Individual Studies

The Chunyang guan 純陽觀 and the multivocality of a religious space

Elena Valussi

  • Chunyang guan 純陽觀

The temple is a great example of religious diversity, starting as a series of altars to local divinities in the 1880s, then changing into a temple dedicated to the Daoist god Lü Dongbin in the 1890s, and then, between 1909 and 1937, enlarging and morphing into a Republican era showpiece for Confucian virtues. 

The large compound also includes a large hall to the Buddhist deity Guanyin. During the war of resistance against the Japanese, it became an orphanage, and later it was used as a school. Possibly because of this hybrid nature, in the 1980s, when many temples that had found alternative uses were returned to their religious communities and restored, this temple was not returned to a religious order, Daoist or Buddhist, but instead it became a museum devoted to the war efforts. 

Thus, it went through a different trajectory from other temples, and in fact became a secular space, where non-religious, cultural activities are now performed. The temple has a large and very active tea-house, while the religious statues do not attract much attention or devotion.

I aim to write a religious biography of this temple, from its inception in the late Qing to now, detailing its transformations that traverse topical years between the end of the Qing dynasty, the anti-superstition campaigns, the destruction of the Cultural Revolution, and the restoration during the reform and opening period. 

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