the Perfected Warrior 真武, who is worshiped on immense towers which loom over the Xuan-Da landscape even today, drops down to the sixth most important god according to this metric.

Nor does this type of tallying explain the spatial or compositional relationships between gods. To give an example, the Jade Emperor  玉皇 takes a place on a tall tower attached to the northern wall of the fort, identical to that of the Perfected Warrior. In rare cases other male gods (for instance the Three Officials 三官) can occupy this tower as well. These towers are nearly always connected with a temple to Avalokiteshvara 觀音 or the Grandmother 奶奶 at the southern end of an axial street which runs through the fort. From this we can deduce that there is a sort of meta-cult: that of a paternal, martial god who watches over the fort from a high northerly tower, axially connected to a maternal, merciful god located at the other end of the village. This particular “meta-cult” or composition of temples, when counted either by total numbers of “cultic units”, by the resources involved in building all of these structures, or by its centrality in organizing the physical space of the village, is undoubtedly the most important expression of Xuan-Da village religion. Nevertheless the reader would have to read Grootaers’ descriptions extremely closely to realize its existence.

All this is not to say that the tallying of “cultic units” isn’t useful and important, but to stress that it cannot be used as the sole or even the main metric of a given cult’s actual importance or function in Xuan-Da society. (Nor, to his credit, did Grootaers ever take it as such.)

With that said, here’s the list of Grootaers’ cults. These are compiled from the combined rural surveys of Wanquan and Xuanhua; at the time of the Datong survey Grootaers had not yet developed the idea of a “cultic unit” and thus does not give such numbers. I’ve attached a brief and extremely unscientific note as to what it seems to me that the cult was “about”; the reader should take these with a grain of salt.

  1. 龍王 The Dragon Kings: 202 units [including the Black Dragon Kings 黑龍王,  the White Dragon Kings 白龍王, the Eight Dragon Kings 八龍王, and the Dragon Kings of Wells and Springs 井泉龍王] – Granting rain, regulation of the weather, successful harvests. 
  2. 五道神 The God of the Five Ways: 197 units – Guarding travelers, guiding the souls of the dead to the underworld, the registry of events in the lives of people. 
  3. 觀音 Avalokiteshvara: 155 units – Maternal compassion, Buddhist miracle working and succor to those in need. 
  4. 馬王 The Horse King: 113 units – Care of horses, mules, and other livestock.
  5. 關公 Lord Guan: 107 units – Association with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and related folk traditions, embodiment of values such as martial strength, loyalty, etc.
  6. 真武 The Perfected Warrior: 104 units [including the Southern Perfected Warrior 南真武] – Father figure who watches over the fort from a high tower, guardian of the northern frontier against Mongol attack, center of a complex series of hagiographic tales.
  7. 河神 The River God: 72 units – Presumably regulation of irrigation and floods, although I’m not certain. Possibly synonymous with the cult of Erlang 二郎, a popular god in southern China who was known for great irrigation works.
  8. 三官 The Three Officials: 70 units – Bureaucratic Daoist deities who governed Heaven, Earth, and Water.
  9. 佛 The Buddha: 59 units – In some ways the center of two practices. In some cases the Buddha is simply another village “pusa” 菩薩 to whom incense is lit, and in other cases he is worshiped with the whole monastic and philosophical apparatus of the Buddhist religion.
  10. 胡神 The Barbarian God: 59 units – Unclear, but connected in some way with the bringing of rain and to the cult of the Dragon Kings.
  11. 文昌 Wenchang: 32 units – Ostensibly the god of Literature, although in practice this cult seems to be tied to that of the Kui-Star and be a god specifically associated with village gates. 
  12. 奶奶 The Grandmother: 27 units – The granting of children, mothership. This cult has been con-fused with that of Avalokiteshvara and also with the wives of the Jade Emperor, the Daoist deities referred to as the Empresses 娘娘.
  13. 玉皇 The Jade Emperor: 27 units – The Jade Emperor is ostensibly the head of all of the gods in the bureaucracy of heaven. In practice his cult is similar to that of the Perfected Warrior; a martial, paternal figure who sits on a tower overlooking the village.
  14. 魁星 The Kui Star: 20 units – Ostensibly astrology, in practice a sort of demon tied to the worship of Wenchang and set atop fortress gates.
  15. 地藏 Ksitigarbha: 20 units – The judgement of souls after death and the successful passage of the dead through the underworld, associated with the worship of the Ten Yamas 十閻王.
  16. 土地神 The God of the Soil: 19 units – A small god of specific localities.
  17. 大仙 The Great Saint: 17 units – According to Grootaers, the worship of fox spirits. 
  18. 火神 The Fire God: 16 units – Regulation of fire.
  19. 財神 The God of Wealth: 14 units – Accumulation of wealth. 
  20. 普明佛 The General-Enlightenment Buddha: 14 units – A recent (in Grootaers’ time) cult which involved the millenarian belief that a particular man named Li Bin 李賓 was the incarnation of Maitreya. 
  21. 玄壇 The Dark Altar: 13 units – According to Grootaers, protection against hail storms. 
  22. 蟲王 The King of Vermin: 13 units – Protection against vermin.
  23. 靈官 The Spiritual Official: 13 units – Protection against malicious geomantic influences.
  24. 彌勒佛 Maitreya: 11 units – The end of the world, and also being fat and happy, I’m not sure which variant.
  25. 山神 The Mountain Gods: 11 units – Mountains, and also the return of livestock lost there. 
  26. 三郎 The Three Youths / Sanlang: 9 units – Unclear. According to Grootaers, bringing rain, the cult of Yellow-Sheep Mountain 黃羊山, and a connection to secret societies. 
  27. 三皇 The Three Emperors: 7 units – According to Grootaers, this actually represents a confusion of two separate cults, one to the Holy Farmer 神農, Fu Xi 伏羲, and the Yellow Emperor 黃帝, and a second to the Emperor of Heaven 天皇, the Emperor of Earth 地皇, and the Emperor of Men 人皇
  28. 城隍神 The God of Walls and Moats: 7 units – A god of administratively designated cities, who holds a position in the heavenly bureaucracy analogous to that of the country magistrate on earth. Also involved in the judgement of souls after death. 
  29. 灶王 The King of the Hearth: 5 units – A hearth spirit which reports the doings of the household to the Jade Emperor, and therefore must be placated. 
  30. 達摩 Bodhidharma: 5 units – The original patriarch of Zen Buddhism in China, and the center of many legends.
  31. 三教 The Three Teachings: 4 units – Ecumenical respect for the Buddha, Confucius, and Laozi. 
  32. 韋馱 Weituo: 4 units – Guards the Dharma and Buddhist temples.
  33. 瘟神 The God of Disease: 3 units – Protects against disease. 
  34. 五穀 The Five Grains: 3 units – The god of cereals. 
  35. 三清 The Three Purities: 3 units – A trinity of philosophical Daoist deities. 
  36. 三星 The Three Stars: 2 units – The three stars are 福祿壽 “Happiness, Advancement, and Longevity”.
  37. 青苗 Green Shoots: 2 units – Apparently a harvest god.
  38. 眼光 Eye-Glow: 2 units – A Daoist goddess, according to Grootaers, worshiped in rural areas as a goddess of eyesight. 
  39. 黍神 The God of Millet: 1 unit – A harvest god.
  40. 倉官 The Granary Official: 1 unit – The god of granaries, and thus of plentiful food. 
  41. 牛王 The Ox King: 1 unit – Uncertain, possibly has some kind of tantric function due to his appearance and his association with the rite of the Great Feast of Water and Land. It’s not clear to me that this is even the correct name for the god Grootaers describes.
  42. 喜神 The God of Happiness: 1 unit – No idea, other than the name.
  43. 酒神 The God of Wine: 1 unit – No idea, other than the name.
  44. 老子 Laozi: 1 unit – The legendary founder of the Daoist religion. 
  45. 風神 The God of Wind: 1 unit – No idea, other than the name. 
  46. 北嶽 The Northern Peak: 1 unit – The worship of Mount Heng, located nearby in Shanxi province. 
  47. 譚公 Lord Tan: 1 unit – Lord Tan was a local hero who fought the Mongols in the early Ming. 

The reader will appreciate from this list that while a great number of gods might be worshiped, there was a small set which were obligatory and present in nearly every village. (Further, it could be pointed out that some gods were associated with the fort, while other gods were obligatory for the village, whether it consisted of one large fort or several smaller ones in close conurbation.) In any case, broadly speaking the sine qua non of village temples might be listed as the Dragon Kings, the Perfected Warrior, Avalokiteshvara, Lord Guan, and then a small shrine to the God of the Five Ways. Add to this an elective selection of a few more deities depending on means and inclination, and the village’s religious equipment is complete.

3) The Frescoes and their Compositions:

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dragon king composition example

As noted above, rural Xuan-Da was a society which often expressed meaning through the composition of space. This was the case with the placement of temples around the village as it was with the interior accoutrement of the shrine rooms. Each temple was generally a square room with an altar on the main wall or stretching around on three walls. The walls would ideally be covered in frescoes, although some villages might have been too poor to afford this. In some cases statues would be set atop the altar with the frescoes as background, in other cases the room was devoid of statues and the images on the walls were the main object of devotion.

No religious statuary has survived the Cultural Revolution in my area, although many examples have been re-built more or less in traditional style. I also don’t have anything in particular to add to Grootaers’ comments on this subject, and so I won’t deal with the statues here. Rather, I will attempt here to define a general typology of Xuan-Da village temple frescoes. Of course there will be many exceptional cases. This typology will also need to be divided into those images found on the rear (ie. central 正) wall of the temple, upon which there is essentially only one composition, and those images found on the two lateral 側 walls of the temple, in which case we may define up to five different compositions.

We will begin with the rear wall of the temple, which faces the viewer directly as he enters:

The Front Court:

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All of the rear temple walls contain essentially the same scene: the main god holds court facing the viewer. To his left and right stand civilian 文 and martial 武 attendants, palace ladies, generals, fan-and banner-bearers, and other supernatural flunkies as appropriate. The analogy to an imperial court is made clear by the throne upon which the main god sits and the hu 笏 (note-taking boards) held by the attending figures. In this case the human worshiper takes the spatial role of the supplicant approaching a king or magistrate in a palace or yamen hall. The statues which would have been commonly placed on the central altar and potentially the two lateral altars as well would only have accentuated the simile. 

We may point to one exceptional fresco on a lateral wall of a Temple to the Perfected Warrior 真武廟 which literally depicts this scene. In this case a supplicant has entered into the Palace of the Northern Polestar 北極宮, which is depicted as half-palace, half-fortress, and thrown himself upon the steps of the dais upon which the Perfected Warrior sits. Surrounding them in the court are the same collection of Primordial Generals 元帥 and palace ladies who surround the god in his depictions on the rear temple walls. (It should be noted here that the below fresco is in some sense an exception that proves a rule – it does not fall into any of our set categories below.)

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A clear visual simile is being made of the rear wall of the temple as court, the god as emperor, magistrate or judge, and the worshiper as supplicant. We may also point out that the Perfected Warrior’s domain is depicted as being part fortress, and thus synonymous with the village itself. 

With respect to the compositions of the lateral walls flanking the rear one, we may define five different compositions. Of these the final two are somewhat conditional. These are numbered in rough order of commonality:

1) The Procession, or, The Pursuit of the Evil Ones: 

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Grootaers uses the latter name, I prefer the former; anyway the two interpretations are not mutually exclusive. In this case the gods are seen to ride out along right-hand wall of the temple and ride back along the left-hand wall, usually accompanied by their many attendants, generals, warriors, mounts, etc. Grootaers states that peasants in his areas identified this to him as 拿八怪 “catching the eight monsters”, and indeed in some cases these monsters are visible being led back in chains. 

I would, however, point out that the object of the expedition is not always the capture of demons. In the case of the Dragon Kings it can be clearly seen that the gods are involved in dispensing water on the world below, and no demons are to be seen. Another important aspect of these drawings which Grootaers does not note (although it can be seen in his photographs) are the small images of common people going about their business beneath the main scene of the gods riding around in the sky. In many cases these scenes culminate with a religious procession arriving at a recursive drawing of the very temple in which the frescoes are housed. 

To me it seems that these drawings might be better understood as depicting a homology between the gods’ motions across the heavens and the motions of their devotees on earth. (The fact that the gods move clockwise around the space of the shrine room inevitably suggests the Tibetan practice of sKor Ra or circumambulation.) I myself have attended temple festivals in Yu County in which the entire village, led by a Daoist priest, processes with banners and instruments through the space of the fort, visiting each temple in turn. This scene is immediately familiar from the frescoes in the temples. The below images are dated to 1709, and depict a religious procession arriving at a Dragon King temple, which is accurately depicted down to the ancient pine tree 松樹 outside. The last scene was witnessed by the author in the village of Northern Gate 北門子村, during a temple fair in the summer of 2014:

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temple process 002

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For these reasons I’ve chosen to refer to this composition as “The Procession”, over Grootaers term “The Pursuit of the Evil Ones”. The procession in question can refer both to the procession of the gods across the temple walls and to the earthly processions which reflect this celestial motion. This seems like a useful and interesting analytical standpoint from which to understand these images. In any case this is probably the most common composition in Xuan-Da: it is found almost universally in temple to the Dragon Kings 龍王 and less frequently in those of the God of the Five Ways 五道神, the Three Officials 三官, the Grandmother 奶奶, and others. 

2) The Panel Series:

laoye miao lefthand wall full

The Panel Series is as described, a long sequence of “comic book” style images which either tell a story or visually portray a list. Grootaers refers to this as “illustrated biographies”; I would point out that while hagiographic content does predominate with these drawings, it is far from the only topic that can be portrayed this way, and some of these series are not even narratives. In some cases the content of the drawings is identified by small cartouches; in other case the viewer is assumed to know the story already or be able to understand it from the image. Grootaers produced an excellent study of the transmission of this type of paneled hagiography in “The Hagiography of the Chinese God Chen-Wu: The Transmission of Rural Traditions in Chahar”.

I have seen Panel Series in Yu County depicting the following topics: the hagiography of the Perfected Warrior; events in the life of Guan Yu, drawn from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms; the hagiography of Sakyamuni Buddha, drawn from various sources; scenes of Avalokiteshvara working miracles, in all cases that I’ve seen drawn from the Universal Gateway 普門 section of the Lotus Sutra; scenes from the Fifty Three Stations of Sudhana 善財童子五十三參 of the Entering the Dharma Realm 入佛界品 section of the Flower Garland Sutra; scenes of the “Hundred Trades” 百工, depicting various professions. These are the common topics in Yu County at least, and they seem to match well enough what Grootaers describes. I’ve also seen isolated examples of a few others: “The Old Gentleman’s Eighty One Transformations” 老君八十一化圖, a Daoist hagiography of Laozi; one heavily damaged set apparently to do with Wenchang 文昌 the god of literature. Grootaers mentions a few other examples of Panel Series; no doubt before the Cultural Revolution many more topics existed.

3) The Martial Array:

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The Martial Array is in some ways simply a continuation of the images from the rear wall “Court” onto the two lateral walls. In all cases that I’ve seen this involves the retinue of some martial god, namely the Perfected Warrior 真武 or the Jade Emperor 玉皇. In this case the “Primordial Generals” 元帥 line both lateral walls, standing in a row facing the viewer, all striking martial poses. The effect is to accentuate the metaphor of the court on the rear wall and cause it to flank the worshiper on either side, with the added suggestion of a military drill. 

It’s also worth noting that even in temples which do not have this type of frescoes, the effect would frequently be replicated by the statues set on altar-tops along all three walls. This was the case in many temples dedicated to the Perfected Warrior, in which the Panel Series hagiographies simply provided background to a Martial Array of statues. So far as I know no intact pre-Revolution examples of this survive in Xuan-Da now, but Grootaers describes the scene, and I have seen analogous ones rebuilt since. 

4) The Judgement of Souls:

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This is some sense not truly a composition but more of a topic, which can be portrayed in a variety of ways. Nevertheless the format of some of these images matches none of the other tropes and so it must be included here. In this case the presiding god sits at a table surrounded by lackeys and yamen runners and judges the cases of souls brought before him. Underneath or on the flanking walls, we see scenes of the torture of souls. Grootaers notes that this scene is commonly found in temples dedicated to Ksitigarbha 地藏, and more occasionally in temples dedicated to the God of Walls and Moats 城隍神, the God of the Five Ways 五道神, the Three Officials 三官, and others.

5) The Feast of Water and Land:

taken from 故城寺壁畫, 16-17

[image from “Gucheng Monastery Frescoes” 故城寺壁畫]

Like the previous example, this both a composition and a topic. The argument could be made that the composition is some kind of very great elaboration and combination of the Panel Series and Procession themes. Images of the Feast of Water and Land are also found almost solely in large Buddhist monastic halls, in which the space is large enough that the statues can be set in the center of the room and all four walls be given to frescoes. In this sense it’s not truly a composition native to village shrines. Nevertheless it was an extremely popular theme in north Chinese Buddhist art (I’m aware of four examples in Yu County alone, and there were undoubtedly more before the Cultural Revolution), and the scene would certainly have been familiar to all villagers. The theme dates back to at least the Yuan Dynasty in Xuan-Da, and thus pre-dates the creation of most of the villages that concern us here. 

The image is that of a ritual titled, “The Great Feast of All on Water and Land” 水陸大齋. In this ritual a priest enumerates the names of the entire canon of Buddhist and Daoist gods and ghosts, in order that they descend to receive an offering and in the process be converted by the reading of scriptures. To this end, we see all of the luminaries of the heavens, earth and seas processing clockwise around the interior of the temple, often bearing long banners that identify each group. The cast is markedly textual, in that the members of the procession seem to have been drawn from some canonical list and many of the common deities worshiped in village shrines are not to be found. I have discussed this trope at length in previous posts

A few last comments can be made about the analytical use of this categorization. Gods can be depicted as doing something, (the Procession, the Judgement of Souls); as being associated with a particular story or list (the Panel Series); or as being positioned in a particular way (the Court, and especially its extension, the Martial Array). Generally speaking, the form of the depiction follows the function of the cult. The Dragon Kings do something; each year they either do or do not ride out to dispense rain, and so they are universally depicted via the Procession. Lord Guan is important because of a story, and the values associated with that story; he is universally depicted via the Panel Series narrating this story. The Perfected Warrior is important because of his position, the high tower from which he projects his axial, paternal, martial power; therefore he commonly has a Martial Array depicted either in frescoes or in statues.

And so, having got all this background down on paper, let us turn to the frescoes themselves.

Continued in Part Two, below:

Art China Fortresses Hebei Translation Yu, Guangling, and Yangyuan

ILLUSTRATING GROOTAERS, or, the Principal Gods of Rural Xuan-Da and their Iconographies, Part 2

Continued from Part 1:

1) THE DRAGON KINGS  龍王 – 201 Units:

dragon king temple

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Temples to the Dragon Kings are most numerous in all of Xuan-Da, and therefore I have the most and the best preserved examples from this type of temple. In Yu County, these temples universally sit outside the village walls and at some distance. The direction of the temple with respect to the fort was governed by geomantic custom, to the extent that Grootaers was in some areas able to map the boundaries of particular cultural regions as defined by the angle to the fort at which the Dragon King temple sat. The Dragon Kings were aquatic deities, and hence in semi-arid Xuan-Da, their cult was mainly involved with the regulation of rain, and with rituals to that effect.

The images below come from a temple originally built in 1566, and then renovated again in 1709. The frescoes inside date from this later reconstruction, in which the name of the artist is given as Cui Wenxin 崔文新.

“(a) The back wall: It has the image of a female divinity, properly called Shui-mu 水母, “Mother of the Water,” by whose sides stand, first, some male Lung-wang, “Dragon kings,” secondly, the gods of Thunder and Lightning, having human shapes but with the beaked face of a bird of prey; finally, behind the main image is a numerous retinue of heavenly spirits, among them the spirits of Hours, Days, Months, and Years.

Whenever the temple is big enough, the western and eastern thirds of the central wall have frescoes of quite distinct gods, namely, of those who in still larger villages would have a separate sanctuary.”

Wan-Ch’uan, p.228

I’m not certain which the lateral gods are in this spread; they don’t seem to be the ones Grootaers suggests are most common.

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Below are the “Four Officials of the Amounts” 四值功曹, who regulate the lengths of hours, days, months, and years, and thus presumably the timely passage of the seasons with their rains and harvests.

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Who this colorful fellow is I’m not sure.

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“(b) The lateral walls of the Lung-wang temple: The theme of both lateral walls of the Lung-wang temples is “The Pursuit of the Evil Ones”, as described in chapter 2, Wu-tao temples. Only temples too poor for elaborate frescoes have nothing on their walls; 56 Lung-wang temples have those frescoes, more than half of the total number (see map 1). A few peculiarities of this kind of fresco as represented in this type of temple ought to be noted: the “Mother of Waters” does not herself participate in the expedition but is shown seated under the archway of her palace Shui-ching kung 水晶宮, the “Crystal Palace”, surrounded by her female attendants; she either greets the leaving expedition (eastern wall) or welcomes it back (western wall). The members of the expedition are very numerous; they ride on dragons when going out (eastern wall), and on horseback when returning (western wall). The upper parts of the fresco show the heavenly spirits putting in action their instruments: the Thunder spirit rolling his thunder machine, the Rainbow spirit pouring a rainbow out of his urn, and so on. In the foreground of the Crystal Palace, two small figures are standing apart from the others, wishing godspeed to the expedition or making the ceremonial salute with both hands to welcome it back: they are the Wu-tao god and the Earth god (T’u-ti); at their sides stand the tiger and the wolf, which we find in the Wu-tao temple as companions of the two gods. In the upper right-hand corner of the western wall fresco a huge hand is thrust out of the clouds, to which a small figure on horseback presents a yellow scroll. This is the Yu piao 雨表 or “Report to Heaven on the Rain” (see photograph 11).”

Wan-chuan, p.229-230

The eastern lateral wall of the temple, in which the procession rides out from the Crystal Palace. Note the small figures of farmers and traders going about their business beneath the clouds.

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A great flood bearing down from the upper left corner of the scene, bearing a red sun. Daoist depictions of the creation of the world tend to bear the image of red suns rising from water, although I’m not sure what the significance is.

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The Crystal Palace, with the Mother of Waters seeing off the procession.

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On the way out, the riders are human and the mounts are dragons.

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The central figure of each side of the composition is a palanquin being carried by draconic bearers. The occupant of the palanquin is always invisible behind the drapes. Grootaers states (Hsuan-hua, p.35) that in some of his areas the Mother of Waters remained within the palace, and in other areas she was visible sitting in the palanquin. In this case, it seems that the painter chose a compromise by depicting her in the palace and then hiding the palanquin’s precise occupant.

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A thunder-drummer.

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Meteorological scalies pour down rain.

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Another thunder-cymbalist.

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The western lateral wall of the temple, in which the procession returns to the Crystal Palace. On this side of the composition, the dragons have changed into horses.

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This is the fellow who leads the palanquin.

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The thunder-drummer from the western wall, having packed up his drums after the storm and carrying them back to the Crystal Palace.

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The image of the Rain Report being presented to heaven in the upper right corner of the composition is the counterpart to the red sun being borne upon a flood on the opposite wall. This hint of a higher deity elicits some excitement from Grootaers:

“In the upper right hand corner of the western wall, a huge hand is thrust out of the clouds, to which a small figure on horseback presents a yellow scroll. This is the yupiao 雨表 Report to Heaven on the Rain. (fig. 15, top center, fig. 44, top left.) […]

There is a final personage whose importance must be stressed. If we ask ourselves to whom the “Rain Report” is destined, we see it must be a god higher placed than the Dragon Kings themselves. In the general description above, we found how a huge hand comes out of the clouds to receive the report. In fact more often than not, a moon-gate is painted in the upper corner of the western wall; this gate is called nan-t’ien-men 南天門 which could mean as well “Gate of the Southern Heaven” as “Southern Gate of Heaven”; the latter is more probable. We found a couple of times this name inscribed on the gate, as f.i. at DV 95. In some cases, all in the Liu-Ho plain (Dv 87, 95, 98, 122b, 125b, 125d), the hand of the unknown god is thrust through the half open gate, instead of through the clouds. But in most cases, a young being stands in front of the gate (fig. 44, top left), clothed in a checkered dress, with white and black squares; this dress is called ba-gua-i 八卦衣 “the dress of the eight hexagrams.” This youth standing in the southern gate of heaven sometimes sends a rainbow from his hands. As a corresponding feature on the opposite wall, in these cases where the Mother of Water joins the expedition, no Palace of Crystal is shown. Its place is taken by a youthful person (the same as in the Nan-t’ien-men?) from whose hand pour forth the clouds on which the expedition rides out. This is clearly shown in fig. 16. […]

The supreme god who lives behind this door is shown twice on the frescoes of the Lung-wang temples, at Dv 122b and Dv 125d; his head only peeps through the nan-t’ien-men. He wears a round cap with a semispheric ornaments jutting out above the ears; he has a small round beard in the center of the chin and a drooping moustache. No such god was noted elsewhere in our survey.”

– Rural Temples, p. 35-36

I don’t have any pictures of the South Gate of Heaven or the deity of heaven. In Yu County, these figures are represented by the giant hand reaching down from a flood to receive the report. Here they are:

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Below are the God of the Soil 土地神 and the God of the Mountains 山神. Grootaers describes these as welcoming the expedition back at the Crystal Palace. In this temple this is not quite so; in fact they stand in the lower, “human” part of the image, behind a recursive image of the temple itself, welcoming the human participants of a religious procession which has arrived with music and offerings. I’ve not put up pictures of that procession here, since Grootaers doesn’t mention it and it’s interesting enough to deserve a full post of its own.

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Here is the full set of photos from this temple:

Here’s a second set, from a different temple in a similar style, undated.

 


 

2) THE GOD OF THE FIVE WAYS 五道神 – 197 Units:

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The relative importance of this cult can be overstated by the numbers of temples devoted to it. Unlike the other cults, all of the temples devoted to the God of the Five Ways are extremely small, being simple shrines set at crossroads, often no more than waist height. Despite its popularity, the precise purpose of this cult seems a little obscure. Grootaers points out two uses of the temples which might explain the iconography:

“In everyday life, the Wu-tao temple is used for the announcements which in a modern state are made at the registrar’s office: births, marriages, and especially deaths are called out loudly by the head of the family in front of the Wu-tao temple.

Another role still may be ascribed to this cult, i.e., that of the protector of the roads and of the people walking on them. This is implied by the name itself of the main god, Wu tao, “Five Roads”; this is even more clearly expressed by the vertical inscriptions referring to the person of the god; we have a great number of such inscriptions; here follows one typical example:

身披金甲遊五路
手執寶劍巡四方
The body covered in golden armour, he wanders on all the roads;
The hand holding the precious sword, he patrols all the directions.”

Wanch’uan, p.238

These observations on the function of this cult are corroborated by Sidney Gamble in Ding County of southern Hebei. In this county, deaths in the family were reported with incense and paper money at the Temple of the Five Ways. Importantly, in the absence of such a temple nearby, the same announcement could just be made at the nearest crossroads. (Gamble, p.387)

With respect to interiors of the temples, it’s noted that the God of the Five Ways (wu-dao) is not always the central god worshiped in the Temples of the Five Ways (wu-dao miao). That said, there is more or less a set iconography:

“(a) The images of the northern wall: The main images (see photographs 4 and 5) are: In the center, the Wu-tao shen, “God of the Five (viz. all) Roads,” a benign, white-faced and black-bearded personage (most often having a three-pronged beard), wearing a military cap and a red coat under an armour, and holding a sword; in the east, the Shan-shen  山神, “God of the Mountain,” a fierce, blue- or black-bearded person, wearing a military cap and a blue-black coat under an armour, holding a sword or a whip; in the west, the T’u-ti shen 土地神, “God of the Earth,” a smiling, white-faced and white-bearded person, dressed like a scholar, with a yellow robe, holding a fan or simply having his hands in his sleeves.”

Wanch’uan, p.234

In total honesty, the inhabitants of the village in question identified the below temple as a being to the Three Officials 三官, not to the Five Ways 五道. However, it’s fairly clear from the iconography that this is a mis-attribution. It’s also the only surviving example that I’m aware of, so it’s worth putting up:

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“Finally, in front of the main images, two animals, a tiger and a wolf, are attached with iron chains to a stone pillar or a rock; the tiger is normally found in the east, and the wolf in the west. Their role will become clear when we describe the lateral frescoes.”

Wanch’uan, p.235

Here are the tiger and wolf, with a little statue of what I think is The Great Scholar of the Face 面然大士 or the King of Demons 鬼王.

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“(b) The frescoes on the lateral walls: […] A narrow strip of territory in the west [of Wanquan County] has one theme that we may call “The Judgement of Souls”, whereas the whole region has another theme, found uniformly everywhere, viz., “The Pursuit of the Evil Ones”.

“The Judgement of Souls” represents Ch’eng-huang 城隍, the god of the city walls (on the eastern wall), and Yen-wang 閻王, the god of Hell (on the western wall), both sitting in judgement on the souls brought to them. The first step in the judgment is the torture of the souls before Ch’eng-huang – whether as a punishment or for extracting the truth is not clear. Subsequently they pass before Yen-wang, where the souls of the just are led across a bridge over Hell’s fire.

“The Pursuit of the Evil Ones” is a very important theme in the local iconography and with some variations is found in several types of temples (see Introduction, 4.). In the Wu-tao temples, this type of fresco pictures the three main gods of the temple (Wu-tao, Shan-shen, and T’u-ti) on horseback. On the eastern wall, we see them start on a punitive expedition with a great display of wrath; they are led by the Devil and the Judge (the two auxiliary figures in front of the main wall) and accompanied by the Tiger and the Wolf. They pursue evil spirits 捉妖, or, as local people say sometimes, na pa kuai 拿八怪, “catch the eight monsters”. These monsters – there are seldom eight of them on the walls – represent the powers of evil who lead people to sin and hell; one at least has always the head of a chicken, another that of a hare (both symbols of homosexuality), sometimes serpents are amongst them.

The western wall of the temple pictures the returning expedition, the three main gods cantering back in an orderly row, bearing a satisfied expression. The Tiger and Wolf carry between their teeth some of the vanquished foes, the Devil and the Judge lead a chained procession of captives (see photographs 4 and 5).”

Wanch’uan, p.236

The left wall, in which the procession rides out.

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The right wall, in which it returns.

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Some details of the riders and their attendants:

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The capture of the monsters:

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3) AVALOKITESHVARA / GUANYIN 觀音 – 155 Units:

A gatehouse and a small temple

guanyin miao front flags

wushisancan panorama

In both Grootaers’ areas and in Yu County, temples to Avalokiteshvara are commonly found at the southern end of the fort, facing in (north), either outside the main gate or on top of it. The cult is in some cases confused with that of the Grandmother 奶奶, another female deity associated with mercy and the bearing of children. Grootaers says of the iconography:

“The Kuan-yin temple has almost everywhere the same interior decoration. On a central throne, made of a lotus flower, sits Kuan-yin, in the feminine shape found often in Buddhist iconography. The image has here always a bonnet made of cloth and a great mantle hanging from the shoulders. The lotus throne sometimes rests on the back of a red horse. It is only in a few cases that the Kuan-yin image is a fresco painted on the central wall.

In about fifteen Kuan-yin temples, irregularly scattered over the area, Kuan-yin has her two associates, Manjushri 文殊 and Samantabhadra 普雨 [sic], whose names are unknown to the people; those images are also sitting on lotus thrones, one resting on top of an elephant (western image), the other on top of a green lion (eastern image). This type of triple image was never found in painting. […]

The ceiling of the Kuan-yin temple disappears sometimes under a canopy of clouds, from which a multitude of heavenly spirits look down; among them and nearest to the main images, we find often the dove-like bird with a rosary in its bill that is a common companion of Kuan-yin.”

Wan-chuan, p.242-3

guanyin miao front

With respect to the lateral walls:

“On both sides of the temple, the 18 Arhat or Lo-han 羅漢 are disposed in two rows, either as images standing on the floor or as painted frescoes. Behind or above the Lo-hans a row of panels on the wall represents miracles wrought by Kuan-yin in favor of the people who invoke her: a drowning man is shown rescued out of the water by the hand of Kuan-yin thrust from the clouds; robbers attacking a traveler are driven off by her, and so on; the number of miracles represented is ordinarily 12 or 8, divided on the two walls.”

Wanch’uan, p.243

I have one partial example of the Eighteen Arhats; since this was found within a large multi-hall monastery 寺 I have put it in that section beneath, since Grootaers mentioned it was also occasionally found in that context in his areas. In both of the two cases where I have paneled images of miracle working, the source of the text is the Universal Gateway 普門品 section of the Lotus Sutra. I’ve already translated the best-surviving and most artistically attractive example in a previous post. The other intact example is translated below. The panels come from the heavily damaged temple building pictured below, in which the space was originally divided into two separate shrines, one to Lord Guan and the other to Avalokiteshvara. The text seems taken more or less at random from the sutra, so I’m not sure of the order.

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若三千大千國土滿中夜叉羅剎,欲來惱人,聞其稱觀世音菩薩名者,是諸惡鬼尚不能以惡眼視之,況復加害?
Or if three thousand great-thousand realms of Yakshas and Rakshasas wish to come and beset a person, if he calls out the name of Hears-the-Sounds, these evil demons will not even be able to turn their evil eyes upon that person, let alone do him harm.

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[Cartouche illegible; I’m guessing from the picture it’s probably this, or another passage like it:]

設復有人,若有罪、若無罪,杻械、枷鎖檢繫其身,稱觀世音菩薩名者,皆悉斷壞,即得解脫。
Or else if there is a person, whether he is innocent or guilty, if he has been put in chains or in the cangue, if he calls out the name of Hears-the-Sounds, then his restrains will be broken, and he will attain release.

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若為大水所漂,稱其名號,即得淺處。
Or if you are floating upon a great water, cry out this name, and you will arrive at a dry place.

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[Cartouche illegible, I’m assuming from the picture it’s the following]

若有持是觀世音菩薩名者,設入大火,火不能燒
If you rely upon the name of Hears-the-Sounds, if you are thrown into a great fire, this fire will not be able to burn you.

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雲雷鼓掣電  降雹澍大雨  念彼觀音力  應時得消散
Amids clouds and the rumble of thunder and striking of lighting, as hail falls and a great rain pours down – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and in response right at that moment the clouds will all vanish and clear away.

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或在須彌峰  為人所推墮  念彼觀音力  如日虛空住
Or if upon the peak of Sumeru, you are pushed off by someone and fall – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you will travel as the sun across the emptiness. 

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蚖蛇及蝮蝎  氣毒煙火然  念彼觀音力  尋聲自迴去
If you meet with vipers and scorpions, with evil vapors, smoke and fire – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and immediately hearing the sound they will flee back from where they came.

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或被惡人逐  墮落金剛山  念彼觀音力  不能損一毛
Or if you are thrust by someone evil, and fall from the Vajra Mountain – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you cannot be diminished even by a single hair. 

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或遇惡羅剎  毒龍諸鬼等  念彼觀音力  時悉不敢害
Or if you meet an evil yaksha, or a poisonous dragon or any other demon – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and at all times they will not dare harm you. 

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若惡獸圍繞  利牙爪可怖  念彼觀音力  疾走無邊方
If you are encircled by evil beasts, with sharp teeth and claws so fearsome – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you will be able to rapidly flee without any obstructions.

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[Cartouche illegible, I’m guessing the text might be this section, but maybe not:]

應以童男、童女身得度者,即現童男、童女身而為說法,應以天、龍、夜叉、乾闥婆、阿修羅、迦樓羅、緊那羅、摩 [目+侯] 羅伽、人非人等身得度者,即皆現之而為說法
For those who might be saved by a boy-child or a girl child, she will appear in the body of a boy-child or a girl-child and speak the Law. For those who might be saved by a heavenly being, a dragon, a yaksha, a gandharva, an asura, a garuda, a kinnara, a mahoraga, whether in human or in non-human form, she will appear in that shape and speak the Law.

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應以執金剛神得度者,即現執金剛神而為說法。
For those who might be saved by a spirit bearing a golden vajra, she will appear as a spirit bearing a golden vajra and speak the Law.

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即時,觀世音菩薩愍諸四眾及於天、龍、人非人等,受其瓔珞;分作二分,一分奉釋迦牟尼佛,一分奉多寶佛塔。
And at that time, Hears-the-Sounds pitied the four assemblies as well as the beings of heaven, the dragons, people and non people, and received the necklace [from Limitless-Intentions]. He divided it into two, offering one part to the Buddha Sakyamuni, and the other to the Buddha-stupa of manifold treasures. 

guanyin panel 14

我為汝略說  聞名及見身  心念不空過  能滅諸有苦
假使興害意  推落大火坑  念彼觀音力  火坑變成池
I will explain it to you: if you hear her name or see her form,
if you think of her without idleness, then she can extinguish all suffering.
If a person has intent to harm you, and pushes you into a pit of fire,
Think only of the power of Hears-the-Sounds, and the pit of fire will become as a pool of water.

Grootaers says that in his areas, the main fresco subjects within temples to Avalokiteshvara were the figures of the Arhats and this miracle-working text of the Universal Gateway. As mentioned above, the Arhats are not in evidence in the surviving temples of Yu County (although they probably existed before the Cultural Revolution as statues along the altar-top). Further, a third iconographic topic, not mentioned by Grootaers, is common: the Fifty Three Stations of Sudhana 善財童子五十三參 from the “Entering the Buddha Realm” 入佛界品 section of the Gandavyuha Sutra. I’ve seen two or three examples of this, although unfortunately I neglected to completely photograph any of them. In any case the images are fairly repetitive: Sudhana, a small boy dressed in red, worships and studies at the feet of a series of Buddhas and other figures before eventually attaining enlightenment.

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4) THE HORSE KING 馬王 – 113 Units:

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According to Grootaers, the Horse King (Ma Wang) seems to have been mainly associated with the worship of the Dragon Kings, being venerated as one of the lateral images in that shrines. I’ve not been able to securely identify him in that context, and in my research area only one temple specifically dedicated to the Horse King survives in even partially intact state. Nevertheless, the iconography is quite interesting.

“All representations of the god are unmistakable: he has three faces, one looking in front, the other two, to left and right, all identical, of a deep brown colour and with a fierce expression; his body is covered in armour; he has six arms, two in front and two on each side, brandishing a sword, a bell, a magic seal, or making a magic sign with his fingers. Among his attendants the principal ones are two generals, whose appearance varies a great deal in the different temples; the one at the right often leads a horse. On the whole, there seems to be a great liberty in the decor surrounding the main figure, and the local peasants are unable to give the names of most figures. One will get an idea through the description of the set-up as found in one place, Cz 254: Behind the usual image of the god, a boy and a girl similar to the chin-t’ung 金童 and yu-nv 玉女 found in burial ceremonies; at his left, a devil with a benign white face, at his right an old tribunal official with a black beard; in front, two generals, the one at the left holding a stone, the other at the right leading a horse. […]

Wanch’uan, p.256

I don’t have any surviving examples of the front-wall iconography Grootaers describes, only the two flanking walls. These show the six-armed Horse King riding out in procession with his generals. Grootaers describes this briefly:

The lateral walls of the few Ma-wang temples sometimes have frescoes. In three of them (Cz 315a, 353c, 278a) the theme is the Pursuit of the Evil Spirits (see ch. 2), with of course Ma-wang as the leader of the heavenly procession. In one instance, a small-sized temple at Dv 163, the frescoes represent two men, one on each wall, leading one horse by the bridle; the man on the western wall carries a headdress in the shape of a lion head; on the eastern wall, the man has an elephant in his headdress. We cannot identify these personages, but similar headdresses were found for the attendants of the God of the Fire (ch.13). At Dv 124, Ma-wang has the God of the Fire and Lao-tzu (ch. 24).

Hsuan-hua, p.57

The right wall:

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And the left wall:

DSC01027

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The rather Indian or Central Asian appearance of this god (multi-armed, mounted, bearing banners and weapons) prompts Grootaers to speculate on a relationship to the Indic deity Hayagriva, “The Horse-Headed”.

DSC01029

 

 


5) LORD GUAN 關公 – 107 Units:

guan gong miao outside 03

axial guan gong miao

guan gong miao outside

Lord Guan is the late Han-dynasty general, Guan Yu 關羽 or Guan Di 關帝 “Emperor Guan”, hero of the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” 三國演義. He’s also called “The Grandfather” 老爺, presumably in complement to the “Grandmother” 奶奶, another common village god. Grootaers says of the iconography:

“We found only three temples where the central image of Kuan-ti was painted on the wall. All the others have statues. These now may be of two different types: the military type, showing Kuan-ti as an army general, with full armour, either standing (seven cases) or on horseback (five cases); another type is that of Kuan-ti as a literate, sitting on a throne (29 cases). There is the possibility of a combination of the two types, one type of statue standing in front of the other; Dv 97 for instance has Kuan-ti as a literate, in front of which he is represented on horseback, and more to the front yet another smaller statue as a literate. The Kuan-ti on horseback has a special name in the spoken language, Le-ma Kuan-ti 勒馬關帝 ‘Guan-ti restraining a horse.'” […]

Hsuan-hua, p.64

Below is the only temple I’m aware of where back-wall frescoes of Lord Guan survive. Grootaers identifies the standard list of generals flanking the main image as Zhou Cang 周倉, Liu Hua 劉化, Wang Fu 王甫, Guan Ping 關平, and in one case Zhao Lei 趙累.

laoye miao front

guan gong miao interior panorama

The latter image comes from a different temple than the one examined below; although it’s heavily damaged the reader may get an idea of what the layout might have looked like in Grootaers’ time.

With respect to the flanking walls:

“Another important part of the set-up of the Kuan-ti temples are the frescoes of the lateral walls. There are a few themes less often found, as the horses of Kuan-ti (see above) or the two genii of wealth Tz’u-t’ung 梓潼 and Ts’ai-shen 財神 (ch.11) at Cz 279a. But most of the Kuan-ti temples have their lateral walls covered with a great number of panels depicting incidents from Kuan-ti’s life, without a doubt according to the same novel San-kuo-chih yen-i […]. We found these panels in 26 temples; in a few cases there were as many as 72 (Dv 87) or 48 (Dv 176a) of them. But in no case did we find titles along each panel as is the case for the Chen-wu temples. We had therefore no possibility of taking down a detailed description of each panel.”

Hsuan-hua, p.66

In Yu County, it was in fact quite common for these paneled stories to have titles. The right wall:

Frescoes narrating the Romance of the Three Kingdoms (1)

The left wall:

laoye miao lefthand wall full

I’ve translated the upper three rows of the left wall. The order is in bottom-to-top boustrophedon:

laoye 3.6

大戰周公瑾 – A Great Battle with Zhou Gongjin

laoye 3.5

鎮守荊州府 – Taking Control of the Government of Ji zhou

laoye 3.4

單刀驚魯肅 – Startling Lu Su with a Single Blade

laoye 3.3

胡班投降 – Hu Ban Makes his Surrender

laoye 3.2

興帥伐曹操 – Raising an Army to Campaign Against Cao Cao

laoye 3.1

用計取襄陽 – Taking Xiangyang by Stratagem 

laoye 2.1

立斬夏侯存 – Immediately Beheading Xia Houcun

laoye 2.2

進兵攻樊城 – The Army Advances to Attack the City of Fan

laoye 2.3

大戰龐令名 – A Great Battle with Pang Lingming

laoye 2.4

決水淹七軍 – Damming the Waters to Drown Seven Armies

laoye 2.5

于禁乞性命 – Yu Jin Pleads for his Life

laoye 2.6

箭射成何將 – Shooting General Cheng He with an Arrow

laoye 1.6

周倉擒龐德 – Zhou Cang Seizes Pang De

laoye 1.5

怒斬龐令名 – Beheading Pang Lingming in Anger

laoye 1.4

用水淹樊城 – Using Water to Submerge the City of Fan

laoye 1.3

大戰徐公明 – A Great Battle with Xu Gongming

laoye 1.2

活捉呂子明 – Capturing Lu Ziming Alive

laoye 1.1

 玉泉山顯聖 – A Saint Manifests Upon Jade-Springs Mountain

Here’s the full set from this temple:

Another late-Qing set from a different temple, now partially collapsed. (There’s a stele text saying when these were made, but I can’t be bothered to go hunting for it right now.)

Continued in Part Three, below:

Art China Fortresses Hebei Translation Yu, Guangling, and Yangyuan

ILLUSTRATING GROOTAERS, or, the Principal Gods of Rural Xuan-Da and their Iconographies, Part 3

(Continued from Part 2)

6) THE PERFECTED WARRIOR 真武 – 104 Units:

temple tower multi level

DSC06137

In Grootaers’ areas as well as mine, temples to the Perfected Warrior are almost universally built upon tall towers attached to the northern wall of the fort. In villages where for whatever reason this is not possible, some form of artificial mound is usually devised. Often these towers would also have held bell and drum pavilions for signaling to those outside the fort in the fields. As Grootaers comments, “The Chen-wu temple with its high tower is a pronounced feature of the Wanch’uan landscape.”

(a) The central image and attendants: Chen-wu is round faced, wearing a round cap, a thin mustache and small pointed beard. His body is covered with an elaborately decorated armour, his feet are bare. He holds nearly always a sword in his right hand, while his left is forming a kind of magic sign, his thumb touching the third finger with the little finger extended and the two remaining fingers intricately knotted above the third finger. He is sitting on a low throne; on both sides, half turned towards him are two standing images: the eastern one is that of a young girl, T’ao-hua nü 桃花女, “peach-blossom girl,” who is carrying a seal on a piece of cloth, held by both hands; the corresponding image in the west is that of an old man, Chou kung 周公, the Duke of Chou. Both are favorite in popular legends.”

Wanch’uan, p.251

DSC01627

“The central gangway of the temple is lined on both sides by twelve statues, facing each other in a double row. In a few smaller and poorer temples their number is not complete, and only four or six are present. On the other hand, they are sometimes represented by wall paintings, instead of by statues…”

Wanch’uan, p.251

No such statues survive in Yu County, but frescoes do. From the style, the below appears to have been created by the same artist who was responsible for the Temple of the Five Ways presented previously. The right wall:

DSC01599

The left wall:

DSC01598

It should be noted that these people have great shoes.

DSC01625

DSC01621

DSC01619

In other cases the twelve generals are depicted on the back wall, flanking the Perfected Warrior to either side.

DSC01734

(b) The lateral walls: The Chen-wu temple has often frescoes on its lateral walls; we have already seen seven villages where the 12 attendants of the god are depicted on those walls. This seems to be a make-shift; a great number of Chen-wu temples, 25 in all, have on those walls an illustrated biography of the god. The whole wall is divided into small panels, between which a separation is made by some ornamental rocks with trees; those panels sometimes are even continued on narrow strips on both sides of the central image on the back wall. The sequence of the panels varies considerably, the tale unfolding itself horizontally or vertically, starting on the eastern wall or on the western one. The panels carry each a title (having 4 to 10 words), except in seven cases in which no titles are given, and of which we therefore can say nothing. Of the eighteen remaining two are practically undecipherable. The sixteen complete frescoes with their 756 panels give us a highly interesting account of the legend of the god, the number of panels running as high as 88 in one place (Cz 250). A detailed study of these inscriptions ought to be made, with due attention to their many differences; it would, however, take too much space here, and we limit ourselves to a general outline of the legend, which runs as follows: born after his mother swallowed the sun in a dream, and with the accompaniment of miracles, the Imperial Heir studies a while, then leaves his family to practice holiness. Yü-huang, the Jade emperor, gives him a sword with which he fights devils and subdues other spirits, who become his attendants; (among them we find Chou kung, Tao-hua nü, and the 12 attendants standing before the image in the temple). The rest of the account is taken up by miracles, in which many popular deities are involved, as Lung-wang, Kuan-yin, Kuan-ti, and others.”

Wanch’uan, p.252-253

A few semi intact sets of this hagiography exist in Yu County. The best preserved is an early 20th century set on the northern temple tower of the Northern Quarters Fort 北坊城. Visitors are disallowed from photographing this and anyway it’s been anthologized in “Yu County Temple Frescoes” 蔚州寺廟壁畫, so I shan’t bother with it here. Below is the left wall of a different temple, undated:

zhenwu left wall full

As alluded to in the above passage, Grootaers produced a long and very interesting study on this particular type of narrative fresco, titled “The Hagiography of the Chinese God Chen-wu: The Transmission of Rural Traditions in Chahar”. I quote here from the conclusion, which is very relevant to understanding the creation and transmission of all of the iconographies dealt with here:

“The frescoes of Chen-wu’s life in the various villages of South Chahar not only present some similarities by which one may trace the influence of the same painter, their differences are much more striking. No two frescoes could be written in parallel columns and have any number of episodes in one column matching a good number of similar episodes in the other column. The stories are mixed up and some artists have lost the thread of the story. One may even find Chen-wu leaving his parents long after his asceticism on the mountain is finished. 

On the other hand, it is undeniable that the villages of the same neighborhood use the talent of the same local artist. I have spoken with two of them during my exploration in the Wan-ch’iian region. One of them living at Cz 276 was kept sufficiently busy in the large city itself, but the other at Cz 284 accepted orders from at least half a dozen villages of the vicinity. However, he explained to me that he could fulfil any order presented by the customers.

In conclusion, we should like to venture an hypothesis. The legend of Chen-wu as found in these rural temples is painted by local artists who decide freely the subtitles of the panels when executing an order. They rely on traditional themes handed down by their masters or transmitted by the story tellers. Since the Chen-wu temple needs a new coat of paint only every hundred years, if at all, we find now the story of Chen-wu in different stages of its evolution and also in various stages of its corruption by oral transmission. There is, furthermore, the lower or the higher grade of skill one may expect from each painter-farmer. Finally when repolishing a fresco partly in need of repair, the artist may be following the older text found on the wall, improvising more or less aptly when a few words have become undecipherable.”

Hagiography, p.180-181

To this we may add a few additional comments. The first is that in many temples we can see spaces left for subtitles which have not been filled in. This suggests that the probably illiterate painter and the author of the titles were often not the same person, and that a village may first have had its frescoes painted and only later filled in the captions when a suitable writer could be found. This may explain some of the discrepancy and generally garbled state of the paintings and captions.

A second point to be made is that there certainly were textual sources for the hagiography of the Perfected Warrior available to Xuan-Da villagers, and these sources were demonstrably used for the image captions. These sources turn up easily enough just by googling the captions given in Grootaers text. This only seems to complicate the situation though, since not all of the captions Grootaers records seem drawn from one particular text, and in some cases one temple will have some captions which seem to be drawn from a particular written source and other captions which apparently are not. There are also captions which seem to be truly captions – i.e., they explain the content of the image – and other captions which seem to be more titles – i.e., they refer to a story in a textual or other source. In this latter case the accompanying picture on the wall is simply one scene from a long text, and the meaning of neither the caption nor the picture is comprehensible without this story. This difference between captions and titles seems to me to correspond very broadly to images which are part of the core hagiography of the Perfected Warrior (more likely to be familiar to villagers, and thus depicted explicitly and captioned) and to images which come from an extended body of sundry miracle tales associated with the god (more likely to be drawn from some external textual source, and thus titled.)

Grootaers took the length of a long paper to unravel part of this mess and I shan’t try to improve upon him. Nevertheless I’ve set up here one set of panels which I have fairly intact, translating the titles from the upper two lines of the left wall. The titles turn out to be mostly drawn from a text called”The Record of Achieving Sagehood of the High Emperor of the Dark Heavens” 玄天上帝啟聖錄, a hagiography of unclear provenance which probably (according to Baidu Baike) originated in the Yuan period (1271-1368). This text seems to have been the main source for the frescoes below and provided one important source for the panels Grootaers examined. Of my text given below, the texts given in Grootaers study, and the text of this book, all overlap to a considerable degree, but none are exactly in accordance with the others.

The book is divided into eight volumes (juan), of which the first is an account of the life and ascension of the Perfected Warrior and the latter seven are filled with sundry miracle tales. These miracle tales are short, typically not more than a thousand characters long. Each one accounts a formulaic little story, in which the Perfected Warrior intercedes on the behalf of some beset upper-class individual, and which almost always end pointedly with ceremonies and monetary offerings made to temples in thanks for these intercessions. Each story has a four character title, the meaning of which cannot usually be understood without first reading the accompanying tale. These titles are the source of the cartouche texts in the Yu County temple; some of what Grootaers identifies in his paper as mistaken characters are actually correct readings which are simply incomprehensible without the stories in this book.

Interestingly, what at first appear to be unconnected miracle stories are not precisely so. Characters and places re-appear unexpectedly throughout the book, to the extent that there appear to be little story cycles scattered through the text, at times linking to other cycles by a shared name or location. There’s also thematic connections between the stories – the wars and diplomacy of the Song Dynasty against the Khitan, Jurchen, and Tanguts appear repeatedly as story elements, and the Perfected Warrior is often associated with particular geographical locations along this frontier.

I’ve translated a couple episodes from this book which appear in my or Grootaers’ lists of titles and which seem interesting to me. In light of the Perfected Warrior’s later importance as probably the most important god of these border fortresses, I’ve picked stories which stress his role as an arbiter of the frontier, and a defender of the Chinese against foreign attack from the north. The first two stories are not illustrated in my selection, although they do appear in Grootaers lists. I should also say that these stories are surprisingly annoying to translate. They seem slightly garbled with many mistaken characters in the version I have (from ctext.org), and the storytelling at times is rather disconnected and hard to follow. I’ve done my best and provided the Chinese if you want to read it yourself.

洞天雲蓋 – THE HEAVENLY GROTTO IS COVERED IN CLOUDS

龍圖閣直學士呂大防,因奉使西蕃,經林中川,忽遭風雷驟雨,狂瀾怒濤,滿川暗黑,大防恐。
Lü Dafang was a scholar of the Pavilion of Dragon Images. He was sent as an emissary to the Western Barbarians [ie. the Tangut or the Tibetans]. As he was crossing over a river in the midst of a forest, he suddenly was beset by wind and lightning along with pelting rain. The waves became mad and the billows angry, and the entire river was darkened, to the point where Lü Dafang was extremely terrified.

此處有兩國祀典神壇靈跡,屬戶乃稱正北方有山,曰青羅洞天,係大宋地分。其山常有光明,時復亦有風霧雨雹。兩界民戶去此伐薪,隔山聞得神人語言。登陸四望,髻鬃瑞雲蓋罩,隱約見一人,披髮金甲早袍,身長三十餘丈,坐於大盤石,前有龜蛇,後立早旗,前列旌幢華蓋,知是真武下降。
At this place there was the remains of a holy altar where the gods had been worshiped by people of both nations. The households that belonged to the place told him that directly to the north there was a mountain, which was called Blue Net Cave Heaven. This mountain sat on the side of the border which belonged to the Great Song Dynasty. Upon this mountain could frequently be seen a light, and frequently there was also wind, fog, rain and hail there. The common people from both sides of the border would cut firewood in this place, and at a distance from the mountain they could hear the sounds of holy men speaking there. If one climbed to the top of the mountain and gazed in the four directions, one would see jade clouds covered all things like topknots and bristles of hair. There in the clouds sat a man, with his hair hanging down, golden armor, and a black robe. This man was nearly a hundred meters tall, seated on a great stone. Before him were a turtle and a snake, and behind him was unfurled a black flag. and before him were more banners, canopies, and resplendent coverings. It was known that this was the Perfected Warrior descended to earth.

今日奉使過此,又是上元日,想衝遇真武下降,致被雲雨遮隔。大防尋候風雨停息,備香前往青羅山,遙對真武到處,焚香禱祈,願入國無虞,早承回路,仍求坏玫獲吉。
On this day the envoy Lü Dafang was passing this place, and not only that but it was the first day of the new year. He wished to see for himself the Perfected Warrior descending to earth, but the place was covered in clouds and rain. Lü Dafang waited until the wind and rain lifted, and then prepared some incense and started towards this Blue Net Mountain. When he reached a place distantly across from where the Perfected Warrior descended, he made offerings and burned incense, hoping that his journey into the foreign lands would be without worry, that he would soon be on the road home, and pleading that no harm befall him and that all would be auspicious.

前去,既見蕃王李成鄴,為安和樊江上產二千疆封。當初,蕃中將胡素寨界,至割換不寧,已曾通和。後知西蕃遣使,復要取奪緣樊江上產二千地界。本朝已曾將聚居鄉民,為植利之處,慮蕃中先有奉使過界,以此係呂大防奉使入國。其蕃王李成鄴,與宋通和,已依來旨,更不相違。
Thereafter he took his leave, and continued on to meet the king of the barbarians, Li Chengye. His mission was to make peace in the region of the Fan River by creating two thousand border markers. At the start, the border was at the fort called Barbarian’s Rope. During the time when this was divided up there had been unrest, but now all was peaceful. Afterwards an envoy from the western barbarians was received, stating that they intended to seize back the land up to the Fan River, in full two thousand li of border. Our court had ordered that the villagers be concentrated into settlements [for defense], set in places where the agriculture was advantageous. It was decided that a return envoy should be sent back across the border to the barbarian regions, and this was how Lü Dafang found himself entering the foreign country. [But now he discovered that] Li Chengye the king of the barbarians wished to have peaceful relations with the Song, and that he had already given an order that there should be no hostilities between them.

次因張延祖與諸蕃官送呂大防,約行十五里,五色散花滿空飄墜。曾用物向上盛之,俱成甘露。及取嘗之,如酥酷而香。良久,化紅光漸散。呂大防再至青羅山,禮謝真武,其處山花彫殘,枝條上非時盡開,遍於林野。曾令採摘,入手還謝。
The next morning Zhang Yanzu [this is apparently a name?] and all the other barbarian ministers saw Lü Dafang off. When they had gone about fifteen li, a scattered cloud of all the colors came fluttering over the sky. When they tossed things up into it [?], these things all transformed into sweet dew. They tasted this dew and it was as delicious as yogurt. After a little while, a miraculous red light gradually spread over them. Lü Dafang arrived once again at the Blue Net Mountain, and made a ceremony to thank the Perfected Warrior. In this place all the flowers on the mountains were dead, but the branches of the trees had burst into bloom, a truly wild forest. Lü Dafang picked these flowers, and held them in his hands [as an offering] of his thanks.

人防回朝,面奏前項,往回於青羅山,遇真武陰相。特旨下左右街道,錄選道士,遣使同至青羅山致謝,投放金龍玉簡,乃立為真武降真靈跡之處。
Lü Dafang returned to the Song, and reported in person to the emperor, who outlined the program ahead. Lü Dafang was sent back to Blue Net Mountain and to make rituals to the Perfected Warrior. The emperor especially commanded that on the roads to the left and right of the mountain, Daoist priests by stationed, and that when emissaries passed the place they should make their respects. He also commanded that a Golden Dragon Jade Letter be set up at the place, marking it as the spot which bore the traces of where the Perfected Warrior had descended his perfect spirit. 

This second story is from a cycle of three stories to do with a place called Ying County 瀛州, a place on the North China Plain which lay on the Song-Khitan border during the early part of that dynasty. (Ying County 瀛州 is not to be confused with the famous Daoist paradise called Ying Island 瀛洲.) The story below is actually chronologically last in the cycle. The first story (“The High Sage Lets Down a Sail” 高聖降凡) relates the arrival of a barbarian in Ying County named Yin Shouxian. Yin Shouxian and his six brothers are actually incarnations of the sun, the moon, and the five visible planets. They create a temple south of the Ying County seat, which was named after them. I haven’t translated this because it’s super long and not actually that interesting. The second story (“The Song Dynasty is United” 宋國一統) relates the miraculous role of this temple in inducing the Perfected Warrior to aid the founder of that dynasty. This story does turn up in my temple panels so I’ve translated it further down. The final story, below, relates another miracle related to this temple and its miraculous defense of the dynasty’s borders.

聖箭垂粉 – THE SAGELY ARROW BECOMES POWDER

天禧中,兵部侍郎充瀛州高陽關兵馬都總管知瀛州房之才,狀奏蒙差到任,經三月,有淺蕃萍蕪寨主魯繼成等二千餘人,於元年八月十六日夜,擅侵疆界,搶劫去青木堡糧草四千餘石,本關遂差第四將鄒淑及指使劉翊,將兵二千,去蕃界取問。
During the Tianxi era (AD 1017-1021), Fang Zhicai, an officer of the department of military affairs took up the position of the superintendent of Horses and Soldiers at the Gaoyang Border Station of Ying County. He humbly reported to the emperor that he had assumed the position. After three months, the captain of Duckweed Fort of the Shallow Barbarians, Lu Jicheng, and two thousand others invaded across the border on the night of the sixteenth day of the eighth month of the first year of that era. They plundered the grain of the Blue-Wood Fort up to five hundred thousand kilos. After an inspection, the fourth general of the border station Zou Shu and the official Liu Yi led two thousand soldiers out to the barbarian border to demand an explanation.

次日,有蕃兵一萬眾,來有一將云:燕廉信為北燕王聶胡祈,因青木堡每年收軍糧草豆千餘萬,點差將兵二萬來奪。夜到萍蕪寨,其寨主魯繼成獻計,圖青木堡不作准備,於十六日夜,越界搶奪軍糧。鄒淑謂曰:大燕天子已和睦,其北燕王聶胡祈,以下敢擅用兵侵奪,今不欲申奏朝廷,便請遣使入燕國,發遣所劫糧草,交還青木堡。
The next day an army of the barbarians ten thousand strong appeared. A general arrived from them and said, “I am an official from Yan, the Lord of Yan in the north, Nie Huxi. Because the Blue-Wood Fort every year receives military rations of grain and beans in the tens of thousands, I have raised an army of twenty thousand to steal it. In the night when we arrived at Duckweed Fort, the captain of the fort Lu Jicheng presented us a plan. He told us that Blue-Wood Fort was not prepared for an attack, and that in the night on the sixteenth, we should cross the border and steal the military rations.”

Zou Shu replied, “We are now at peace with the Son of Heaven of Great Yan. This Lord of Yan in the north Nie Huxi, does he dare like this to raise soldiers and plunder us? I do not wish to have to write to our court, and have an emissary sent into the country of Yan and demand that the stolen grain be returned to Blue-Wood Fort.”

其燕廉信不允,遂致戰敵,蕃兵大敗。聶胡析乃帥兵二十餘萬,隨後將瀛州西北兩門,近濠半里圍合,六日不退。至第七日,時當九月九日,不覺刮地狂風,煙雨迷亂,祇聞蕃兵噉聲,拽隊奔走。
The official from Yan did not agree to these demands. The situation came to war, and the barbarian army inflicted [?] a great defeat. Following on its heals, Nie Huxi led an army of two hundred thousand to the two gates of Ying County from the north-west. They surrounded the moat at the distance of about half a li, and for six days did not retreat. On the seventh day, which was precisely the ninth day of the ninth month, suddenly a wild wind came scraping the earth, with a great confusion of cloud and rain. You could only hear the barbarian army shouting, and then their formations were overthrown and they fled running.

差兵追逐,據鄒淑等於草徑中,收得傷中蕃人數名。房之才聚問內一人云:未審城內有何神道,祇見西北兩門振地狂風,吹起沙塵,遮撲眼目,但見箭翎如雨驟之聲,有無數蟒蛇趕咬人馬。聶胡祈於馬上,叫得字一聲,收軍便走。某等各中蛇咬箭傷,走趁不前,今被收捉。
Soldiers were collected to pursue. Under Zou Shu and the others they were able to capture several wounded barbarians on the paths through the grassland. Fang Zhicai gathered them together and questioned them. One of them said, “We didn’t know which god’s Dao it was inside that city. We only saw that from the north-west gates there came a wild wind that shook the ground, throwing up dust and sand, striking at our eyes. We did hear the sound of arrow-feathers pelting down like a rain, and countless serpents pursuing and biting men and horses. Nie Huxi was on his horse, gave a single shout, then gathered the army and quickly fled. Many of us suffered from various snake bites and arrow wounds, and when it was time to flee we could not move, and so we were captured here.”

當時看驗逐人所傷,並是蛇齒咬損,并中箭瘡,亦無出入紋路,顯是神靈。
At this time they examined the wounds of the captured men, and saw that they were indeed the marks of snake teeth and the scars of bites, as well as the wounds made by arrows. And yet there were no tracks or markings of how these things came and went – it was clearly the work of a god’s power.

旬日間,據界濠巡檢押到蕃校二人,封合皮筒文字,上寫指定大朝瀛州高陽關都總管房侍郎開拆,卻稱今後不敢擅發兵馬。聶胡祈於右眼暗中一箭,及取落箭鋒,於手中化為灰粉。如壁畫者及風塵內變現毒蛇神鬼,趕敗蕃兵二十餘萬,不知本關供養何神,如此靈驗。今封去神箭一隻,諸將定驗名祠,回報責要,祈求保安眼目。
After a few days, the patrols on the border found two officers of the barbarians, who had been entrusted with a message in a leather tube. Within it was written: “To be opened by, the Great Fixing Dynasty, Ying County Gaoyang Border Station superintendent Fang Zhicai: We announce that from today onward we will not dare to send out horses and soldiers against you. Nie Huxi took an arrow in his right eye. When the arrowhead was pulled out, in his hands it transformed into dusty powder as if from the paint of a fresco. And through inner alchemy, this wind and dust transformed into poisonous snakes and godly monsters, which defeated and set to flight our barbarian army of two hundred thousand. We do not know what god was worshiped in this border station, which could be as powerful as this. Today we have sent an offering of one of this God’s arrows; all of our generals [wish that you place it?] in a famous shrine, in order to repay our responsibility, and in prayer for peace and that Nie Huxi’s eye will recover.”

房之才將箭細看,委是粉壁者。遍往宮觀寺院及廟宇,並無此壁畫。後往州南新創壽先廟內,正壁畫北極紫微大帝,兩畔畫四聖,皆掛金甲立身,各帶箭筐,至真武箭篋當中,闕晝箭一隻,繼將蕃中送到者,灰壁畫色比對一同。
Fang Zhicai closely examined the arrows, and saw that they were truly as the paint from a wall. Therefore he went to the abbeys, monasteries, and temples of the place and saw that there were no such frescoes as this. After this he went to a shrine which has been newly built south of the county seat, called Shouxian’s Temple. On the central wall here was drawn the Great Emperor of the Purple Infinitesimal Northern Polestar [the Perfected Warrior]. On the two sides were drawn the Four Sages, all standing in golden armor, each with a quiver full of arrows. In the quiver of the Perfected Warrior, there was one arrow missing. The color of the painted arrows was exactly the same as that which had been brought by the barbarians.

房之才焚香,復將壁箭親手逐廊揩上箭篋闕處,輳依畫壁如故,但有絲痕微露為驗。本司已具緣由,遣使回蕃,奏取照會。朝廷遣降御香,往瀛州壽先廟建醮。仍告命天下宮觀,如無真武殿,即仰建立,及下高陽關推賞。
Fang Zhicai burned incense. With his own hand pasted the arrow onto the place where one was missing from the quiver, and in accordance with the fresco made it as it had been, although you could still faintly see the lines of it as evidence of what had happened. The whole department no longer had any problems after this. The emissaries returned to the barbarians, and diplomatic notes were sent over. The court granted imperial incense to the temple, and held a ceremony at Shouxian’s Temple in Ying County. Thereafter it was decreed that all monasteries under heaven, if they did not already have a hall dedicated to the Perfected Warrior, should build one. Gaoyang Border Station was given a reward.

Here are the upper two rows of the left wall of one temple. I’ve translated two more stories from the Record of Achieving Sagehood with the accompanying images below.

zhenwu 3.8

玉京較功 – In the Jade Realm He Weighs the Merits

zhenwu 3.7

天賜票麥 – Heaven Grants Millet and Wheat

zhenwu 3.6

[Illegible]

zhenwu 3.5

施經救災 – Granting Scriptures to Avert Disaster

zhenwu 3.4

鬼船退散 – The Demon Boats Retreat and Scatter

zhenwu 3.3

天降青棗 – A Blue Date Falls from Heaven

zhenwu 3.2

瓢傾三萬 – Distributing Thirty Thousand Ladles [Worth of Provisions]

zhenwu 3.1

助國一統 – He Assists in Uniting the Nation

In the Record of Achieving Sagehood, this is titled “The Song Dynasty is United” 宋朝一統. I’m assuming this is the same story, just that the paintings were made probably six hundred years after the fall of the Song (AD 960 – 1279) and so the author changed it to the generic “nation”. This is an earlier chunk of the cycle in Record of Achieving Sagehood about Yin Shouxian’s temple in Ying County. Parts of this story are hard for me to understand, and so some of the below is a guess; if anyone wants to point out the correct readings please do so. Nevertheless the connection between the Perfected Warrior, locations on the northern border, and the establishment of imperial power is interesting to me.

宋朝建,降立極。後因瀛州高陽關,承真武惠錢五萬餘貫,應付賞給太祖。掛念于此,又詳瀛州蕃客,託伊壽先姓名,兄弟七人,壽先則是蕃界廟額。七人乃是七辰降靈,惟有姓伊一字未曉。於是即便下瀛州,選地創蓋北極七元四聖祠殿,裝畫天曹畢,遣近臣齎御香祭獻。
The Song Dynasty was established, and the vertical pole descended [sic]. Afterwards the founding emperor Taizu granted a gift of fifty thousand strings of cash to the Gaoyang Border Station in Ying County in thanks for the benevolence of the Perfected Warrior. [掛念于此?] It was also reported that a barbarian traveler had arrived in Ying County. His name was called Yin Shouxian, and he was travelling together with his brothers, altogether seven of them. Yin Shouxian was the head of a temple on the border with the barbarians. The seven of them were in fact the spirits of the moon, sun, and five planets, descended to earth. It was only their surname Yin which was not known [sic]. Therefore they descended to Ying County and chose a plot of land on which to build this Northern Polestar Seven Primordials and Four Saints Temple. When the paintings of these heavenly ministers [on the temple walls] were finished, officials intimate with the emperor were sent to burn his personal incense as an offering.

忽一日辰時,百官陪駕升端明殿,方欲平章諸道王侯未納疆土為慮,是時,不覺雲霧風雹,群臣各棄避,獨有宰相趙普與聖駕,被童子二人引召至本內孝成殿。太祖駕坐良久,於殿前雲空間,睹一神明,戴星冠,披銷金琱綬,執簡躬揖太祖。
One morning, all of the officials were accompanying the imperial carriage to the Hall of Brilliant Rectitude [in the imperial palace]. This day they intended to consider grants of land and estates for all of the various lords and kings of each region and the local magistrates. At this time, unexpectedly fog and rain, wind and hail came down, and all of the officials backed away and scattered. Only the highest minister Zhao Jin remained with the sagely imperial carriage. The two of them were beckoned into the Hall of Filial Achievements by a child. The emperor remained in the carriage for some time, in the fog in front of the hall. Then he glimpsed the glow of a god – the god was wearing a crown of stars, draped with a golden scarf carved with gold, holding a board for taking orders and bowing his body in obeisance to the emperor.

啟曰:洪基鼎祚運新昌,堯舜須依人歎將。莫似后奢纔得位,逆姦依玷亂施張。吾系天都北極真武靈應真君,蒙加賜祠殿於瀛州,又承遣使醮謝。今者遊奕過次,所以因來報謝。聞有天下霸業侯王,尚或守據一方,未懷臣順。近曾親見上帝批鑿,並合歸宋朝為一統,永昌萬世帝王之業。除淮漢已取復外,餘處注定年限,各有先後,不踰一紀,以河東為首,次至南唐、西蜀、廣東、福建,然後兩浙,合依次收之。
The god began to speak: “Grand foundations, the nation granted prosperity, perpetual renewal and flourishing! May the sage emperors Yao and Shun support you, admire you, and protect you. No future inheritor of your throne will commit excess, nor will anything contrary, debased, faulty, or disordered be carried out. I am the Capital of Heaven Northern Polestar Perfected Warrior Miraculous Response Perfected Gentleman. I have humbly received the report that you granted a gift to a temple in Ying County, and even that you sent a messenger to hold a ceremony there in thanks. Today I was passing by this place, and arrived here to express my gratitude. I have heard that the lords and kings who hold dominion in your land, as well as those who simply control one place, have not held dear the orders of your ministers. Recently I myself met the Emperor On High to find the truth, and you will unite the whole country under the Song Dynasty, and your imperial works will flourish for ten thousand generations. Beyond the regions along the Huai and Han rivers which you have already taken back into your possession, the remaining places are predestined to fall to you and their years are limited. Their pasts and futures are already set, and none will last longer than a score of years. You will take the region east of the Yellow River as your capital, and from there you will reach Tang in the south, Shu in the east, Guangdong, Fujian, then the two Zhe provinces, and in that order take all of them.”

真武告辭,復歸天闕。太祖遂與趙普還,見左右侍衛,守護端明殿以俟,遊從宸衷喜慰。擇日,就內殿建醮,仰答靈肌。自後,一一果如聖訓。
The Perfected Warrior then took his departure, and returned to the palaces of heaven. The emperor returned with the minister Zhao Jin, and met the guards who stood on his left and right. The officials took up their places in the Hall of Brilliant Rectitude and awaited orders, and then followed the emperor’s wishes with delight. A day was chosen, and in the inner halls a ceremony was held, in order to receive and respond to the holy muscles. [sic] From then on, all things turned out just as the sage had taught.

zhenwu 2.8

風霖鄒遷 – Moving Away the Downpour

zhenwu 2.7

符吏借兵 – The Messengers Borrow an Army

This is just another nice story on the theme of, the Perfected Warrior upholds the borders of China against the barbarians. The figure of Fu Bi 富弼 was a historical official in the northern Song dynasty, who was active in trying to achieve peace between the Chinese, the Khitan, and the Tangut. He reappears as a character in several other tales within the Record of Achieving Sagehood.

內殿承制盧守聰,因往河北三關邊廷察探契丹動靜,於黃河岸西,遇二人,各齋實封文字一角。守聰問之,言:我二人,今日巡察世問,因到定州,衝見北極真武靈應真君隊仗,云:北蕃戎卒,漸加萬數。為宋朝兵馬稍少,難為拒敵。緣下降時,不曾將帶天兵力士隨行,今差某二人齋馳文字,限剎那間,往東嶽計會炳靈公,急關借鬼兵神將一萬眾,定壬子月戊子日丙子時,布設一陣,欲助南朝殺蕃,肅寧邊境。
Lu Shoucong was an official charged with carrying out the orders of the Inner Court. He was sent out to the Three Borders region of Hebei to inspect the state of affairs along the frontier with the Khitan. While on the west bank of the Yellow River, he met two men who each were carrying written orders with verified seals. Lu Shoucong asked them about this, and they told him: “We two were out travelling amidst the world, when today we arrived at Ding County. There we suddenly met that soldier, the Northern Polestar Perfected Warrior Miraculous Response Perfect Gentleman. He told us, ‘The soldiers of the northern Barbarians have gradually increased into the tens of thousands. Because the horses and men of the Song Dynasty are few, they are not able to repel this enemy. When I descended this time into the common world, I did not bring with me my heavenly soldiers and knights. Therefore I am searching for two men with which to entrust an urgent order. In the flash of a eye, I will send you galloping to the Eastern Peak of Mount Hua to meet the god called Lord Bright Spirit. From him you will borrow ten thousand ghost soldiers and godly generals in emergency. In the ren zi month on the wu zi Day and at the bing zi hour, they will all gather in formation. They will aid the southern dynasty in destroying the barbarians, and pacify the border regions’.”

二符吏言訖,便過河。守聰回國面奏,權令有司附口記錄。後刑部侍郎充三關都總管富弼回朝參賀,奏稱:北蕃契丹,今皆滅戮,更無舉戰意。曾擒到燕國黎王趙慇,供下尅伏文狀,卻放回蕃。
The two messengers bearing the seal finished their tale and crossed over the Yellow River [to the east]. Lu Shoucong returned to the court and met with the emperor to report. The emperor ordered that a record be made of his oral deposition. Afterwards the high official Fu Bi from the Board of Punishments, who was the superintendent of the Three Borders region in the north, arrived at the court to receive a commendation. He made the following memorial: “Recently the northern barbarians, the Khitan, have all suffered a great disaster. They have no ability now to raise an army with intent of war. We captured the Lord of the Masses of Yan. He offered to us documents of surrender, and so we released him back to the barbarian side.”

取問獲勝時日,係歲庚午壬子月戊子日丙子時,與內臣盧守聰預奏同辭。除兵將等酬轉賞給外,持行德音,赦天下罪。仍於定州,建聖祐觀一所,告成日,別降御銜詞表答謝。
They asked Fu Bi at what time this victory was achieved. He told them that it was in the geng wu year, in the ren zi month on the wu zi day at the bing zi hour. This was exactly the same as the prediction given by the official of the inner court, Lu Shoucong. Therefore the court not only granted rewards to all soldiers and generals, but they also held performances of ritual music and pardoned all crimes. Then they built the Abbey of Sagely Assistance in Ding County and proclaimed a holy day, as well as issued an imperial edict of appreciation [?] in order to express gratitude.

zhenwu 2.6

七從借名 – The Seven Followers Use His Name
(Not in the Record of Attaining Sagehood.)

zhenwu 2.5

陳妻附魂 – The Wife Chen is Possessed by a Spirit

zhenwu 2.4

魅纏安仁 – Anren is Ensnared by a Demon

zhenwu 2.3

當殿諒法 – Facing the Throne, He Comprehends the Law

zhenwu 2.2

洞真認厭 – Tongzhen Perceives the Evil Influence

zhenwu 2.1

朱氏金磚 – The Zhu Family [Receives] a Brick of Gold

zhenwu 1.8

華氏殺魚 – The Hua Family Kills a Fish

zhenwu 1.7

火煉金經 – In the Fire He Smelts a Golden Scripture
(Not in the Record of Attaining Sagehood.)

zhenwu 1.6

荊王雙美 – The King of Jing’s [Wife and Child] are Both Healthy

zhenwu 1.5

玉伟中計 – [Unclear]
The literal meaning of the title is “Plotting Amidst the Jade Greatness”, but I’m guessing it’s a typo for the title given in Record of Achieving Sagehood as 王虎中計 “Wang Hu Plots Amidst [the Darkness?]”. What this title should mean isn’t entirely clear from the attached story either, although Wang Hu does indeed plot.

zhenwu 1.4

陸傳招誣 – Lu Chuan Confesses his Mistakes

zhenwu 1.3

守榔懷蟲 – Shou Xiang Cherishes the Vermin
Record of Attaining Sagehood has the much more comprehensible 守卿禳蟲 “Shou Qing Exorcises the Vermin”

zhenwu 1.2

柯誠識奸 – He Cheng Perceives the Corruption

zhenwu 1.1

降伏青龍 – A Blue Dragon Submits To Him
(Not in the Record of Attaining Sagehood.)

To sum this all up, we can quote one last paragraph from Grootaers’ study of the Perfected Warrior hagiographies:

We really have no clear evidence from which to decide whether the oral tradition or the written tradition is predominant in the transmission of the Chen-wu legend in the rural communities of Chahar. To tell the truth, we are rather inclined to accept a third or intermediary solution. There must have been a huge body of popular legends, both the oral in the repertory of itinerant theatrical troopers and the written in devotional pamphlets and in the case of temple restorations, the text of the previous frescoes which are done over by a later artist.

Hagiography, p.175

From all of the above we can adduce that this is basically accurate, but also that it’s possible to learn more about the immediate textual sources of these panels than Grootaers himself was able to. One could probably produce a paper revising Grootaers’ conclusions on this and identifying other textual sources than the Record of Achieving Sagehood; the question is who exactly would read it. Below are images from another temple to the Perfected Warrior with faded but legible panels:


7) THE RIVER GOD 河神 – 72 Units:

No extant examples. In fact, this cult seems to have been almost entirely absent in Yu County. Grootaers describes the iconography briefly:

We have already said that the main personage represents Yang Chien. He is shown as a young man, sitting on a chair, wearing a yellow robe and a yellow cloth cap without ornaments. At his feet sits a dog, which is the main reason why we identify this figure with Yang Chien. This identification gets a confirmation through the inscription found on a fresco in one of the grottoes in the P’u-fo ssú 普佛寺 (see chapter 16) at Cu 775: Yang Chien Erh-lang 楊戩二郎. The popular tradition of Hopeh province seems to link with Yang Chien the designation Erh-lang. This would then be a feature of the cult of the river in North China, whereas the god called Erh- lang in Southwest China, especially in Szechwan, is the son of Li Ping, the Han dynasty official.

In the Ho-shen temple at Cz 284, besides the main image we found a statue with a lance and a loincloth made out of leaves, prob- ably representing Na Cha 哪吒, one of the sons of Li T’ien-wang 李天王 (with Mu Cha 木吒 and Chin Cha 金吒), who is commonly associated with Yang Chien.

Wanch’uan, p.263


8) THE THREE OFFICIALS 三官 – 70 Units:

khram sanguana dva

The Three Officials (San Guan) are the Official of Heaven 天官, the Official of Water 水官, and the Official of Earth 地官. On the iconography:

The San Kuan are represented mostly by statues, seldom by paintings. The three gods are shown as three scholars with a literate’s mortar-board cap. The Shui-kuan 水官 Official of the Water is always on the western side, and has a black face.

Our photograph taken at Cz 320 shows two female attendants near the central god (see fig. 37),the female attendants with elongated body found in Wanch’iian were not noted in this area. On both extremities of the main wall, two smaller attendants seem to be the Shan-shen 山神 Mountain God (in the west) and the Wu-tao 五道 God of the Roads (in the east). 

In front of the main images, one finds often one or more pairs of the heavenly attendants who belong also to the Chen-wu cult (ch. 5,section 4). We found three times four of them, viz. Wen, Liu, Chao and Ma, once only painted on the lateral walls; there again we found three times four of them, and twice a larger number, 10 or even 28. As there were no names indicated, and as the fancy of the local artists had brought many variations in these representations, we could not identify them.

The lateral walls of.the San Kuan temple, when not showing the heavenly attendants, show two other themes. Three temples have the “ Pursuit of the Evil Ones•” Indirectly belonging to this type are the frescoes at Dv 133 with the genii of the Days and the Hours, Jih-ts’ao 日曹 and Shih-ts’ao 時曹 (on the western wall) and these of the Months and the Years, Yueh-ts’ao 月曹,Nien-ts’ao 年曹(see p. 33 and note 19).

A different type of frescoes is represented by the ‘‘ biographies ’’ of the San-kuan, on the model of these of Chen-wu. The walls are divided in small panels, each depicting some incident of their legends, or some miracle attributed to them. Four villages have such frescoes: Cz 353,Cz 307a, Cz 315a, Dv 139.

Hsuan-hua, p.69

I’m not aware of any fully intact temple to the Three Officials surviving, but there are a few with partially preserved frescoes. The below matches Grootaers’ description of the iconography, although the village in question was abandoned and so there was nobody with whom I could confirm the identification of the temple.

san guan back wall

The below temple to the Three Officials is very unusual in that it sits on an axial tower at the northern end of a fort, in the spot usually occupied by the Perfected Warrior. The frescoes are faded but broadly legible.

The back wall, with the trinity of Officials:

sanguan set 03 trinity

IMG_3207

They are flanked on either side of the back wall by fierce generals and beautiful palace ladies. To the right:

IMG_3205

IMG_3206

And to the left:

IMG_3215

IMG_3218

IMG_3216

In the rear are these earnest-looking young people bearing platters with miniature animals on them.

IMG_3201

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IMG_3223

Another strange element are the one-legged chicken and hare with fire in their bellies, standing to either side of the trinity of officials. I don’t know what these represent:

hare and chicken

IMG_3214

IMG_3209

The left wall, showing a procession with chariots.

IMG_3219

And the right wall:

IMG_3199

Here are a few more from a different temple, which has more heavily damaged but sort-of-legible drawings.

 

Art China Fortresses Hebei Yu, Guangling, and Yangyuan

ILLUSTRATING GROOTAERS, or, the Principal Gods of Rural Xuan-Da and their Iconographies, Part 4

Continued from Part 3:

9) THE BUDDHA 佛 – 59 Units:

fo si and mountains

fodian another try

By “The Buddha”, Grootaers means both what is referred to in Chinese as a “monastery” (si, 寺), and the type of village shrine which in Xuan-Da is called a “Buddha Hall” (fo dian 佛殿). This conflation is obviously not a safe one. I’m not sure if I have any examples from small village shrines to the Buddha, but many examples in varying degrees of preservation survive from larger Buddhist monasteries.

“The central image of Buddha has no distinct features; it has the traditional Buddhist shape and is accompanied almost everywhere by the two smaller statues of Ananda and Kasyapa. When three images were noted, Wen-shu and P’u-hsien are the most commonly found. Twice, (Dv 85a and Dv 133) we found the Buddhist Triad, Sakyamuni, Loshana and Vairocana. One informant at Cz 315a saw in the three images: ‘the Past, Present and Future Buddha.’ […]

The lateral frescoes of the Buddha temples show mostly scenes from the life of Sakyamuni. We found three times paintings of the ‘Twelve Bodhisattvas’ (see above p. 53) at Cz 315a, Dv 85a and Dv 96a. The first one identifies some of them: Hsiang-hua-ti 香花帝, Kuan-shih-yin 觀世音, Ming-chao-t’ien 明照天, Yueh-kuang-kung 月光宫, Ti-tsang. The 18 Arhats, commonly found in the Kuan-yin temples, were noted once at Dv 96a. The oldest Buddha temple at Cz 278a has frescoes of the 18 Heavenly Generals Shih-pa tien-chiang 十八天將.”

Hsuan-hua, p.76

Here are some examples of the life of Sakyamuni told in story-panel form. Both of these sets are anthologized in “Yu County Temple Frescoes” 蔚州寺廟壁畫. Also the lighting was bad and so I haven’t taken them down in terribly organized form. The statues in the photographs are recent creations.

The right wall:

shijiamoni fo zhuan 01

The left wall:

shijiamoni fo zhuan 02

These are all from the left wall. Somewhat randomly:

fozhuan 1 di 005

第五仙人占象 – The Fifth: A Holy Man Casts a Fortune

fozhuan 1 di 013

第十三路覩死屍 – The Thirteenth: On the Road he Sees a Dead Corpse

fozhuan 1 di 014

第十四耶輸兆夢 – The Fourteenth: In the Night he Has a Prophetic Dream

fozhuan 1 di 015

第十五初啟出家 – The Fifteenth: For the First Time He Leaves His Home

fozhuan 1 di 016

第十六夜半逾城 – In the Middle of the Night He Climbs the Walls

fozhuan 1 di 022

第二十二魔軍拒戰 – The Twenty Second: An Army of Demons Makes War to Resist Him

fozhuan 1 di 023

第二十三魔眾拽瓶 – The Twenty Third: The Masses of Devils Pull Upon a Bottle

Here are the rest of these and some sundry details:

Here’s another set. As above, I didn’t take these down in a systematic way and didn’t always photograph the cartouches for the ones I do have, so I’m not going to try to translate these. I believe both the above and below sets are covered in “Temple Frescoes from Yu County” 蔚州寺廟壁畫, if the reader is interested.

shijiamoni fo zhuan 03

fozhuan 2 xi men

fozhuan 2 worship

fozhuan 2 wang tai zi

fozhuan 2 wang tai zi li ju shi xiang

fozhuan 2 walking on lotuses

fozhuan 2 sha men

fozhuan 2 nan men

fozhuan 2 gu er

fozhuan 2 dong men

fozhuan 2 death

fozhuan 2 ancient astronauts

Here is another damaged set, which has some nice details:

In a final set, one wall survives which preserves images of the Eighteen Arhats 十八羅漢 crossing over the ocean to reach some distant shore, probably Mount Penglai 蓬萊山. This crossing 渡 is a well known Buddhist theme. Originally there would presumably have been another wall opposite to it depicting the other nine Arhats, but this has been destroyed. It may be pointed out here that this is one of the images which does not precisely correspond to any of the themes enumerated at the start, although it seems to draw from more than one.

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upper buddhas

The Arhats cross over the water, borne up by various turtles and lotuses, accompanied by disciples carrying supplies. I’ve ordered these images from right to left.

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I like this one dude’s technicolor dreamcoat:

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Of course, added to this it may be pointed out that many large Buddhist monasteries also have frescoes depicting the Feast of Water and Land. This was either not present in Grootaers’ areas or he failed to mention it. I’ve put up most of my good photographs of this in previous posts, so I’ll leave that for now.


10) THE BARBARIAN SPIRIT 胡神 – 59 Units:

No extant frescoes. This cult seems not to have existed in Yu County, as I have never heard mention of it there.

In the temples of the Hu-shen we found five principal statues sitting in a row on a brick altar (but none at Cz 76). The central one, that of the Hu-shen, is a dark-faced, crowned man, not differing from the Black Dragon, Hei-lung-wang. On both sides are sitting gods who have some relation to agriculture…

In four instances (Cz 75, 76, 268, 269), the lateral walls are covered with frescoes representing the “Pursuit of the Evil Ones” (see map 1 and chapter 2 paragr. 4).

Wanch’uan, 274


11) WENCHANG 文昌 – 32 Units:

village wenchang ge 01 the structure

village wenchang ge 03 the view

I’ve not got any really intact frescoes. Wenchang is traditionally paired with the Kui-Star 魁星, and their temples situated on top of the fortress gate or, less commonly, on a special tower within the fort. The above is one such tower, along with the view from the top on a spring day before the rain.

“Wen-ch’ang is represented as an official of the civil class, white-faced and with a small beard; on both sides stand two youths, mostly carrying a book, a writing brush or some other emblem of the literary life. K’ui-hsing is an ugly apparition: a half-naked devil, with a fierce green or blue face; brandishing an arrow, he stands tiptoe on a ball of fire; no attendants stand near him. Although both of them are traditionally invoked by people with a literary career, the cult, like so many others, has lost its specific objective in the explored area.”

Wanch’uan, p.268

Inside the tower above you can see the remains of heavily damaged panels:

village wenchang ge 02 the frescoes


12) THE GRANDMOTHER 奶奶 – 27 Units:

niangniang dian

niangniang miao ruined interior

The worship of the Nai-Nai 奶奶 “Grandmothers” is the center of a confusion of cults. The Nai-Nai are sometimes referred to as Niang-Niang 娘娘 “Empresses”; many dialects north of the Yan Mountains tend to drop engmas in the final position anyway, so the difference is between Nai-Nai and Nia-Nia.  These “Empresses” are the daughters or wives of the Jade Emperor and reside with him on the peak of Mount Tai, and for this reason Grandmother Temples are often called Mount Tai Temples 泰山廟. It may just be that the Niang-Niang became Nai-Nai on the analogy to Lord Guan, who is often called Laoye 老爺 “Grandfather”. This would give the set of village temples a pleasingly filial symmetry. To add to the confusion, the cult of the Empresses or Grandmothers has been mixed-up with that of Avalokiteshvara 觀音 (who is a similarly merciful, feminine, maternal deity), and some villages do not recognize the difference between the two cults.

“The Nai-nai temple has normally three statues in front of the main wall, and from two to ten images aligned along the side walls. The three principal images are those of standing goddesses, with sumptuous clothes and crowns, each holding a child. They are normally white-faced, except the central statue, which is sometimes gilded. A couple of young girls are often standing near to them, one bearing a seal and the other a box covered with a cloth.

Characteristic of this type of temple is the fact that the first image on each side of the lateral row is standing or sitting on a raised platform slightly lower than that of the main statues. The temple described here is that at Cz 75, where the greatest number of statues was found. We now give the description of those lateral images, pair by pair, beginning from the interior and going towards the door. The first pair represents two goddesses feeding babies. The most noticeable thing about them is the suspender-like belt they wear, which leaves the breasts free. This garment is an exact copy of what the women in South Chahar and North Shansi wear in sum- mer time; in those areas, after her first child, every woman has the right to go around everywhere with uncovered breasts (see photograph 17). The use of the local garment on the statues does not preclude highly stylised clothes and hairdo.

The next pair represents goddesses with a crown and holding ceremonial tablet, hu 笏; they wear some coat of mail. The third pair does not consist of identical images. The one at the left (west) is a man wearing a military cap, the eastern one is an old lady carrying a baby. The fourth pair is, at the left, the god of small- pox, called Tou ko-ko 痘哥哥, ‘Elder brother of the smallpox’ and at the right a female figure in armour and, sometimes, holding an ax. The last pair is the devil and the tribunal official one finds in so many temples.

A lot of small clay figures of babies are standing or lying every- where on the floor of the temple, among the statues and even on top of them. These are ex votos brought by mothers expecting a baby or praying for his recovery from some illness.

The Nai-nai temple has always plain walls, at the most covered with some flower motifs. Two exceptions to this rule:

1. At Cz 306a, the lateral walls represent the classical theme of the “Pursuit of the Evil Ones” (see map 1). Strange to note that on these frescoes the crowd of heavenly spirits is not welcomed by the Wu-tao god and the T’u-ti god (see chapter 1). Their absence is remarkable, as the very next building, consecrated to the Lung-wang cult, has the same frescoes, this time, however, with the two gods.

2. At Cz 249a, the walls are covered with the representation of the Ch’i-shih-er ssu 七十二司, “Seventy -two tribunals,” which elsewhere seem to be a well known feature of the T’ai-shan temples; e.g., in Peking, the Tung-yueh miao 東岳廟 “Temple of the Eastern mountain” (or T’ai-shan) in the eastern suburb has the same representation.”

Wanch’uan, p.270-271

I don’t have any intact examples of this. The best I’ve got is below, in which the images of the procession of the Grandmothers can be seen. The inspiration from the Dragon King murals is clearly evident. I photographed this in vertical strips so if the reader is really curious he can zoom up on the pictures below and take a look.

nainai miao partially effed up interior

nainai miao 01 02 retry

nainai miao 03 04 retry

nainai miao 05 06 retry

On another wall of the same disintegrating building can be found the damaged images of these odd creatures, which I haven’t seen elsewhere.

nainai miao beaked things


13) THE JADE EMPEROR 玉皇 – 27 Units:

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DSC07564

The cult of the Jade Emperor is related to that of the Perfected Warrior 真武, in that both are martial, paternal gods who take their place on high towers at the northern part of the village fort. Both Grootaers and I were able to assemble circumstantial evidence that the worship of the Jade Emperor represents an early stage of Xuan-Da religion, which was later replaced in the newly proliferating village forts during the early sixteenth century by the cult of the Perfected Warrior.

“The main image of the Yü-huang temple is never painted bn the main wall, except at Cz 259. Yü-huang is mostly represented by the statue of a man with gilded face, black beard, wearing an imperial crown, sitting on a high throne. He has two young girls at his sides.

On both sides six statues stand on the floor; the first pair, counting from Yü-huang, are two old men with white faces and black beards, wearing ceremonial caps similar to that of Taoist monks; the eastern one is the Mu-hsing 木星, “Star of the Element Wood,” the western one is the Chin-hsing 金星, “Star of the Element Metal.”

The second pair looks like a couple of Ma-wang; wearing an armour, they have three faces and six arms; the one in the east has a vertical eye in the middle of his forehead; we heard only the name of the western image – Tien-p’eng ta-shih 天蓬大士.

The third pair is Chen-wu (west) and Nan Chen-wu (east) the last one having also a vertical eye in his forehead (see chapter 5 par. 4, and 5a) .

The number of statues in two rows varies from two to six. One important difference was noted at Cz 72, where the first pair represents naked and winged gods with claws and beaks, similar to the god of Thunder in the Chen-wu temple. Their name sounded like yin(g) hung and yin(g) chiao (characters unknown).”

Wanch’uan, p.276-277

Extant frescoes survive in the Jade Emperor Pavilion 玉皇閣 in the Yu County seat, but I don’t have pictures of this. The only surviving images from a village temple portray the unique phenomenon of a “Feast of Water and Land” 水陸齋 procession in a context other than a large Buddhist monastery. As suggested above, these may be survivals from a period early in the fortification process when the standard cults and depictions of Xuan-Da religions had not yet been set. Excuse the bad quality of the below photos:

yu huang 001

yu huang 002

yu huang 003


14) KSITIGARBHA 地藏 – 20 Units:

IMG_1274

dizang panorama

Ksitigarbha is a Buddha who made a vow never to pass on into enlightenment until all the beings of the hell realms have been saved. For this reason he is worshiped (perhaps perversely) as a sort of god of the underworld, to whom prayers for the souls of the dead can be addressed. His cult is closely associated with that of the Yama Kings 閻王, to the extent that in Yu County at least these temples are referred to interchangeably as Ksitigarbha Temples 地藏廟 and Yama Temples 閻王廟. One very good example survives in Yu County, along with fragments of other ones.

“The statue of Ti-tsang is sitting on a high throne. He is always of more than human size, with a Buddhist monk’s dress and ceremonial head gear. On both sides of his stand two figures, similar to Kâsyapa and Ananda, the old and young companions of Sâkyamuni (see chapter 7 par. 4). The “Ten kings of hell,” Shih tien yen-wang 十殿閻王, among which Ti-tsang is the fifth, are often represented in his temple.”

Wanch’uan, p.278

The frescoes below are numbered with the names of each of the Ten Yama Kings. For some reason I missed number two, the “Yama Gentleman of the Second Hall, the Rivers of Chu King” 二殿閻王楚江王:

The right wall:

dizang full wall 02

01 tai guang wang

一殿閻君泰廣王 – The Yama Gentleman of the First Hall, The Peaceful and Broad King

03 song di wang

三殿閻君宋帝王 – The Yama Gentleman of the Third Hall, the Song Dynasty Emperor King

04 wu guan wang

四殿閻君五官王 – The Yama Gentleman of the Fourth Hall, the Five Officials King

05 yan luo tian zi

五殿閻君閻羅天子 – The Yama Gentleman of the Fifth Hall, Yamaraja the Son of Heaven

The left wall:

dizang full wall 01

06 xia cheng wang

六殿閻王下城王 – The Yama Gentleman of the Sixth Hall, the Lesser Cities King

07 tai shan wang

七殿閻君泰山王 – The Yama Gentleman of the Seventh Hall, the Mount Tai King

08 du shi wang

八殿閻君都市王 – The Yama Gentleman of the Eighth Hall, the Capital City King

09 ping deng wang

九殿閻君平等王 – The Yama Gentleman of the Ninth Hall, the Equality King

10 zhuan lun wang

十殿閻君轉輪王 – The Yama Gentleman of the Tenth Hall, the Wheel-Turning King

The piles of paperwork and the various horrid psychopomps surrounding the tribunal give a good idea of how a bureaucratized hell looks.

book rack

dizang psychopomps 01

dizang psychopomps 02

On the rear walls on either side of the door are these interesting scenes, I’m not sure what’s taking place here.

dizang side panorama 02

dizang side wall

Meanwhile beneath the main images of the judgement of souls we can see the entrance of souls to hell, their torture, and their eventual rebirth. Souls are first dragged before the tribunal:

dizang tortures of hell 05

And then horrifically tortured, either as punishment or as a means to extract the truth.

dizang tortures of hell 03

dizang tortures of hell 04

dizang tortures of hell 06

dizang tortures of hell 07

dizang tortures of hell 08

dizang tortures of hell 01

dizang tortures of hell 02

Finally souls go on to the next life, on what looks like a giant roulette wheel which uses centrifugal force to fling them off to the various states of being.

dizang roulette wheel of reincarnation

 

 


 

 

And that about raps it up. There are more types of temples in Xuan-Da, obviously, but I don’t have pictures of any of their iconographies. More stuff could also be added about opera stage drawings, which I’ve talked about before, and about drawings in ancestral shrines, which is a topic that Grootaers doesn’t touch. I am officially sick of this right now though so I won’t get into it. Below are some photos of temple rafters from these various places, which I think are pretty.

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Works Cited:

Inoue, Fumio. “Works in Dialectology by Reverend Grootaers.” Web. 7 Feb. 2016. unpublished article

Gamble, Sidney D. Ting Hsien; a North China Rural Community. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1968. Print.

Grootaers, Willem A:

  • “Catholic University Expedition to Wanch’üan (South Chahar), Preliminary Report.” Monumenta Serica 12 (1947): 236-242. JSTOR. Web.

  • “Catholic University Expedition to Hsuanhua (South Chahar), Preliminary Report.” Folklore Studies 7 (1948): 135-138. JSTOR. Web.

  • “The Hagiography of the Chinese God Chen-wu. (The Transmission of Rural Traditions in Chahar).” Folklore Studies 11 (1952): 139-181. JSTOR. Web.

  • with Li Shih-Yu and Wang Fu-Shih. “The Sanctuaries in a North-China city: a Complete Survey of the Cultic Buildings in the City of Hsuan-hua (Chahar).” Melanges Chinois et Bouddhiques 26 (1995). Print.

  • “Les Temples Villageois De La Région Au Sudest De Tat’ong (Chansi Nord), Leurs Inscriptions Et Leur Histoire (The Village Temples in the Southeast of Tatung (Shansi), Their Inscriptions and Their History).” Folklore Studies 4 (1945): 161-212. JSTOR. Web.

  • “Rural Temples around Hsüan-Hua (South Chahar), Their Iconography and Their History.” Folklore Studies 10 (1951): 1-116. JSTOR. Web.

  • “Temples and History of Wanch’uan 萬全 (Chahar), The Geographical Method Applied to History.” Monumenta Serica 13 (1948): 209-316. JSTOR. Web.

蔚縣博物館 [Yu County Museum]:

  • 故城寺壁畫. 北京: 科學出版社, 2010. Print. [The Frescoes of Stubborn-Fort Monastery. Beijing. Scientific Press. 2013. Print.]
  • 蔚州寺廟壁畫. 北京: 科學出版社, 2013. Print. [Yu County Temple Frescoes. Beijing. Scientific Press. 2013. Print.]
Tibet Translation

The Land of Bò, or, a pre-imperial state named “Bod” in Khams?

IMG_3398

two grasslands combined

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[Some autumn pictures from gCan Tsha Thang and a place called Teb Sang in Sog rDzong, which are pretty but not actually related to the subject of this post.]

Ran across mention of the Land of Fu 附國 in a paper and looked it up, which led to the following interesting passage from the Sui History (finished AD 635). I’ve rendered all the names according to the late-classical forms found here. Those words which for which I couldn’t find a late-classical form I put in pinyin with {curly brackets}. It seems hard not to associate Bò with Bod, and the repeated mention of a place called Kạ̄ Leŋ in the eastern mountain fringe of Kham which builds tall, narrow towers makes one thing of rGyal Rong… I have no idea if there’s any English-language literature on this, but apparently there’s been a debate in Chinese going back into the forties
 

附國:
The Land of Bò:

附國者,蜀郡西北二千餘裡,即漢之西南夷也。有嘉良夷,即其東部,所居種姓自相率領,土俗與附國同,言語少殊,不相統一。其人並無姓氏。附國王字宜繒。其國南北八百里,東南千五百里,無城柵,近川穀,傍山險。
The Land of Bò is located two thousand li to the north-west of the commandery of Shu [Sichuan]. This is the same as the south-western Yi Barbarians of the Han dynasty. There are also the Kạ̄ Leŋ barbarians, who live to their east. The different castes which live here rule over each other. Their customs are similar to those of the Land of Bò, although their language has some special aspects, and they are not united together. Neither the Kạ̄ Leŋ people nor the Bò people have surnames. The king of the Land of Bò is called Ŋe Cǝ̄ŋ. This land is eight hundred li to the north and south, while to the east and south [sic] it’s fifteen hundred li. There are no forts or barriers, but it is near to rivers and valleys, bordering on tall mountains and cliffs.

俗好復仇,故壘石為巢而居,以避其患。其巢高至十餘丈,下至五六丈,每級丈餘,以木隔之。基方三四步,巢上方二三步,狀似浮圖。於下級開小門,從內上通,夜必關閉,以防賊盜。
It is the custom of this land to love revenge. Therefore they pile up rocks to create [ ] nests and live in them, in order to protect against such hazards. Their [ ] nests are as tall as ten meters, and go down five or six meters, with each story itself higher than a meter, with wooden partitions. At the base they are three or four paces square and at the top only two or three, with the appearance of Buddhist stupas. In the lower levels a little door opens out, so that the upper levels can be reached from the inside. At night they always close these doors, in order to protect against thieves and bandits.

國有二萬餘家,號令自王出。嘉良夷政令系之酋帥,重罪者死,輕罪罰牛。人皆輕捷,便於擊劍。漆皮為牟甲,弓長六尺,以竹為弦。妻其群母及嫂,兒弟死,父兄亦納其妻。好歌舞,鼓簧,吹長笛。
There are about twenty thousand families in the country. When they are ordered to, they follow the king out [on expeditions]. The Kạ̄ Leŋ barbarians are governed by chieftains over the army. For extreme crimes they punish with death, and for lesser crimes they confiscate yaks. All the people here take victory in battle very lightly, and they are skilled at fighting with swords. They cure leather to make armor. Their bows are six feet long, and they make the bowstrings from bamboo. They take as wives the mothers and sisters-in-law of their tribe (?). If a son or younger brother dies, then the father or older brother receives his wife. They like to sing and dance to drums and fifes, and to play long flutes.

有死者,無服制,置屍高床之上,沐浴衣服,被以牟甲,覆以獸皮。子孫不哭,帶甲舞劍而呼雲:「我父為鬼所取,我欲報冤殺鬼。」自余親戚哭三聲而止。婦人哭,必以兩手掩面。死家殺牛,親屬以豬酒相遺,共飲啖而瘞之。死後十年而大葬,其葬必集親賓,殺馬動至數十匹。立其祖父神而事之。
When a man dies there are no special rules about mourning garb. They set the corpse upon a high bed, wash his clothes, and put on his armor. They cover him in the skin of a slain beast. His sons and grandsons do not cry. Instead they put on their armor and dance with swords, calling out, “my father has been taken by the ghosts! I wish to tell of my sorrows, and kill the ghost!” The remaining relatives all weep three times and then cease. If the women are to weep, they must cover their faces with two hands. The family of the deceased slaughters a yak. The immediate relatives present each other with pigs and wine, and then eat and drink together. Then they bury the body. Ten years after the death, they hold a great funeral ceremony. For this ceremony they must gather together family treasures, and the number of horses slaughtered during these is often as many as ten. At this time they raise up the spirits of their father and ancestors, and worship them.

其俗以皮為帽,形圓如缽,或帶>。衣多毛毼皮裘,全剝牛腳皮為靴。項系鐵鎖,手貫鐵釧。王與酋帥,金為首飾,胸前懸一金花,徑三寸。
The custom of this land is to wear a leather hat, which is round like a bowl. In other cases they have a belt [ ]. For clothes they have much wool and leather. They all cut away the hide from yaks’ hooves to make boots. On the back of their necks they fix a metal lock, and on their hands they have bracelets of metal links. The king or the chiefs of the army have golden head ornaments, and suspend before their breasts a golden flower, which is three inches across.

其土高,氣候涼,多風少雨。土宜小麥、青梁。山出金、銀,多白雉。水有嘉魚,長四尺而鱗細。
Their land is high, and the climate is cold. There is much wind but little rain. The soil is suitable for growing wheat and millet. The mountains produce gold, silver, and many white pheasants. In the rivers is a type of good fish, which is about four feet long and has very fine scales.

大業四年,其王遣使素福等八人入朝。明年,又遣其弟子宜林率嘉良夷六十人朝貢。欲獻良馬,以路險不通,請開山道以修職貢。煬帝以勞人不許。
In the fourth year of the Great Work period (AD 609), the king of this land sent his official Sṑ Puk and eight others to the imperial court. The next year, the king sent his son Ŋe Lim to present tribute, leading sixty of the Kạ̄ Leŋ barbarians. They wished to present good horses. Because the roads to their land are very precipitous, they asked that a way across the mountains be opened for the convenience of tribute missions. Because of the labor it would mean for the people, the Yang Emperor did not allow it.

嘉良有水,闊六七十丈,附國有水,闊百餘丈,並南流,用皮為舟而濟。
In Kạ̄ Leŋ there is a river, which is sixty or seventy meters across. In Bò there is another river, which is over a hundred meters across. Both of them flow to the south. The people there use animal skins to make boats, and cross these rivers on them.

附國南有薄緣夷,風俗亦同。西有女國。其東北連山,綿亙數千里,接於黨項。往往有羌:大、小左封,昔衛,葛延,白狗,向人,望族,林台,春桑,利豆,迷桑,婢藥,大硤,白蘭,叱利摸徒,那鄂,當迷,渠步,桑悟,千碉,並在深山窮穀,無大君長。其風俗略同於黨項,或役屬吐谷渾,或附附國。大業中,來朝貢。緣西南邊置諸道總管,以遙管之。
To the south of the Land of Bò there are the Bāk Jwen barbarians, which have similar customs to them. To the west there is the Land of Women. In the north east there are continuous mountains, which stretch uninterrupted across the land for a thousand li, and eventually reach to the realm of the Tā́ŋ Gọ̄ŋ [Dangxiang]. There are also various groups of Khaŋ [Qiang]: The greater and lesser left fiefs, the Sjek Wèj [Former Commandery], the Kāt Jen [Extended Vines], the Bẹ̄k Kǝ̄̀w [White Dogs], the Hàŋ people, Mwàŋ tribe, the Lim Dhǝ̄j [Forest Platforms], the Ćhwin Sāŋ [Spring Mulberries], the Lhjì D(h)ǝ̄̀w [Sharp Beans], the Mhiēj Sāŋ [Lost Mulberries], the {Bi} Jak [Womens’ Medicine], the Dhā̀j Giẹ̄p [Great Gorges], the Bẹ̄k {Lan} [White Lotuses], the Ćhit Lhjì Mhō {Tu}, the N(h)ān Ŋhāk, the Tāŋ Mhiēj, the Go Bṑ [Great Strides], the Sāŋ Ŋṑ [Mulberry Gnosis], the Shiēn {Diao} [Thousand Towers]. All of these are located amidst deep mountains and far-off valleys, and there are no great chiefs among these. Their customs are more or less the same as those of the Tā́ŋ Gọ̄ŋ [Dangxiang]. Either they have been conquered by the Thṓ Kwōk {Hun} [Tuyuhun], or they belong to the Land of Bò. During the Great Work period (609-618), some of them came to the court to present tribute. At the south-western fringe [of the empire] a governor of all of the different circuits, in order to govern them from afar.

There follows one more long paragraph in which the author advises future rulers to stay away from foreign entanglements. This one is a nuisance and does not say anything about Bò, so I won’t translate it.
a boy on a yak by the Teb Sang river in Sok rDzong
Art China Qinghai Tibet

Ambulatory Trees

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These are some pictures from the ambulatories around the sides of Qutan Monastery 瞿曇寺 near Xining in Qinghai. These had pretty drawings of blue trees and were also the only place I could safely take photos without being spotted by the door-minder-monk and slapped with a 500 kuai fine. I went there with my friend Avi Conant. The dating of the pictures turns out to be complicated. The following is from “Sino-Tibetan Artistic Synthesis in Ming Dynasty Temples at the Core and Periphery”, by Karl Debreczeny, Tibet journal, Apr 2003, Vol.XXVIII(1-2), 56.

Qutansi is especially famous for its 400 square meters of extant murals along the
covered gallery, which depict the life of Sakyamuni Buddha (Fig.21), and whose
style is described by the Chinese scholar Jin Weinuo as being “related to both
Chinese and Tibetan [traditions], but with Chinese brushwork, heavy colors and
blue-green landscape styles predominating.”^53 This gallery was also built in 1427,
probably as part of the same Xuande-period construction program as Longguodian,
overseen by the court eunuch Meng Ji. Interestingly, architectural features identical
to Longguodian, down to the distinctive animals which decorate the roof-line
(Fig.22), appear throughout the first section of the covered gallery, such as in
“Maya’s Dream,” as if the artists used Longguodian as an architectural model for
their depiction of Maya’s palace. However, only about a third of the extant painting
in the gallery (mostly on the east and west walls north of Baoguang Hall up to the
large bell and drum towers) is thought to date to the Ming-period; the rest of the
gallery was repaired and repainted after 1782, coinciding with the previously cited
renovations made to Qutandian.

Since I took these pictures from all along the ambulatory, they can, confusingly, be dated to both the 18th and the 15th centuries.

Another interesting question related with this place is the fortress walls around it. With respect to these, there’s an interesting theory put forth in Aurelia Campbell’s 2011 University of Pennsylvania PhD thesis, “The Impact of Imperial and Local Patronage on Early Ming Temples at the Sino-Tibetan Frontier”. This is on p.128, descending into a footnote.

Qutansi was originally surrounded by an earthen fortress (chengbao 城堡) and
was entered through a defensive structure known as wengcheng 瓮城, which forced
visitors to enter at a right angle, rather than from straight on (fig. 12.1). In the Ming
dynasty, it was not unusual to see fortifications around monasteries in this part of the
country; in some cases, monasteries even doubled as military garrisons.^293

Footnote 293 reads:

See, for instance, the description of Honghuasi in Minhe county in Chapter One. Pu Tianbao
mentions another temple in Minhe, Kedekesi 喀的喀寺 [sic], with a fortress. Pu Tianbao, “Qutansi
wenwu luyou ziyuan kafa de tansuo,” Qinghai minzu yanjiu (Shehui kexue ban) 12, 4 (2001): 24-
25. Isabelle Charleux believes that the fortifications seen in temples in Amdo were left over from
the Central Asian tradition of constructing square fortified monasteries in the ninth to the eleventh
centuries, such as those at Turfān, Qocho, and Duldur-āqur. This subject requires further
investigation. Isabelle Charleux, “Buddhist Monasteries in Southern Mongolia: A Preliminary
Survey,” in The Buddhist Monastery. A Cross-Cultural Survey, ed. Pierre Pichard and Francois
Lagiarde (Paris: École Francaise d’Extreme-Orient, 2003), 24.

Let it be stated, for the record, that I do not think that the decision to enfold Qutan Monastery in a fortress has anything to do with Central Asian monastic architecture. Rather, it has to do with the structure of Chinese village fortresses, of which there used to be many in the area. But this is already another argument.

hebing

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Art China Hebei Yu, Guangling, and Yangyuan

Some Illustrations from the Universal Gateway and also from Hell

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This is one of a what will hopefully be a set of posts, putting up some interesting examples of village temple art from the Xuan-Da area.

The above and below are some photos from the interior of a temple located in Yangyuan County 陽原縣, as usual I’m not going to say where precisely. The temple is split into a larger south-facing room dedicated to Ksitigarbha 地藏 and the Ten Yamas 十閻王, and a smaller north-facing room dedicated to Avalokiteshvara/Guanyin. The frescoes in the northern shrine room depict scenes from the Lotus Sutra, specifically a section called the Universal Gateway 普門品. You can read the whole chapter (and the whole sutra) at City of 10,000 Buddhas here. The order of the frescoes is different from that in the versions I’ve found online; I’ve re-arranged the cartouches to fit the present versions, since it doesn’t seem like it really matters. There are also a few sections which don’t have visible cartouches, and since the order is mixed up I wasn’t sure where to put these. They’re at the bottom. The style looks late 18th or 19th century to me.

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爾時,無盡意菩薩以偈問曰:
And at this time, the Limitless-Intention Bodhisattva began to chant, asking:

“世尊妙相具,我今重問彼,佛子何因緣,名為觀世音?”
“Oh venerable master in all your resplendent forms, once again I ask you, for what reason do you O Buddha, take the name Hears-The-Sounds-Of-The-World (Avalokiteshvara)?

具足妙相尊,偈答無盡意。”汝聽觀音行,善應諸方所,
Then the venerable one provided with the resplendent forms, chanted an answer to the Limitless-Intention Bodhisattva. “I listen and hear the sound of actions, and benevolently respond to all quarters.

弘誓深如海,歷劫不思議,侍多千億佛,發大清淨願。
My abundant determination is as deep as a sea, through the eras I do not change my intention. Relying on more than one hundred billion Buddhas, I make this great and pure vow.

我為汝略說,聞名及見身,心念不空過,能滅諸有苦。
I will explain it simply to you: If you can hear my name and see my form, then your mind will feel empty, for my name and form can extinguish all bitterness. 

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假使興害意,推落大火坑,念彼觀音力,火坑變成池
Let us suppose that due to evil intentions, you have fallen into a great pit of fire – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, then pit of fire will transform into a pool of water.

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或漂流巨海,龍魚諸鬼難,念彼觀音力,波浪不能沒
Or if you are afloat on a great sea, beset by dragons, fish, and all manner of devils – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and those waves will not be able to drown you. 

或在須彌峰,為人所推墮,念彼觀音力,如日虛空住
Or if upon the peak of Sumeru, you are pushed off by someone and fall – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you will travel as the sun across the emptiness. 

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或被惡人逐,墮落金剛山,念彼觀音力,不能損一毛
Or if you are thrust by someone evil, and fall from the Vajra Mountain – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you cannot be diminished even by a single hair. 

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或值怨賊繞,各執刀加害,念彼觀音力,咸即起慈心
Or if you happen to be encircled by a angry thieves, each holding a blade to wound you – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and their hearts will immediately become benevolent. 

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或遭王難苦,臨刑欲壽終,念彼觀音力,刀尋段段壞
Or if you suffer at the hands of a king, and facing execution hope for a long life – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and the executioner’s blade will be immediately shattered to pieces.

或囚禁枷鎖,手足被杻械,念彼觀音力,釋然得解脫
Or if you are shut away in a cangue, with your hands and feet in shackles – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you will receive glad liberation.

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咒詛諸毒藥,所欲害身者,念彼觀音力,還著於本人
If you are cursed or poisoned in any way, by someone who wishes to harm you – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and the harm will immediately rebound upon that person.

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或遇惡羅剎,毒龍諸鬼等,念彼觀音力,時悉不敢害
Or if you meet an evil yaksha, or a poisonous dragon or any other demon – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and at all times they will not dare harm you. 

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若惡獸圍繞,利牙爪可怖,念彼觀音力,疾走無邊方
If you are encircled by evil beasts, with sharp teeth and claws so fearsome – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and you will be able to rapidly flee without any obstructions.

蚖蛇及蝮蠍,氣毒煙火然,念彼觀音力,尋聲自迴去
If you meet with vipers and scorpions, with evil vapors, smoke and fire – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and immediately hearing the sound they will flee back from where they came.

雲雷鼓掣電,降雹澍大雨,念彼觀音力,應時得消散
Amids clouds and the rumble of thunder and striking of lighting, as hail falls and a great rain pours down – think only of the power of Hears-The-Sounds, and in response right at that moment the clouds will all vanish and clear away.

眾生被困厄,無量苦逼身,觀音妙智力,能救世間苦。
When all sentient beings are in suffering and difficulty, when limitless bitterness approaches you – through the power of the resplendent wisdom of Hears-The-Sounds, all the suffering of this world can be escaped.”

The chant keeps going. Here are a few more in which the cartouche isn’t visible.

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The below are from the south-facing part of the shrine room, depicting the stalactites of hell. The style of blue-painted “hanging carvings” 懸塑 here is quite unique, and I’m not sure of a date. The only direct parallels I’m aware of are the “Reverse-Facing Guanyin” 倒坐觀音 from the Longxing Monastery 隆興寺 in southern Hebei, and the images called “Five Hundred Arhats Crossing a River” 五百羅漢渡江 from the Monastery of the Manjushri Image at Five-Peak Mountain in Shanxi 五台山殊像寺.

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