Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Temple of Ancestor Worship

Before the main point of my post, I wanted to share with you all how safe I feel in China. It's amazing - besides needing to of course watch my belongings and zip up my purse (pickpockets are a big problem,) I always feel safe. China has extremely low violent crime levels, and I always feel safe walking home after dark from a local internet cafe. When my parents were in town, one girl who was worried about moving to San Francisco for university, was horrified to learn she shouldn't walk home along at night - it's just not something you have to worry about, especially in a place like Xiamen. It helps that everything is open very late here, and there are always people around, no matter where you are or what time.

We visited a series of temples with my Chinese culture class last week. First we visited a local temple to a local, Fujian/Southeast coastal China deity - the Holy Mother. Then we visited a beautiful Daoist temple. The last temple though, a temple for ancestor worship, was be far the most interesting. It incorporated Buddhist and Daoist elements into its style and worship methods, and the decorations were fascinating.

Along one wall were dozens of paintings depicting scenes from famous Chinese moralistic stories. They are designed to teach filial piety. The one I have included above shows the story of a son who, because every night mosquitoes kept him and his family from sleeping well, took off all his clothes one night so as to attract all the mosquitoes to himself and allow his parents to sleep.

I am, unfortunately, not sure who the figures in the painting represent. Venerable town ancestors, I would guess. I just liked the painting, which was on the door going into the temple.

The amazing things about nearly every site we visit in China, whether historical building, temple, or tourist shop, is that they are all inhabited. The temple of ancestor worship had beds along the opposite wall, but here you can see their table and cooking area. This was not in a back room, but simply in the temple proper.

Here is someone's bicycle leaning against part of the entranceway.

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