Ancient Chinese Culture - Ancient China Life - Part 77

Four Heavenly Kings

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Four Heavenly Kings are commonly seen in the temples of the interior provinces of China. They are regarded as the guardian kings of the four quarters and the guardians of the world. They are usually of fearsome aspect and armed, standing at the entrance to a Buddha Hall. In ancient China, they were among the most respected gods since people wanted to get protection of them.

The Four Heavenly Kings are as follows:

The Eastern World Heavenly King
He is sculptured in white color and always plays a pipa, a 4-stringed Chinese lute.

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The Southern World Heavenly King
He is sculptured in blue color with a sword in his hand.

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The Western World Heavenly King
With a snake coiling his body, he is sculptured in red color.

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The Northern World Heavenly King
He is sculptured in green color, with an umbrella in his right hand.

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Feitian:Flying Deva

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Feitian, which was found in Chinese ancient temples and grottos, is an imagined flying god. This kind of image from Mogao Caves (also known as the Mogao Grottoes or the Caves of A Thousand Buddhas) embodied the flourishing age of Chinese mural.

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The countenance of Feitian there looked solemn and revere with pure loving smile on their face. A ribbon fluttering elegantly and beautifully, they displayed a moving scene that a group of girls were flying and dancing freely in the sky.

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An artist painted these flying apsaras in his own style. The images are damn charming with the compromise of Chinese and Western styles. Let’s appreciate them together.

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Tomb-Sweeping Day

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Qingming Festival, also called Tomb-Sweeping Day, is a traditional Chinese festival celebrated on the 106th day after the winter solstice, usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar.

Qingming, which means clear and bright, is the day for the living to mourn the dead. In ancient China, it was one of the occasions when sacrifices were made to ancestors.

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On Qingming, people visit their ancestors’ graves. They tidy up, remove weeds and sweep away leaves. It is the reason for its another name, namely Tomb-Sweeping Day. Also on Qingming, people go on family outings, singing, dancing and flying kites.

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Ever-Burning Lamps

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Ever-burning lamp, which was considered as a part of the divine fire, was found all over the world.

In ancient China, people believed that after death, they would get brand new lives and live in another world. Therefore, ancient Chinese, especially emperors paid much attention to their tombs, namely the houses they lived in that world.The requirement for the brilliant light in the tomb caused the appearance of ever-burning lamps.

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However, how did the lamp stay lit at that time? The ancient technology is still a mystery to today. Based on relevant records, one source form the oil for the lamp was extracted from a kind of fish. A drop of that special source may support the burning for several months.

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legendary fish from the records

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Tomb Guardian Beast

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Zhenmu shou, a kind of tomb guardian beast, was commonly used in ancient China. Ancient Chinese believed that it would guard the tomb from evil spirits and from anyone who had the thought of breaking into the tomb to steal treasures.

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The beast figures were always placed in pairs, one with a human face and the other with a bestial face. They seated near the tomb entrance, with large angry eyes and bared teeth, to protect the deceased.

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