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Disregarded art treasures:Frescoes of Ming Dynasty

There is a temple in the south of Shanxi province. Though it looks common from outside, the frescoes inside are amazing. With romantic style, outstanding pictures and unique taste, these frescoes show heaven and hell in mythology and reality together. Like the famous frescoes in the Yongle palace (Yuan dynasty) and qinglong temple (Yuan dynasty), the fescoes in the Jiyi temple are also the treasures ofthe ancient Chinese culture.

Chinese ancient frescoes that were painted on the walls of the stone caves have been well-preserved. However, few frescoes that were painted on the wooden building have had such good fortune because of wars and natural disasters. Shanxi province is called the treasure house of the china's ancient construction. So some wooden ancient constructions survived and the frescoes on them became the lucky ones. The most famous frescoes include Fogang temple frescoes (Tang dynasty) in Wutai County, Dayun temple frescoes (wudai) in Pingshun County, Kaiyuan temple frescoes (Song dynasty) in Gaoping County, Yongle palace frescoes (Yuan dynasty) in Ruicheng County and Qinglong temple frescoes (Yuan dynasty) in Jishan County. Most of these frescoes are connected with Buddhism or Taoism. The frescoes in the Jiyi temple in Xinjiang County will be described in this article. They describe tales about the origin of Chinese ancient agriculture with outstanding pictures and unique taste.

Jiyi temple is also called Yangwang temple because it is located in the town of Yangwang temple because it is located in the town of Yangwang, which lies 20 km to the southeast from Xinjiang County in Sanxi province. In this temple, people offer sacrifices to Houji and Boyi, who are the ministers of Emperor Dayu, Covered with tri-colored glazed tiles, the main hall of the temple faces south and has five rooms. The origin year of this temple is unknown. It was rebuilt during the Yuan dynasty and was expanded during the Ming dynasty (AD 1502). The houses that we see today are the buildings that were built in the Ming dynasty.

The houses of Jiyi temple that are blocked by the office building of the town government look common from the outside, and only the main hall and stage remain. If you want to visit the temple, you must be accompanied by a guide through the building. Nevertheless, when we walked in the main hall, we found that though the frescoes and painted sculptures on the full-face wall have shelled off, the frescoes on the other three walls were still amazing. The total area of the frescoes is about 130 m2. These frescoes are a tribute to Dayu, Houyi and Boyi, who taught people how to cultivate land and brought benefits to people. Furthermore, they describe how officials and common people pay homage to these three gods.

These frescoes surpass time and space, showing panoramic pictures about heaven, the world and hell.

According to Chinese folktale, Houji and Boyi, the ministers of Dayu, helped Dayu manage the country, farm the land, dig wells and construct irrigation works. Houji, named Qi, was the primogenitor of Zhou and the god of farming. Boyi, the primogenitor of Ying and the inventor of digging wells, was good at rearing livestock and hunting. For ancient people, controlling floods, constructing irrigation works, planting corn, digging wells, hunting and rearing livestock were very important, so it is very suitable that people made offerings to Dayu, Boyi and Houji in the same temple.

On the east wall of the main house in the Jiyi temple, there is a fresco named "pilgrimage picture". In this picture, three holy gods sit seriously in the center of the palace. It is believed that these gods are Emperor Fuxi, Emperor Yan Shennong and Emperor Huang Xuanyuan. In front of these gods, there is the goddess of bestowing seeds. On both sides, many maidservants, officials and farmers stand side by side. Among them, the most noticeable figures are those farmers. Some of them hold ants, pests and weeds, some seize a giant grasshopper monster. These pictures indicate the farmers' determination to conquer pests.

On west wall, there is Emperor Dayu in blue clothing and a high cap. The background of the picture consists of an onrushing flood and rising sun. Handing ears of millet, Houji, wearing a red gown, sits to the left of Dayu. Boyi, also dress in red, sits to the right. They all look noble. On both sides, officials hand scepters and arms; servants hold trays. On the left side of the pecture, there is the scene of sacrificing. In heaven, many immortals are looking down on the world; in the world, many emperors and officials are welcoming them. This scene is very magnificent.

The achievement of Emperor Dayu is that he controlled the flood. The "rising sun picture" behind him, the pond and the "killing monster picture" in front of him imply his achievement. Stories of Houji and Boyi were painted on the east and west wall in the form of the funnies. "Birth of Houji "includes pictures of sacrificing heaven and land, the birthing of Houji, working in Cancha, feeding poultry, woodman's finding, and neighbor's visitation. On the west wall are pictures that describe the life of Houji, including pictures of teaching others planting and hunting. These pictures depict the realistic scene of burning weeds, planting, harvesting, woodcutting and hunting. The flavor and lifelike figures in the pictures bring out the working life of ancient people. The style of these pictures is different from that of the main picture.

There are 400 figures in these pictures, including immortals, people and monsters, decorated with mountains, rivers, flowers, grasses, birds, mammals and buildings. These figures have their own character. In the relics of Chinese frescoes, pictures about farmers are rare, but the figures of farmers in the Jiyi temple are wonderful nevertheless. They show different feeling. Such as anger, worry, thoughtfulness and so on. Because of this, the frescoes in Jiyi temple, yongle palace and Qinglong temple are all regarded as the treasures of Chinese ancient culture.

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