In search of dream island

Updated: 2015-05-30 07:44

By Peng Yining In Dongshan, Fujian Province(China Daily)

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In search of dream island

People celebrate the birthday of Guan Yu, which falls on May 13, in front of the Guan Yu Temple in Dongshan.[Photo by Chen Xiaohan/For China Daily]

The Guan Yu Temple in Dongshan is one of the four most famous of its kind in China. The other three are in the provinces of Shanxi, Henan and Hubei.

The 650-square-meter temple was built in the architecture style of the southeast coastal area, having exquisite ceramic sculptures on its roof.

There are 120 characters on its roof which tell historical stories, including a story on Mu Guiying, a female general in the Song Dynasty (AD960-1279).

Sun Liqiang, 50-year-old ceramic artist, says making the sculptures is a provincial culture heritage. His father, Sun Qijia, repaired the sculptures on the temple's roof.

"Now I am the only inheritor of the skills," says Sun. "I hope people would protect the unique art form in Dongshan."

On Guan Yu's birth and death dates - May 13 and June 24 in the Chinese calendar - elaborate ceremonies are held in the temple. They are the most important events for the locals.

Wearing traditional long gowns, residents chant and bow in the ceremonies, and pray for good luck and prosperity. Every year, in the first or second month in the Chinese calendar, Dongshan has a parade of Guan's statue. Carried by local male residents, the statue is carried around the island, followed by bands and honor guards. Locals believe places where Guan has "inspected" will flourish. Today, the ceremonies and parade have become important cultural events that attract thousands of visitors.

The worship of Guan Yu was introduced to Taiwan at the end of the Ming Dynasty, when a general named Zheng Chenggong went across the straits and drove away the Dutch colonists. Now Taiwan has more than 1,000 Guan Yu temples, which have their origins in Dongshan.

Located 300 km from Taiwan's southern city Kaohsiung, Dongshan is also an exchange platform across the straits. It is one of the first mainland ports opened to Taiwan. There are at least 200,000 people in Taiwan who have their original homes in Dongshan.