Friday, 13 February 2015


The Lung Yeuk Tau Heritage Trail, which passes close to our house, offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into life in the New Territories before the British arrived, although there is little to see at some of the points on the tour that are highlighted on the Leisure and Cultural Services Department website and in related publications.

In particular, the Sin Shut Study Hall is in private ownership, and I’ve never seen the interior, although the outside of the building is not well maintained. However, before I describe the observation that prompted me to write this post, some background on the use of door gods to guard important buildings will be necessary:
…the posting of [door gods] to guard against intruders is an ancient Chinese custom dating back to the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907). The models for these fearsome warriors were two of the first Tang emperor’s most loyal generals, Qin Shubao and Yuchi Jingde. According to the legend, the emperor was being harassed each night by an unruly ghost and was thus unable to sleep, so he asked that the pair stand guard overnight to protect him from this unwelcome visitor.
Apparently, the emperor subsequently spent a peaceful night, but, not wanting to impose further on his generals, he ordered his servants to hang giant portraits of the generals to perform the guard duties. It was a practice that caught on quickly with ordinary Chinese keen to ward off evil spirits and attract good luck.

This leads me to assume that a template exists for painting door gods on wooden doors….The template would also prescribe the weaponry carried, a Chinese halberd or ji and a broadsword by Yuchi Jingde, and a pole sword and a longsword by Qin Shubao. …Qin Shubao was obviously Han Chinese, while Yuchi Jingde appears to have been of Turkic origin—and the name isn’t Chinese.
The other important point to note is that both warriors face slightly to one side—Yuchi Jingde to the right and Qin Shubao to the left—which means that when the double doors are closed and Yuchi Jingde is not on the left, the two are looking slightly away from each other. This is a serious error, because evil spirits can then slip between them unnoticed, while good luck dribbles away unchecked.

The most important buildings on the trail—the Tang Chung Ling Ancestral Hall and the local Tin Hau temple—have elaborately painted renditions of the two warriors, but the portico of the Sin Shut Study Hall merely has two cheaply printed posters. And here’s the rub: the two are the wrong way round!

The error is repeated on a small side door:


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