Xi’an’s Temple of the City Gods is my new favourite place in the city. Even though I only had a day and a half to explore the city, I came back to the temple a second time to explore the inner courtyards.
Xi’an is one of China’s ancient capital cities. Its City God temple is known as one of the “big three” temples of its kind, the others being in Beijing and Nanjing, and is held in very high regard across China. Officially the temple is about 600 years old, though it was largely destroyed by a fire in the early 1700s and rebuilt.
The inner courtyards have sheltered rooms on either side, housing minor gods and local heroes. I think I read somewhere that a closed room in the centre of the courtyard holds a Buddha relic. The main temple at the back of the inner courtyard holds a giant statue of the City God, who sits serenely with his eyes closed, protected by four mighty generals. These statues are impressively carved, painted, and must be twenty feet high.
There are dozens of minor gods depicted in the temple. One room has tiered shelves with a statue depicting each one. Each are designated years of the Christian calender and are especially worshiped on the appropriate year. Some are warrior types, others are scholars, doctors or spiritual role models.
I spent a few hours on the temple grounds, mainly looking inside the temples rather than entering them, and not taking photos as this was requested. I watched a gangly, smiling monk fellow in black robes and traditional curly-toed shoes wander from statue to statue, offering prayers and stroking his beard. He was from out of town and apparently delighted to be there.
Considering that just outside the walls of the compound is the bustling city centre, the grounds were a very quiet and peaceful place for me to meditate on the troubling events of the past week and try to come to terms with a disappointing venture.
The following photos weren’t taken by me, but pilfered off the internet.