CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
No. 28, December 2011


Searching for the Ming: Part Two | China Heritage Quarterly

Searching for the Ming: Part Two

Zhang Dai
Translated by Duncan Campbell

This is the second page of Duncan Campbell's translations of excerpts from Zhang Dai's Search for West Lake in My Dreams. The other pages can be accessed via the following links:

Northern Approaches 西湖北路

Pavilion of the Jade Lotus 玉蓮亭

During Bo Juyi's tour of duty as Prefect of Hangzhou,[31] so fair-minded did his administration prove that few were the cases that made it all the way to court. The poor, when convicted of breaking the law, would be ordered to plant a few trees along the lakeside; the wealthy could make reparation for any crime committed by paying to have a mu or two of the lake cleared of matted rape turnip. Once Bo had been at his post for a number of years, the rape turnip had been completely eradicated and the newly planted trees had begun to offer up their shade. He took to visiting the lake with a concubine in tow, to gaze up at the mountains and to view the flowers and the willows. The locals erected a statue of him and began to worship at it. This pavilion commands the lakefront and a myriad blue lotus have been planted here to symbolise his purity.

Turning right and heading north from here, one comes upon Boat Mooring Pavilion where the many storied houseboats gather, beneath the tall willows and spread out along the lengthy embankment. Visitors hire a boat to go out on the water, and the spot proves as noisy as a marketplace. Off to the west is the Garden of the Jade Ducks. This corner of the lake, by contrast, hidden as it is beyond a secluded corner of the city wall, is not much frequented by the boats. For those living beside the lake, there is no better place to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. A tower stands within the garden, and leaning upon the windowsill and gazing out to the south, there where the water glistens brightly at the edge of the sand, one often sees a hundred or so wild ducks bathing in the lake, bobbing in and out of the waves. The scene here is extraordinary for its tranquillity.


Temple of Manifest Blessings 昭慶寺

The earth vein upon which the Temple of Manifest Blessings is sited flows here from Lion Cub Peak and the Rock of Amassed Roseate Clouds; according to the Geomancers, it is that of the Fire Dragon.

Construction of the temple began in the First Year of the Latter Jin dynasty [936], but it was destroyed by fire in the Fifth Year of the Qiande reign period of the Song [966]. The temple was rebuilt in the First Year of the Taiping Xingguo reign period [967], at which time the altar was established. At the beginning of the Tianxi reign period [1017-21], the temple acquired its present name but in that same year it again burnt down. During the reigns of the Hongwu [1368-98] and Chenghua [1465-87] emperors of the Ming dynasty, the temple was destroyed by fire and rebuilt twice. In the Fourth Year of his reign, the Chenghua Emperor [1469] ordered the temple restored and he put the Surveillance Commissioner Yang Jizong in charge of the project. The wealthy men of Huzhou all contributed funds to this end and eventually the sum of ten thousand taels was raised. Once completed, the halls and chambers of the temple proved more grand and imposing than ever before.

In the Thirty-fourth Year of the reign of the Jiajing Emperor [1556], during the depredations of the pirates, in fear that they would capture the temple and make use of it as their base, it was burnt down. Once order had been restored, the temple was again rebuilt and on this occasion the advice of the Geomancers was followed to the letter, the area being entirely cleared of ordinary dwellings so as to allow the gate of the temple to overlook the lake, in the hope that this would serve to preclude future conflagrations. Despite all these efforts, however, in the Third Year of the reign of the Longqing emperor [1569], the temple was destroyed yet again. In the Seventeenth Year of the reign of the Wanli Emperor [1589], the eunuch Sun Long of the Directorate of Ceremonial had the temple rebuilt with the assistance of the Imperial Silk Manufactory, and the pendants and arrayed censers became a contemporary byword for splendour.

Along the two covered walkways, crowded one upon another, is a veritable marketplace of fine stalls, all replete with exquisite goods outrageously priced. During the months of spring a pilgrims' fair is held here and devotees from Eastern Zhejiang heading for Putuo Monastery in the South Seas and to the India Temples all gather here to trade with the women and children of the outlying villages. The din of their voices as they shout at each other, wearying their tongues out with their haggling, only ceases once the summer arrives.

In the Thirteenth Year of the reign of the Chongzhen Emperor [1640] the temple was razed to the ground by fire yet again, the smoke and ashes completely blocking out the rays of the sun and turning the water of the lake a brownish red. By the beginning of the Qing dynasty, in keeping with the saying: 'continuing the process increases ornament',[32] the altar had been completely restored and had become even more imposing than ever it had been throughout previous dynasties.

One story told about the founding of the temple claims that it was established as part of the celebrations associated with the eightieth birthday of Qian Liu, the Martial and Majestic Prince of Wu and Yue.[Fig.3] Yuanjing, a monk of the temple at the time, organised his fellow black-robed monks Gupu, Tianxiang, Shenglian, Shenglin, Cishou and Ciyun into a White Lotus Society to undertake the recitation of the sutras and the releasing of animals in propitiation of the health of the prince. On the first day of each month they would mount the altar to conduct a service. The local populace would circumambulate the altar holding incense sticks, paying homage to the Buddha and making manifest the prince's blessings. Thus was the temple so named. Today, the various halls of the complex take their names from these venerable worthies.

Fig.3 King Qian Temple 錢王祠, reprinted without attribution in Old Photographs of West Lake, p.122.


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Searching for the Ming

Notes: Part Two

[31] Bo Juyi served in this post between the years 822-25.

[32] A quotation from Xiao Tong's 蕭統 'Preface' (xu 序) to the Wen xuan 文選, for which see David R. Knechtges, trans., Wen xuan, or Selections of Refined Literature: Volume One: Rhapsodies on Metropolises and Capitals, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982, p.75.