One of the four warriors who guard the Buddha at the entrance to many temples
If you’ve been in China long enough, it’s easy to get “templed out.” When you can’t remember the difference between the Temple of Everblue Skies and the Pavilion of Early Plum Blossoms, it’s tough to get excited about traipsing through the Hall of Magnificent Munificence.
The only surefire solution to the malady is to find something else to do, but whenever that’s not a good option we have a tried-and-true strategy: go for the ghouls. Chinese temples abound with demons – painted on murals, carved onto walls, sculpted into roof ornaments.
You can hardly go wrong riding the ghoul train in any Chinese temple, whether Buddist or Taoist. Yet when it comes to the underworld, Gao Miao (Tall Temple) in Zhongwei, which is a blend of Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist styles, is in a league of its own. Its one interpretive sign in English boasts that it has the finest Hades in China, and the temple’s dramatically upturned eaves lend the temple a Gothic feel.
The temple was built in the early Ming period between 1402 and 1420, and consists of over 300 rooms on several levels piled one atop the other, “in a form,” in the words of the interpretive sign (Chinese), “similar to a phoenix spreading its wings, powerfully flying high to the skies.” Anyhow, inside the temple there is a fine selection of dragons, demons and grumpy old men. When the storyboards aren’t bloodthirsty, well, at least they depict scenes of cruelty and unhappiness.
Giving a new meaning to the term “dinner bell”
If you write one more thing about me, young man . . .
And STAY out!!!
But no Chinese temple is complete without a bit of fun and games, so the minders of Gao Miao have thoughtfully extended the Hades theme in a small side temple where you can find your own inner ghoul.
Who’s the stretchiest of them all?
And if all of that weren’t scary enough, once you’ve emerged blinking into the sunlight, you’re immediately accosted by the birdseed man, who will not take no for an answer. Hell indeed.
Spreading their wings, powerfully flying high to the skies