Hello and welcome to another edition of On the Road, I'm Cathleen Chang. In this edition, we're heading to Cheng-du, capital of southwest China's Si-chuan Province, to pay a visit to its most famous historical site, the Wu-hou Temple.
The history of Chengdu can be traced back more than 2300 years to the 4th century BC, when the King of Shu, which is what Sichuan was called in ancient times, moved his capital to a town and named it Chengdu, which literally means "becoming a metropolis".
Later, during the Three Kingdoms Period in the Third Century, Chengdu was designated as the capital of the Shu Kingdom. It developed into a prosperous silk and brocade production area and got a name as the City of Brocade.
If you have read the popular classical Chinese novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which has been translated into English and some other languages, you will be very familiar with the history of the Three Kingdoms period.
After the Han Dynasty collapsed in the early 3rd century, the state was divided into three kingdoms, Wei, Shu, and Wu. Competing to reunify the country, the three were locked in war, leaving behind many famous historical remains and tales of heroism.
Many remains of this period have been found in Sichuan province. Of the more than 100 relics there the best known is the Wuhou Temple, a shrine dedicated to Zhuge Liang.
Zhuge Liang is a famous historical figure. He acted as military advisor to Liu Bei, the first ruler of the Shu kingdom. In his lifetime, Zhuge Liang used his wisdom to help Liu Bei found the Shu Kingdom, which ruled today's Sichuan and neighboring provinces. During his tenure as prime minister, the kingdom enjoyed political stability and economic prosperity, and the local people lived a peaceful life. Today Zhuge Liang is considered the personification of wisdom, and enjoys great prestige and widespread admiration. This can be seen from the large numbers of visitors to the Wuhou temple everyday.
The temple is thus named because Zhuge Liang was conferred with the title of "Wuhou" after his death, a title meaning marquis of war. Located in the southern suburbs of Chengdu, the temple covers an area of 37 thousand square meters. It's surrounded by red walls and covered with luxuriant ancient trees.
Through the centuries, the temple has been expanded and renovated a lot, and the architecture we see today was rebuilt in 1672. The whole complex faces south with the main gate and the memorial halls for Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang lying on the central axis. Set against the centuries-old pine and cypress trees, the buildings all look majestic and solemn. In them are housed some 50 colored clay statues featuring Liu Bei, Zhuge Liang and other civil officials and military generals of the Shu kingdom. There are also many cultural relics, such as inscribed stone tablets, calligraphy works, books, ovens, bells and drums, all serving as tellers of the history of the Three Kingdoms period. In the west of the temple we find the mausoleum of Liu Bei, where the emperor and his two empresses were buried together.
Since ancient times, the Wuhou temple has been famous for its historical interest and attracted numerous admirers to come and pay homage to Zhuge Liang. They have left behind a large number of poems, couplets and articles eulogizing the virtues and achievements of the prominent statesman and strategist. One of the best known and often quoted is a poem written by Du Fu, an outstanding and prolific poet of the 8th century. It reads:
"Where to find the Prime Minister's temple?
Outside Chengdu, under the cypress arch ample.
The grass round the steps reflects the color of spring,
The oriole amid the leaves vainly sings it strain.
Thrice the Emperor to him came for the plan to rule,
Two reigns the noble statesman served heart and soul.
Before seeing victory he died in the camp ground,
It oft makes later heroes weep with sighs profound."
Today the Wuhou Temple is the most famous tourist attraction of Chengdu city. It is not only a site for people to commemorate Zhuge Liang, but also serves as a museum to the history of the Three Kingdoms Period. The temple opens from eight am to six pm, and the admission price is 30 yuan, or about 3.5 US dollars.
Well, that's all we have for this edition of On The Road. Thanks for coming along, I'm Cathleen, see you next time.