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Old Chenghuang Temple ( Old Town-God Temple)
2018-12-07 15:06 Text Size: A A A

The Old Chenghuang Temple, or the Old Town-God Temple, or County Temple, is located on the east of Xianxue Street, with the full name of Ningbo Fu Cheng Huang Miao (Chenghuang Temple of Ningbo Prefecture). It was built in 916, the second year of Zhenming Period of Later Liang in the Five Dynasties Period, and was later relocated to fifty steps southwest of Zicheng, the extension of the old city, where is nowadays southeast of Gulou. In 1216, Cheng Qin pled to the central government for permission to build a temple in supplicating for God’s blessing. Because there were too many worshippers burning joss sticks and candles, the temple was destroyed by fire many times. In 1371, after it was once again burned up, the county governor Zhang Qi relocated the temple to “old site of Dishi Temple on Wolan Lane”, which is nowadays the location of old Chenghuang Temple on Xianxue street. In the beginning it was not big until 1437 when the Zhang Luo, magistrate of the prefecture, rebuilt the halls, corridors and side rooms, as well as the pavilions and columns on the south of the main hall, adding much more grandeur to the temple. In 1884, the temple was rebuilt again in a much bigger scale than previous times, adding a first gate, a second gate, a stage and four rows of big halls and rear big halls. Between the second gate and the big hall which is the main construction, there are wings on the two sides, and the caissons of the stage are all decorated with gilt carved brackets spiraling up on them which are unparallel in delicacy. In front of the temple gate there is the arch camber Moon Palace wall, and in between a screen wall is right ahead of the gate with a flagpole set up; the gate door consists of three clamshell doors, and there is a pair of stone lions on each side of the gate. The whole construction group looks magnificent and unsophisticated, full of overhanging eaves, shrug ridges and delicate carvings, splendid and sumptuous.

In old times there were statues of the Town God, devils of bull head and horse face and devils in hell with ferocious faces in the temple, and the couplets on the columns read: “the heaven knows, the earth knows, you know and I know, who says no one knows; reward for the good, repay for the bad, pay off late, pay off early, retribution always comes”, all mysterious and scary. Every day the temple was immersed in coiling incense smokes, throngs of devout men and women came to worship. There were also fortune-telling poems, Fang Yan Kou (a ritual to feed the starving ghosts) and sales of office passports; and all sorts of people gathered in and out around the temple doing glyphomancy, physiognomy, fortune-telling on the paper, singing stories of the wit, telling stories of the valiant, teaching moral stories and so on. As for booths and stalls for drinks and snacks, they were everywhere in and out of the temple, and there was meat and vegetarian flour snacks, wonton and steamed stuffed buns, casual drinks, fruits and cakes, and anything one could think of. In the first month of the lunar year which was the time for Dengtou plays (plays played ahead of lanterns) or festivals when Choushen plays (plays to pay tribute to God) were to be put on stage, all kinds of good plays would be performed on the stage. At the meantime lanterns and streamers were put up, looking lively and boisterous. Apart from worshiping Bodhisattva, people came to the temple more to enjoy the lively atmosphere and buy some snacks, so the temple was always crowded with people, and the bustling never faded.

In June 1645, the second year of Shunzhi Period of the Qing Dynasty, when the Ming Dynasty was about to end and the Qing troops were launching a massive attack southward, national heroes Qian Sule, Zhang Cangshui, Dong Zhining and so on called on thousands of civilians to gather in the temple for uprising against the Qing troops. In 1927, the Bodhisattva statues in the temple were destroyed, so there was no Bodhisattva any more in the temple. After the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945), Bodhisattva statues were restored.

In 1938, the temple underwent a big repair and took on a new look. In 1995, it had a large scale expansion. The newly-built shopping mall inherited the Ming and Qing dynasties’ architectural style of the old temple, which is unsophisticated and elegant, grand and spectacular. The total area after expansion is 20 thousand square meters. Between the old and new buildings is a 108-meter long and 6-meter wide pedestrian street, along which there are 29 different kinds of stores, making Chenghuang Temple a famous tourist place with large shopping mall, special stores and restaurant complex.

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