A Guide to Qing’an Guild Hall
发布时间:2010-08-25 16:43:03   浏览次数:2286  
A Guide to Qing’an Guild Hall
 
Hello, welcome to the Qing’an Guild Hall. We are about to get on board the Historical Boat of Ningbo. We are going to visit two ancient guild halls, the Mazu culture and the Exhibition of Boat History of Ningbo.
 
1. An Overview 
The old building standing before us is an old guild hall in China. Located at the east bank of the Yongjiang River, at downtown Ningbo, it was a place for business people to gather together. It was built with the donations by nine Beiyang (North Sea) shipping merchants. As the Beiyang shipping merchants were mainly engaged in business in northern parts of China, the guild hall was also named “North Guild Hall”. It got another name of Sea Goddess Palace (Tianhougong) of East Ningbo as it sits in the east part of the Sanjiangkou area (junction of three rivers).It was both a place enshrining the sea goddess of Mazu and a place for gathering of shipping agents. It started to be built in 1850 and was completed in 1853, covering a land area of 5000 M2. The building consists of the Entrance, Yimen (Etiquette Door), Front Stage, Great Hall, rear stage, Houdian (Rear Chamber), front and rear wing-rooms, etc.
 
Weather-beaten for over 100 years, the Guild Hall was quite dilapidated. In 1997, the city government decided to renovate it. The Culture and Press Bureau took charge of the renovation work. Based on the original appearance and the functions of showcasing the Mazu culture, it was changed into a museum of marine affairs and folk customs in East Zhejiang. In June 2001 the Guild Hall was designated by the State Council as a cultural relic unit under the state-level protection (among the fifth groups).
 
Ok, let’s now go inside. You can see that the construction faces the west. Along its axis are the Entrance, Yimen (Etiquette Door), Front Stage, Great Hall, rear stage and Houdian (Rear Chamber). The two stages are linked with the wing-rooms and the front and rear chambers, forming a three-horizontal and two-vertical shape. At the south side of the rear chamber and the rear wing rooms are penthouses, totaling seven rooms. The whole construction complex takes a front-low and rear-high stance. The gable walls around it form a “凸”-shaped layout. At the north side is the green land and outside the north gable wall a fire-proof lane is set. An enclosing wall is built to separate with the green area, thus making the building complex separate and self-contained. At the north and west sides are two private courtyards, now used as offices of the guild hall.
 
2. Entrance
 
The entrance to the guild hall is a three-bayed post and lintel structure, with dual double eaves round ridge, three horse-headed and two-layer hard-topped. In the middle of head sill is inlaid with a vertical tablet with patterns of Twin Dragons Playing with Pearl and inscriptions of Tianhougong (Sea Goddess Palace). On either side are 14 tile carvings including The Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea, Dragon Tongue Squad, Fishing, Wood-cutting, Farming and Reading. In addition, there are wood-like arch of brick carvings, which are delicate and expressive. The patterns are arranged in a traditional layout, with clear-cut tiers and expressive strokes. The brick carvings are the masterpieces in the Guild Hall that come to our eyes firstly. 
 
The roof is decorated with hermaphroditic round ridge. In the middle of the beam are carved two flower baskets. On the beams and arches there are golden-lacquer carvings of scenic sights, flowers, plants, birds and animals. The walls are made of rubbed bricks. Screens are set on the upstairs of the east wall, making it look like pseudo two-floor house.
 
3. Yimen (Etiquette Door)
 
The Yimen (Etiquette Door), also known as “Second Door”, has five bays and double eaves, hard-peaked (Yinshanding), horse-headed. The mid-part has three doors. The mid-door has a pair of stone drums at the two sides, which were unearthed when the Yimen (Etiquette Door) was restored. It has a history of 150 years. The drum stones and the sockets on the mid-door are so-called Men-dang-hu-dui, a Chinese idiom meaning “of marriages being well-matched in social and economic status”. The gable walls are four-horse-headed walls, with stone wall heads furnished at sides. On the wall heads are carved patterns of farming. The main frontage is double-eaves round ridge, with six stone columns at cornices. The Etiquette Door was destroyed in 1960s and restored in 2001 based on historical drawings kept by the Southeast University.
 
There is an inscription tablet about the Sea Goddess Palace set at the southern side under the round ridge of the gable wall. It was written by Dong Pei, a famous scholar by Ningbo origin in the Qing Dynasty. It is about the business operations of the Beiyang shipping merchants, the life stories of Mazu, the building of the guild hall, etc. It also records the names of the nine donators, who were respectively Dong Binru, Feng Yuxiang, Su Qinghe, Fei Lengkan, Fei Fusheng, Sheng Bindeng, Tong Xianglong and Guxuan. The tablet provides as an historical evidence for the research on the guild hall.
 
4. Front Stage
 
Hello, everyone. Now let’s look closely at the front stage. The stage is situated in the east and faces the east, 5.2 m wide, 9.5 m tall, taking a square shape. It is a Xieshangding-style structure, with a top of two dragons. The roof is covered with pantiles. On the ridge of the eaves stand several opera figures, all vividly carved. The caisson on the stage is of a vault-type structure. 16 wing-angle spiral arches link the stage to the top. Under the three ring beams are openwork carvings of Two Dragons Playing with Twin Pearls. A big bronze mirror is set in the center of the roof. On the four sides there are carvings of eight dragon heads and flower baskets, which are said to be able to keep away evils and diseases. According a scientific research on the stage, when singers are singing on the stage, the walls will give a resonating effect. So how intelligent the ancient artisans! On the sides of the beams patterns of figures, flowers and birds are carved and gilded. There are also tile carvings of Kui, props, characters and animals.
 
Wuwangkao rails are set on the stage, known as “Fire Rails”. Eight relief sculptured and gilded screens, which separate the stage into several parts. There are two doors on the two sides for entry and exit of performers. In ancient times the doors were called “Ancient Doors”, meaning the shows put on the stage were about ancient people. In front of the stage is a Tianjin (patio), facing the main hall. The path down the stage leads to the steps of the main hall. There are four wing rooms on either sides of the stage, which were named as Watching Rooms, places for viewers. On the gable walls are bricks carvings of figures, birds and flowers. Back 150 years ago when the art forms were not so diversified as today, this place was a haven for merchants and common people to enjoy cultural life. It is now one of the few opera stages that have been well preserved today.
 
The beams of the stage are decorated with plates of golden-lacquer carvings, which are mostly themed on stories in the Romance of Three Kingdoms, like Three Heroes Fighting Against Lu Bu and Empty Fort Strategy, as well as auspicious patterns like “Magpies Perching on Plum Trees”, Wellbeing and Longevity Pattern, Dragon, Phoenix and Phonies.  The screens are engraved six paintings of the figures of ladies. Curved rails are set on three sides of the stage, commonly referred to as Rails for Beauties to Lean on, which add to the artistic taste of the stage. In a word, the stage combines the features of temple, ancestral temple and folk house of the Jiangnan regions.
 
The front stage before the guild hall was for sacrifices offering in honor of Mazu. It was a place for gods to watch opera shows.
 
5. Front Wing-House
 
The front wing house, with four rooms, was formerly for spectators to see the performances, in which the Exhibition of Boat History of Ningbo (China) is shown.
 
“Ningbo is like a boat and we are oars on board”. This boat has been on sail for 7,000 years.
 
The marine civilization started from boats. Back 7000 years ago, the primitive people at Hemudu of Yuyao, Ningbo could use boats, which was named rafts, the earliest means for sea transportation. The Gouzhang (old name for Ningbo) of the Old Yue Kingdom saw the sweeps the earliest in the world.
 
With increase of trade and cultural exchanges with ports in Southeast Asia and West Asia, Ningbo’s shipbuilding industry and seafaring business gradually developed. The Eastern Han Dynasty opened a port in Ningbo and established a bridge to sea civilization. When the time elapsed into the Tang Dynasty, the port of Ningbo had established close links with some 20 countries and regions. The imperial government of the Song Dynasty sent envoys to Korea twice and had the Mingzhou Prefecture (Ningbo) make a giant ship. The bilge keel of a Song ship unearthed in Ningbo was found to be leading in technology in the world, about 700 earlier than western powers.
 
In the Qing Dynasty when the ban on maritime trade was lifted, the shipping business in Ningbo developed by leaps and bounds. The Ningbo merchants overseas introduced the first mechanic steam boat from the western world, which marked the beginning of modern seafaring. The ship model exhibited here is 1:1 replica of the original. It well tells the history of our forefathers creating the shipping civilization.
 
The old Ningbo port was a window to overseas civilization as well as a birthplace of the world shipping civilization.
 
6. Great Hall
 
The Great Hall is the core part of the Guild Hall. It is a 12-meter tall post and lintel construction, with five bays, double eaves and five horse-heads. Within the hall, 32 robust wooden columns are used to prop up the top beam. The wooden columns, beams and rafts are painted or carved with red lacquer, which add to the solemnity of the hall. The horse-headed gable walls at the north and south sides tell the scale of the Hall. Here you can find masterpieces of local crafts including tile carving, stone carving, and red lacquer carving, which well exhibit the charm of the architecture of Jiangnan regions.
 
In front of the Hall there are a pair of stone columns carved with dragons and a pair of stone columns carved with phoenixes and peonies. The columns are four meters tall, with a high-relief carved base, which is a rare stone carving work. The dragon columns are made from a monolithic stone. Each column has got a dragon carved, which takes a curling-up and spiral posture, appearing imposing, brows and paws stretching, clouds rolling around. The heads, paws and clouds are pierce carved, making the dragon seemingly flying in mountain clouds. The tail stretches about 30-40 centimeters out. The ingenious composition of implicitness and explicitness produces the momentum of the dragon. The two bats flying up and down imply blessing coming from the heaven. The other two phoenix and phony columns are half buried in the wall, looking like walls hugging columns. The upper part is a male phoenix while the lower part is a female phoenix. In the middle are blooming phony flowers. The two columns are hollowed carved too.
 
On the walls close to the phoenix columns are inlaid two stone tablets. The plum bamboos within and the orchid bamboos opposite are symmetrical to each other. On the tablets 10 Sights of West Lake are relief carved, with depth less than one centimeter. The pictures are about the landscape, pavilions and mansions in Hangzhou. They form a sharp contrast with the dragon and phoenix columns, rough versus delicate, vibrant versus quiet.
 
A story has it that the stone materials for the columns were shipped from Fujian. As the boat was not big enough and there were difficulties in hoisting, the crewmen fixed the four columns on the sides of shipboards of the two ships. This could not only solve the insufficient loading problem, but keep a balanced seagoing. When the boats reached the East China Sea, storms blew up. Many boats nearby were overturned. But the boats carrying the four stone columns reached Ningbo safe and sound. People attributed it to the blessings of Mazu. To repay the Sea Goddess, a stage was put up at the Sanjiangkou area and plays were put on for three days.
 
On the shrine hang three inscribed boards granted by emperors to the Mazu Temple. The middle one was conferred by Emperor Huizong of the Song Dynasty in 1123. The left one was written by Emperor Yongzheng in 1726, and the right one was written by Emperor Guangxu in 1877. These inscriptions indicate the glory and vicissitudes of the Mazu Temple.
 
Now, everybody. I feel it necessary to introduce to you the Sea Goddess Mazu. Mazu’s kindly eyes have been following us when we entered this sacred hall. Mazu will bless you a happy life journey.
 
Mazu was formerly named Lin Mo, a native of Meizhou Island of Putian, Fujian. She was born on March 23 (by Lunar Calendar) in 960 in the Song Dynasty. She passed away on the ninth day of ninth lunar month of 987. When she was born, there was fragrance and auspicious light in the room and the baby did not cry for a month. That was why she got the name of Mo, meaning “Silence”. She was bright and diligent when she was a little girl. She was keen on learning and could understand the texts profoundly. Upon entering adulthood, she was determined to throw her bread upon the waters and remain single to do good to others. She was good at medicine and saved people’s life. She was gentle and passionate, helping commoners out of difficulties. She was knowledgeable in meteorology and geography, good at steering boats and swimming in seawaters.
 
The legendary Mazu (Lin Mo) could go across the sea on a mattress and speed across the sky. She could also foretell what was ahead. After ascension, she often appeared on the sea in red costumes. Later on people had a temple built on the Meizhou Island to enshrine her, which was named Madame Lin’s Temple. In the Northern Song Dynasty, Emperor Huizhong granted the title Shunji to Lin Mo and since then folks enshrined her as Sea Goddess Mazu, which was accepted by the Court. So the enshrining of Mazu spread across China ever since. When time elapsed into the Yuan Dynasty, Mazu was conferred the title of Tianfei (Heavenly Goddess). Heaven in ancient China was regarded loftier than earth. That was why Heaven was taken as Emperor and Earth as Queen. Sea was inferior to earth in importance. Therefore, Sea Goddess was also named Heavily Goddess. The Sea Goddess Temple, originally named Madame Lin’s Temple, was also called Heavenly Goddess Palace, and Heavenly Goddess Temple. In the 22nd year of the Kangxi Period of the Qing Dynasty, General Shi Lang got the help from Mazu when his troops seized Penghu Islands. When the news spread to the Court, Emperor Kangxi conferred the title of “Tianhou” (Heavenly Goddess) to Mazu and later on the Mazu Temple was also named Tianhou Palace (Heavenly Goddess Palace).
 
From the year 1123 on, Lin Mo had been conferred by emperors of different dynasties the titles of Madame, Fei, Tianfei, Tianhou (Heavenly Goddess) and Sacred Mother in Heaven. Ningbo is a city that explored the oceans the earliest in China and also an origin place of man’s shipping culture. Mazu made home in Ningbo in the mid-Northern-Song Dynasty and has been enshrined and worshipped by folks in the following dynasties and until the present day. According to incomplete statistics, Ningbo has got 40 sites of Mazu culture, which are scattered in Cixi, Xiangshan, Zhenhai and Beilun. The Sea Goddess Palace in the Qing’an Guild Hall is the one preserved the most intact among all.
 
Emperors of different dynasties had conferred titles to Mazu many times, ordered to offer sacrifices in springs and autumns, and had it included into the Chinese state cults. As a result, the Mazu has been a household name in the coastal areas in China and become a goddess worshiped by folks. In the Guild Hall is enshrined a painted sculpture of Mazu. By the sides there are weapons of all kinds and honor plates. The Hall is a main venue to pay respects to Mazu.
On the two sides of Mazu are two warriors named Qianliyan (Clairvoyance) and Shunfeng’er (clairaudient).
 
 Qianliyan (Clairvoyance) was a legendary warrior or a bodyguard of King Zhouwang of the Shang Dynasty. After his death his soul turned into a ghost that often haunted the Peach Blossom Mountain. It was Mazu who brought under him and had him act as an observer. As his eyes could see 1000 miles away, he had helped fishermen evade disasters.
 
Shunfeng’er (Clairaudient) was also legendary warrior or a bodyguard of King Zhouwang of the Shang Dynasty.  After his death his soul turned into a ghost that often haunted the Peach Blossom Mountain. Mazu surrendered him and had him act as a listener. He could hear fishermen asking for help on the seas and had helped rescue fishermen and their properties.
 
7. Rear Stage
 
The rear stage was for ceremonies and performances to entertain shipmen and shipping merchants. Different from the Front Stage, it was a place for performance shows. It is a Xieshangding-style structure, too. The caisson on the stage is of a vault-type structure, propped up by 16 bars and 21 rings of arches and pattern boards, of complex composition and exquisite craftsmanship. The beams and rafts are beautifully carved with red lacquer, forming a perfect match with the front stage. The two stages setting off each other dwarf any other stages elsewhere.
 
It is rare to have two stages in one guild hall in China. The two stages allowed two troupes to put on performances, which must have intoxicated the audiences a lot.
   
 8. Rear wing-rooms
The wing-rooms in the rear of the Guild Hall were places for spectators. There are two-floor wing rooms on either side of the stage.
 
The Exhibition of Boat History of Ningbo, China is shown on the ground floor and the TV program for Mingzhou and Mazu is shown there too. Ningbo took an important place in Mazu belief. The then Mingzhou was present Ningbo. Then how did Ningbo relate to Mazu? According to historical records, in 1123 an envoy named Lu Yundi (a Geshizhong in the Northern Song) took a ship made in Dinghai (present Zhenhai of Ningbo) to go to Korea. (Back in the Tang and Song Dynasties, the ship-building industry was already quite developed. The imperial court assigned the task of making a huge ship for Korea to the Mingzhou prefecture.) The envoy fleet ran into a sudden storm, which overturned many boats and drowned a few crewmen. At this critical moment, Lu Yundi prayed for help to Mazu. As a result, he and his men returned sound and safe. When the Emperor Huizong learned it, he conferred an inscription tablet Shunji (Smooth Salvage). Since then the belief in Mazu got approval from the imperial court and spread to the whole country from Ningbo. Mazu became the Sea Goddess protecting boats and boatmen. Therefore, Ningbo played a vital role in the spreading of the Mazu belief.
 
Upstairs is the exhibition Mazu and Chinese Red. The legends of Mazu take different forms in different regions of the coastal areas of China. Different regions with different customs may have produced different Mazu. As a matter of fact, Mazu was a real person, a Goddess-incarnated person. She not only was compassionate, but possessed the traditional virtues of simplicity, goodness and beautifulness. After ascension, legends about Mazu had been developing and finally developed into a Mazu belief reflecting man’s pursuit of the true, the good and the beautiful. The exhibition shows three phases of Mazu’s life: girlhood (boudoir), adulthood (study) and ascension (mausoleum). To set off the settings, red lacquer wood-carving furniture, representing the folk culture of East Zhejiang, is placed in the room. China Red was made the distinctive theme of the exhibition, which is expected to give people a feel of the Mazu culture.
 
 9. Houdian (Rear chamber)
 
The Houdian (Rear chamber), also a five-bay, double-eaves and post and lintel structure, was a venue for office, gathering, offering sacrifice and watching play shows. Now the Exhibition of Boat History of Ningbo, China is displayed here.
 
10. Wing-Rooms
 
The ground floor of the wing-rooms has the Exhibition of Boat History of Ningbo, China, too. The exhibition is to conclude soon. The exhibition area totals 915.7 M2, with an exhibition line of 514.4 meters long in total. The exhibition falls into three parts, consisting of 7 shows and one temporary hall. More than 380 items including cultural relics, documents, pictures and ship models are showcased.
 
In the history of man’s civilization, ships and shipbuilding take an important position. Like camels trudging on deserts, they have carried the hardships weathered during the history of man’s creations. The Exhibition is held for the purpose of keeping the splendor of marine civilization created by our forefathers. We hope you can get on board the ship of modern civilization of Ningbo and sail for a better tomorrow.    
 
11. Anlai Guild Hall
 
Next we are going to visit the Anlai Guild Hall. The Anlai Guild Hall is situated at the south flank of the east bank of the Yongjiang River, together with the Qing’an Guild Hall. The former was called the South Guild Hall while the latter was named the North Guild Hall. It was set up by Nanyang (South Sea) shipping merchants in 1826. It was also a venue for enshrining of Mazu and gathering of shipping merchants. The two guild halls stand side by side, symbolizing the prosperous sea transportation in the North Sea and the South Sea. The layout of two guild halls is rarely seen elsewhere in China, which is a token indicating Ningbo’s bustling seafaring business.
 
Similar to the Qing’an Guild Hall, the Anlai Guild Hall sites in the east and faces the west. Along its axis are the entrance, front stage, great hall, rear stage, rear chamber, etc, with a building space totaling 1700 m2.
 
12. Entrance Door
 
The entrance door of the Anlai Guild Hall was built in 1826 and restored in 2001. The mainstay is a five-bay, double-eaves, hard-topped structure, with bow-shaped walls and with post-and-lintel round ridge. The beams have red-lacquer carvings, of typical local flavor. 
 
13. Front stage
 
The front stage was for offering sacrifices to Mazu and for performance shows. It was restored in 2001. It is a Xieshangding-style structure, with a caisson in the center. The caisson is of a vault-type structure, which is built in a special way to gather sounds. The beams and wood components have carvings of red lacquer, which appear splendid. Together with the rear stage, the stage represents the masterpiece of architecture in Jiangnan regions. .
 
14. Great Hall
 
The Great Hall is the core part of the Guild Hall. It is a post and lintel construction, with five bays and double eaves. The wooden columns, beams and rafts are painted or carved with red lacquer. The ridge purlin has the painted patterns of dragons and phoenixes which are vivid and true to life.
 
 
15. Rear Stage
 
The rear stage, restored in 2002, was for ceremonies and performances to entertain shipmen and shipping merchants. It is a Xieshangding-style structure, too. The caisson on the stage is of a vault-type structure, made of hundreds of plates and dowels, of complex composition and exquisite craftsmanship. The caisson is built in a special way to gather sounds. The beams and rafts are beautifully carved with red lacquer, forming a perfect match with the front stage. The two stages setting off each other dwarf any other stages elsewhere.
 
16. Rear chamber
 
The rear chamber was restored in 2002. It was a place for offering sacrifices, gathering, play watching, and resting. It is a five-bay, post and lintel construction.
 
That’s it for the visit. Thanks for taking time visiting the Exhibition of Boat History of Ningbo, China and having dialogue with the oriental Sea Goddess. Thank you!
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