Monday, November 06, 2006

Hsinchu Cheng Huang Temple (城隍廟)

These pictures are of the Cheng Huang temple in Hsinchu, Taiwan. I have pedaled, motored, and wandered past this temple scores of times since I started living in Hsinchu, but until recently I'd never been inside. In fact, I didn't even realize that there was a temple there because it is so surrounded by food stands that you can't see its exterior.

An interesting thing about this temple is that it is the main temple of its kind in Taiwan. From what I can tell, and this might be totally wrong so don't quote me on your term papers, but I think that major temples have a geographical hierarchy in which they can be named the official temple of the prefecture, province, or capital in regards to the worship of its particular god. Apparently the religious capitals don't necessarily correspond with the political ones. In the case of Cheng Huang, Hsinchu hosts the capital temple.

Cheng, roughly translated, means "city" or "wall," or "city wall." Huang, as far as I can tell, means "moat" or "ditch with no water." So depending on how you look at it, Cheng Huang is either the city god, or the city wall/moat god, or maybe the god that protects the city. What I've learned that he is more of a god of punishment than anything else.

Cheng Huang's role, or at least one of them, is to protect the social peace. He is the ruler of the Chinese equivalent of Hades, or the underworld. As such, he serves as the punisher of the living or the dead, particularly law breakers (see photos of the policemen below).

This is the angry police officer. He is responsible for the apprehension and punishment of bad people. Note his cranky expression and his lack of a beard. Sometimes he is depicted sporting a set of nasty looking Chinese handcuffs.

This is the happy police officer. He is responsible for finding lost items and solving problems. He has a happy expression, and a beard!

This is professor Chiang explaining the significance of the figures, the offering of food, and the role of the Taoist priest to us.

This is a god whose name escapes me. His two-tone appearance has to do with his connection to both the world of the living, and the world of the dead (sorry, no Star Trek connections).

I don't know the significance of the rest of these pictures, but they give you an idea of what the temple looks like on the inside. I actually tried to take a lot more pictures, but my camera battery was dying, so what you see is what you get.

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