A daoist nun tidies up the remains of incense sticks left behind by worshippers at the Green Ram Temple, Chengdu. The large characters in the background read right to left: fu (happiness), shou (longevity) and lu (prosperity) - the three most welcome blessings in Chinese traditional culture. Qingming 090405 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn
One of China's most important Daoist temples is located in Chengdu: Green Ram Temple (Qingyang Gong 青羊宫). The green mentioned in the name is the same green as the roof tiles, a kind of deep turqoisey jadegreen, but it actually refers to the green ram that Laozi supposedly rode to Chengdu when he passed through on his way to the great beyond. A more literal translation of the name is "The Palace of the Green Ram", which you will see written in beautiful gold calligraphy on a black background above the main entrance (characters read right to left). Qingyang Gong is also known as the Temple of Two Immortals, because the daoist immortals Lu Dongbin and Han Xiangzi apparently once came down to earth here (they can be seen on a roof in the eastern section of the temple complex).
Temple window with ornamental carvings in the shape of lucky bats (fu) and the character for longevity (shou). ©IBM
The temple is quite active and there are around 200 monks and sundry employees in residence. Qingyang Gong has special affiliation with the Daoist Qingcheng Mountain, NW of Chengdu. Like one of the monks said "We're all in the same family".
It's said that it was here that Laozi (the founder of daoism) attained his immortality and also where he revealed the Daodejing to Yinxi - the frontier guardian at Hangu Pass. Yinxi was the last man to see Laozi before he left this earthly abode and continued on to Mount Kunlun and the Western Paradise.
May the daoist force be with you! ©IBM
The buildings and gardens are constructed with daoist symbolism in mind: there are buxbom baguas and yin and yang symbols. The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac are carved in stone and the lovely Pavilion of Eight Trigrams (Bagua Ting), decorated with numerologically significant 81 dragons is eight-sided. Numerous murals depict daoist legends and deities (many with delightful names like "The Emperor of the Purple Subtlety"). Especially famous are the two bronze goats with various auspicious (or easy to touch) parts of their bodies burnished bright by the hands of hundreds of thousands of visitors (it is said to bring luck and good health). One of the goats (the least popular of the two it seems) is actually a combination of all of the 12 animals of the zodiac, try and identify which parts of the goat belongs to which animal.
Don't miss the lively teahouse and vegetarian restaurant located on the temple grounds (western section). In the eastern section there are several new buildings and also a taichiquan school where several foreigners and Chinese specialists practice and teach. Why not pay a visit to the Cultural Park (Wenhua Gongyuan) that is located right beside Qingyang Gong. Here there are numerous cosy teahouses with intense mahjong sessions, amusement rides for the kids, lush greenery and a most welcome entrance fee of 0 yuan.
Address: No.9 Xi Er Duan, Yihuan Lu (一环路西二段9号). Entrance fee: 10 yuan, children under 12 half. Really small children: free.