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A Day in Chiwan

A day trip to local historical sites with friends and colleagues

On Sunday, May 30, a group of teachers from Shenzhen Polytechnic, along with "significant others," headed down to Chiwan in Shekou to visit three sites--The Tian Hou Temple, the tomb of the last emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty, and the site of an old fort--followed by lunch in Shekou.  Below are pictures of our day (and a few "file photos" thrown in).  See below for links to more pages about the first two sites.


This statue of Tian Hou, the "Empress of Heaven," who is more affectionately known as Mazu or "Mother Goddess," stands at the bottom of the temple grounds, facing toward the main gate and the main hall beyond.  In years past, the other side of the wall would have been the sea, because Mazu is a sea goddess.  These days, there are acres of shipyard between the temple and the sea.  The statue is situated between two ponds: a round one representing the sun, and a crescent-shaped one for the moon.  This represents Yin and Yang, the balance of dark and light, passive and active, and so on.  This theme is carried out throughout the temple's architecture.

(Much more about Tian Hou Temple begins here.)

The front gate is supported by dragon pillars.  On either side of the gate's exterior are model boats, indicating Mazu's protection of sailors; inside the gate are ante-rooms containing statues of religious figures brought to the temple by devotees.

The front of the main hall.  The style of the buildings is predominantly Ming Yue, meaning "Fujian/ Guangdong"--in other words, typical of southern China.  It is also typical of Qing-period Palace architecture.  The current temple was built by the Shenzhen Municipal Government in the 1990s.
The temple's interior.  The main figure of Mazu is strikingly Caucasian in her character, despite the fact that the legend says she was Lin Niang, born between the mainland and Taiwan in the 10th century.  The other figures include the great warriors Chien Li Yen (Thousand League Eyes: right, with right hand raised to shade eyes) and Shun Feng Er (Favorable Wind Ears: left, with left hand cupped to ear), famous folk characters who are mentioned in the famous saga Journey to the West as servants of the Jade Emperor of Heaven; in Tian Hou tradition, however, they are eternally bound to serve her.

(Much more about the temple interior here.)

Kate and David test the old deck chairs in the museum.

Like the sun and moon ponds, and the balance of the General's raised hands above, Kate and David here demonstrate their own yin and yang.  Note that Kate, on the left, has crossed her left leg over the right; David has done the opposite.  Both have their hands on the arms of the chairs, and their heads tilted inward.  They also bear similar smiles: a perfect example of how years of steadfast dedication to each other can bring a couple into perfect balance.

A young lady on the temple staff makes a Golden Tower.  After hours of painstaking work, a devotee will purchase the finished Tower and burn it as an offering in an outside "oven" to guarantee the happiness of a loved one in the afterlife.

Song Shao Di Mu, the Tomb of Song Shao, Last Emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty.  History says that the conquering Mongols (who established the succeeding Yuan Dynasty) forced the boy emperor to leap into the sea and drown himself.  Legend picks up where history leaves off: a little body later washed up on the shore, wearing the yellow dragon-embroidered robes of an emperor.  At the same moment, a board fell from the interior of the Tian Hou Temple.  Devotees who recovered the body prayed at the temple to find out what to do with it.  Tian Hou answered that the fallen board had been "given" to make a casket, and that the boy was to be entombed near by.  The tomb is now a fifteen-minute walk from the temple.
The boy emperor is held aloft.

This doorway leads into a small compound containing the glassed-in remains of an ancient fort.  The peninsula where the temple, the tomb, and the fort are located is called Shekou, or "Snake's Mouth."  The mouth itself is formed by Chiwan Bay.  The Tian Hou Temple is centered on the bay; there were two defensive positions on either side of the bay, now known as the "Left Old Fort" and the "Right Old Fort."  This is the Left Old Fort, or Zou Pao Tai.
Tree roots cover one side of the compound's exterior wall.

Outside of the compound stands this magnificent statue of national hero Lin Ze Xu.  Although he was ultimately defeated by the British, his stand against the British policy of importing drugs to destroy the Chinese people's strength earned him a place in the people's hearts.  You can read more (oddly enough) on a site about obscure statues in New York City, where he was enshrined in 1999 because through "his efforts he became a symbol of moral resistance to the invasion of drugs wherever their source."

Note, by the way, that rarest of Shenzhen commodities: blue sky.

Another magnificent leader marshals his troops, following the motto, "Speak softly but stand by a big cannon."  The esteemed Long Haiping, our fearless leader, stands next to an authentic cannon found in the fort.

Here we see three of China's "Four Great Beauties."  Where is the fourth?  Hey, somebody had to take the picture!
A final group picture before lunch.  The ship in the background is the centerpiece of Shekou's "Sea World" shopping and dining area.

Read More:

A more complete series of pages about the Tian Hou Temple begins here.

There is more about Song Shao Di Mu here.

Getting there:

Tian Hou Temple: The temple is located in the port area of Chiwan in Nanshan District.  Many buses in Shenzhen go along Shennan Road; take one of these buses (for example, #204) to Nantou.  There, transfer to #225.  Tell the attendant: "Tyen ho myow."  (Rhymes with "Men throw cow.")  After 20-40 minutes (depending on traffic) this bus will go past the "Sea World" (Hai Shang Shi Jie) area on Taizi Road; you can recognize this by the large cruise ship anchored there.  Leaving the commercial district, the bus will enter an industrial area, and run along  a tree-lined road that looks a bit like a dusty old country lane, despite the surrounding industry.  Just as it begins to enter another more commercial district, about 10-15 minutes after leaving the Sea World area, you will see the gate to the temple on your left.  Shout "yo sha!" and get off there.

Song Shao Di Mu: From Tian Hou Temple, walk west until you reach the traffic circle.  (Note that this is the end of the line for bus #226; if you stay on it past the Tian Hou temple, you can alight at the end to begin your trip to Chiwan.) Turn right at the traffic circle, then make a quick left.  Walk past the school, and turn left at the next corner, where you will see the statue of the Boy Emperor.  (The Tomb and the school share a boundary.)

Zou Pao Tai: Again starting at the Tian Hou Temple, this time walk east to the first (real) turning to the right (not the street next to the temple).  Walk until you see a road turning to the right that heads up.  After a brief climb, there will be a gateway, with steps heading up to the fort.

Alternatively, follow the directions under Tian Hou Temple above, but tell the bus attendant "Zo Pow Tie" (sounds like "go cow high").  Along the "dusty old country lane" described above, the road to the fort will lead off to the left.  Hopefully, the bus attendant will help you spot it.


From the spot where the fort road left the main road, catch the 226 back into Shekou, or ride it all the way up to Shennan road to connect with other buses.

Suggested itinerary:

From Shekou, take the 226 to the end of the line.  Follow the walking directions to Song Shao Di Mu.  Backtrack to Tian Hou Temple, which you will have passed on the bus.  Continue to Zou Pao Tai, which you also passed, following the directions above.  Then follow the directions to return to Shekou or Shennan Road.  The site sin Chiwan can be seen in a half-day, getting you back to Shekou for lunch or dinner (depending on your starting time).


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