The origin of Wuhou Memorial Temple is an interesting topic in itself. The temple is believed to have been originally constructed in the 6th century to commemorate two important historical figures, Liu Bei (CE 161-223), the Emperor of the Kingdom of Shu during the Three Kingdoms (CE 220-280) dynastic period (besides the Kingdom of Shu there were the Kingdoms of Wei (CE 220-265) and of Wu (CE 229-280)), and Zhuge Liang (CE 181-234), the capable military strategist appointed by Emporer Liu Bei to defend the kingdom. When Liu Bei died in 223, his son, Liu Shan (CE 207-271) assumed power in the Kingdom of Shu, retaining General Zhuge Liang with the powers of a Regent to defend the kingdom.
The First Gate
Above the first gate to Wuhou Memorial Temple is a plaque dedicated to the memory of Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang. Yet the name of the temple is only indirectly related to Emperor Liu Bei, while it is very directly related to Zhuge Liang. The explanation, one might say, demonstrates that wisdom is more enduring - and endearing - a quality than that of weilding omnipotent power, at least in the eyes of common people.
Zhuge Liang, who, as the defender and administrator of the Kingdom of Shu, proved himself to be more than just a military tactician, was very much liked by the people, and therefore he earned a place in their hearts. During his lifetime, Zhuge Liang's official title as defender/ administrator (i.e., Prime Minister/ Chancellor/ Regent) of the kingdom was that of "Wuxianghou". However, after his death, Zhuge Liang was given a different, or memorial, title (a common practice during China's dynastic past), namely, that of "Zongwuhou". But since Zhuge Liang was revered by the people, his memorial title was shortened by them to the more folksy "Wuhou", and when, during the Tang (CE 618-907) Dynasty, a temple was constructed to honor Zhuge Liang, it was named Wuhou Memorial Temple.
A temple was also constructed during this same period to honor the former emperor, Liu Bei, such that between the Tang and Song (CE 960-1279) Dynasties, Zhuge Liang and Liu Bei each had their own separate temples. Legend has it that early on during the Ming (CE 1368-1644) Dynasty, the emperor was unhappy over the fact that the temple of Zhuge Liang, Wuhou Temple, was more frequented than that of the emperor, Liu Bei, which the Ming Dynasty emperor took as a sign of disrespect towards the former sovereign. Therefore the Ming Dynasty emperor had Wuhou Temple destroyed, but to appease the public, he preserved the statue of Zhuge Liang and had it transferred to the temple of Liu Bei, where the plan was to construct a special hall for it. However, the people objected to this, choosing instead to simply refer to the temple of Liu Bei as "Wuhou Temple". This temple was later destroyed in war (one wonders if the local people might not have had a hand in this!) and in its place a new temple was constructed in 1672 during the Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasty, commemorating both Liu Bei and Zhuge Liang. This new temple is synomyous with the present-day Wuhou Memorial Temple.
The Second Gate
Entering the Second Gate to Wuhou Memorial Temple, the visitor will see thirty seven stone tablets, each measuring 63cm (H) by 58cm (W) and, inlaid into the gate's walls on which are engraved two famous calligraphic texts, the "Pre- Expedition Declaration" and the "Post-Expedition Declaration". These calligraphic texts were inscribed by a military man like Zhuge Liang himself, a certain General Yue Fei who served during the Southern Song (CE 1127-1279) Dynasty and who spent a night at Wuhou Temple enroute to do battle against the invasionary Jin (CE 1127-1279) Dynasty forces that had overtaken northern China. But the declarations themselves had been written centuries earlier by General Zhuge Liang as expressions of loyalty to the then serving emperor of Shu, Liu Shan, the son of Liu Bei, the man who had first installed General Zhuge Liang as the defender of Shu, so when General Yue Fei cites General Zhuge Liang prior to the impending battle with the invasionary Jin, it is to remind his own troops of the declaration of patriotism and self-sacrifice that General Zhuge Liang made to his emperor in those earlier times (General Yue Fei was himself to become the epitome of the loyal and patriotic Chinese servant).*
Of the Pre-Expedition Declaration, a very touching old saying goes like this: "He who doesn't shed tears after reading the Pre-Expedition Declaration is not a true patriot." After the expedition, where the battle was lost to the enemy, General Zhuge Liang penned the Post-Expedition Declaration, one sentence of which became immemorial: "One should exert one's utmost to fulfill one's duties until death, and to give one's best until one's heart ceases to beat."
The Hall of Liu Bei
In the middle of the Hall of Liu Bei stands the gilt clay statue of the emperor himself. Statues of Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, two of Liu Bei's most famous generals, are in side halls. Passing through to the hallway beyond is a corridor on both sides along which are aligned 14 life-like statues of the civil and military officials of the Kingdom of Shu. The statue of Liu Bei in yellow dress is 3m high. The emperor wears a crown with tassels, and holds a scepter in his hand. Two attendants stand on either side of the emperor, one bearing an imperial jade seal and the other carrying a sword in his hand.
Liu Bei, alias "Xuan De", was born in what is currently Zhuo County, Hebei Province. When he was twenty-four years old, Liu Bei, together with compatriots Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, organized a local armed militia and joined the Eastern Han Dynasty's effort to suppress the so-called Yellow Turban (alternatively, "Yellow Scarves") Rebellion which was a peaseant insurrection fanned, if not initially sparked, by widespread famine. Later Liu Bei expanded his forces, but due to a lack of coherent military strategy - which at the time included a not insignificant component of psychology - Liu Bei's forces suffered repeated setbacks with the result that Liu Bei continuously spent a life that hovered near destitution. Accordingly, Liu Bei often had to seek the protection of other warlords such as Lu Bu, Cao Cao, Yuan Shao, and Liu Biao.
Duting this time, Liu Bei had approached Zhuge Liang, one of the most resourceful military strategists at the time, on three separate occasions, finally securing Zhuge Liang's employment as a military adviser. This move improved Liu Bei's lot considerably. After winning the important Battle of Chibi, Liu Bei was able to consolidate his power
Liu Bei had great ambition and was noted for his loyalty to friends and respect for their talents. However, parallel to a sense of loyalty towards "brothers in arms" during this warlord period in Chinese history was also a sense of chivalry - not unlike the sense of chivalry that existed in Europe in the Middle Ages - towards equals, even where those equals might sometimes be enemies. Legend has it that Liu Bei went to war against the Kingdom of Wu in order to avenge the death of his general, Guan Yu, who had been killed in an act of treachery by Sun Quan.
The truth is perhaps a mix of such sentiments with the fact that a certain stronghold (the state of Jingzhou, with its capital, Jiang Ling) under Liu Bei's control, via General Guan Yu, were under seige by Wu forces, acting in collusion with Wei forces (see the footnote for a better picture of the infighting among these warlords), and these strongholds had been forfeited with the defeat of General Guan Yu's forces and the death of the general himself. In any case, the retaliatory battle started by the Shu army against Wu forces was known as the Battle of Huting. Liu Bei's forces lost this battle, and during the retreat, Liu Bei himself died at Baidicheng. On his deathbed Liu Bei entrusted his kingdom to son, but asked that the affairs of state be entrusted to Zhuge Liang (Zhuge Liang had thus risen from mere military adviser to general in charge as well as the person charged with the day-to-day running of the kingdom, making him, as indicated above, a Regent).
On the one side of the statue of Liu Bei stands the statue of Liu Zhan, son of Liu Shan and grandson of Liu Bei. Liu Zhan was the fifth son of Liu Shan. Facing the threat of an imminent invasion of the Kingdom of Shu from Wei forces, Liu Zhan strenuously urged his father to fight the enemy to the finish rather than submit to the humiliation of Wei rule, but Liu Shan rejected his son's urging. With great grief and indignation, Liu Zhan wailed bitterly before the statue of his heroic grandfather over what he felt was his own father's cowardice, then committed suicide after having put both his wife and son to death. His spirit of sacrifice for his country won Liu Zhan great eulogy.
The statue of Liu Shan, father of Liu Zhan and son of Liu Bei, stood originally on the opposite side of the statue of Liu Bei from the statue of the much eulogized Liu Zhan. The statue of Liu Shan was destroyed during the Song Dynasty. It was never restored, since the judgement of posterity was that a leader who did not only not protect his people, but who reaped generous rewards in surrendering to the enemy was not deserving of being remembered. However, since the reign of Liu Shan was central to the history of China at the time, a short biography, etched in wood, of each leader, Liu Bei and his son, Liu Shan - based on the historical text, The History of Three Kingdoms - today hangs on opposite walls of the Liu Bei Hall in Wuhou Memorial Temple.
In the eastern side hall of the main hall are statues of Guan Yu, his sons Guan Ping and Guan Xing, and his subordinates Zhou Cang and Zhao Lei. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, both belonging to the legendary, but fictional, "Five Tiger Generals" tales, were nonetheless valiant generals who more or less loyally followed their leader, Liu Bei, in his many fights against rivals, both large and small.**
Guan Yu was held in high esteem by the warlords of rival kingdoms, as well as by their generals. He had become the incarnation of loyalty and righteousness. The title of king was conferred on him, posthumously, during the Song Dynasty, and that of a God during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Subsequent Chinese emperors issued imperial edicts on the construction of temples to honor the memory of Guan Yu. Therefore, the statue of Guan Yu in the eastern side hall of Liu Bei Hall in Wuhou Memorial Temple is dressed as a king.
The statues of Zhang Fei (a fellow ""Five Tiger General") and his son and grandson can be seen in the western side hall. With his swarthy face, his big head and wide-set eyes, and his thick beard and mustache, Zhang Fei presents an awe-inspiring figure. It is said that his shout alone could frighten enemy soldiers away by the thousands, that these would retreat immediately upon hearing the booming voice of the much feared Zhang Fei. Indeed, it is said that Zhang Fei used to whip his subordinates for no apparent reason at all. Later, he was killed by two of his own men, Zhang Da and Fan Qiang, on the eve of a planned attack on the rival kingdom of Wu, in revenge for the death of Guan Yu.
There are another fourteen statues of celebrated Shu-Han civil and military heroes spread about the corridors of Liu Bei Hall.
Next to the Hall of Liu Bei is The Corridor, situated one step lower than the Hall of Liu Bei. That is no accident, but is a reflection of the rigid hierarchy of power in the feudal society of the time. There are also some antithetical couplets (i.e., couplets on either side of something (eg., a doorway), side by side, in appostition, etc.) written by Dong Biwu, Guo Moruo, Feng Yuxiang, Xu Beihong and Shu Tong hanging in The Corridor.
The Hall of Zhuge Liang
Among the many traditional Chinese antithetical couplets hanging on the pillars in front of Zhuge Liang Hall, one especially is widely known. Written by Zhao Fan during the Qing Dynasty, its first line declares that Zhuge Liang is an expert in psychological tactics. The historical record, to the extent that one can rely on it, seems to bear this out. Zhuge Liang was more of a strategist than a militarist. For example, during the the so-called Southern Expedition, Zhuge Liang captured the leader of a minority group, Meng Huo, repeatedly, releasing him again and again until at last Meng Huo wholeheartedly "conceded defeat", i.e., was convincingly won over. The second line of the aforementioned couplet says that Zhuge Liang possessed the gift of understanding the way ordinary people think and react. The "proof" of this gift is that the laws and decrees enacted by Zhuge Liang were rarely opposed, but instead yielded the intended result. Which lesson in public administration all future leaders of Sichuan Province, if not leaders everywhere, would do well to emulate!
This antithetical couplet makes, on the one hand, an objective assessment about Zhuge Liang's abilities in military matters, and on the other hand, his abilities in matters of public administration. On a deeper level, it connects the two abilities by suggesting that the key to Zhuge Liang's success, both as a military tactician and a public administator, was his excellent psychological understanding of the nature of human behavior. Thus the couplet, which is one of the more famous couplets in China, came to adorn the temple named after "Wuhou" himself, Wuhou Memorial Temple.
In the Hall of Zhuge Liang, gilded statues of Zhuge Liang, his son and grandson can be seen. The statue of Zhuge Liang himself is situated in the middle, with feather fan and silk kerchief. The expression on his face bears the appearance of a leader concerned about his country and his people. The overall image is one of a thoughtful and farsighted leader.
Born in present-day Yinan County in Shandong Province, Zhuge Liang, alias "Kong Ming", was an eminent Chinese statesman and military strategist. In his early years Zhuge Liang was something of a recluse, living in Longzhong near the present-day prefecture city of Xiangfan in Hubei Province. He was dubbed "The Sleeping Dragon" for his keen intelligence and quiet ambition. In response to Liu Bei's repeated requests (Zhuge Liang was asked three times), Zhuge Liang became Liu Bei's military adviser. He assisted Liu Bei in founding the Kingdom of Shu. After Emperor Liu Bei's death, Zhuge Liang assisted Liu Bei's son, Emperor Liu Shan, with with both matters of state and military campaigns until Zhuge Liang's untimely death in 234. Zhuge Liang made great efforts to enlighten people by education, and within the ranks of the goverment, he was careful to select the worthy and to promote the capable, he was strict yet fair in meting out punishments and was quick to praise those who were deserving of it. Zhuge Liang was also famous for his contribution to building irrigation projects and boosting agricultural production.
In addition, Zhuge Liang conducted the so-called Southern and Northern military expeditions designed to safeguard the kingdom. Due to Zhuge Liang's loyalty, diligence, and intelligence - not to speak of his incorruptibility - the Kingdom of Shu enjoyed long periods of relative stability and prosperity. However, as a result of over-exertion and illness, the great man died in an army camp during the Battle of Wuzhang Plains in present-day Shaanxi Province, but was buried at Mount Dingjun in Mian County in neighboring Shanxi Province, the location of an earlier and decisive battle that could be likened to an Austerlitz for Liu Bei.
During his entire life, Zhuge Liang conducted himself in ways that were beneficial to his country and his people, earning their esteem and adoration. Temples were built to commemorate him, and his accomplishments as a role-model military strategist and public administrator were held up as examples to be emulated. His sacrifices were great, even in death, for Zhuge Liang's son and grandson - Zhuge Zhan and Zhuge Shang, respectively - at a make-or-break moment in the history of the Kingdom of Shu, valiantly led troops against overwhelming enemy forces from the Kingdom of Wei, and perished in battle due to the overwhelming odds they faced.
A humble bronze drum, also in memory of Zhuge Liang, is on display in the Hall of Zhuge Liang of Wuhou Memorial Temple. The drum is believed to be a cultural relic from the 5th or 6th century CE, originally used as a kitchen utensil by non-Han Chinese minorites in Southern China. Gradually it turned into a kind of musical instrument and a sacrificial vessel that was used at special gatherings and ceremonies as a symbol of wealth. Legend even has it (though this cannot possibly be true if the drum first made its appearance in China sometime during the 5th or 6th century) that Zhuge Liang had used this same type of bronze drum in the military camps of his troops. Regardless of the veracity of this legend, the drum has since been dubbed the "Zhuge Liang Drum", in honor of the great statesman and military strategist.
Many wooden inscriptions are on display in both side rooms of Zhuge Liang Hall. In the western room are twelve calligraphic works by Mao Zedong, Dong Biwu, Zhang Aiping, Fang Yi, Zhou Gucheng, Chu Tunan, and Liang Shumin, while in the eastern room are wooden carvings such as the "Dialogue at Longzhong" and the "Pre-Expedition Declaration", both works by Zhuge Liang.
San Yi Hall
San Yi Hall is well known for the three sworn brothers-in-arms: Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei. The hall was built during the Qing Dynasty. Originally it had four yards and five palaces, though it is now only a simple building with a quadrangle layout made up of Solution Hall and Main Hall. Initially, San Yi Hall was located in Tidu Street, Chengdu, but was moved to its current location at Wuhou Memorial Temple in 1997, due to urban construction in Chengdu. There are no immediate plans to return the hall to its original location.
The Tomb of Liu Bei
Covered with green grass and surrounded by a brick wall that runs a length of 180m, the Tomb of Liu Bei is 12m high. In front of the tomb stands a gravestone and a coffin chamber. Liu Bei was badly defeated in the war against Wu. He withdrew to Baidicheng where he died in April of 223. It was not until the month of May that Zhuge Liang could begin the journey back to Chengdu with the bier of Liu Bei, and it was not until the month of August that he arrived and Liu Bei's remains could be properly buried. The Tomb of Liu Bei is also called "Hui Mausoleum". It is recorded that the empresses Gan and Wu were also buried in the tomb of Liu Bei. The tomb was found in untouched condition 1700 years later, and has hitherto not been opened, though scholars may someday be given permission to open it.
Permanent Cultural Exibition on the Three Kingdoms Period
This display area is made up of an exhibition hall and a number of cultural and historical sights. The latter include Sanfen Bridge, the Ruins of Han Palace and a number of stone engravings and the like scattered about the area. The exhibition hall consists of five parts: the War Scenes, Agricultural Life, Selected Folk Customs, Arts, and Miscellaneous Customs galleries. Hundreds of artifacts, cultural relics, pictures and materials are on display here. In addition, a variety of temporary exhibitions are displayed from time to time.
* During this early period in Chinese history (CE 190-280), the rule of the Han emperor was weakened, the result of which was the emergence of rivalling warlords. Eventually the Han emperor was side-lined completely, and three rivalling warlords competed for hegemony over the region. These warlords were Cao Cao to the north, Liu Bei to the southwest, and Sun Quan to the southeast. When Cao Cao seemed poised to defeat both Liu Bei and Sun Quan and thereby establish rule over all of China, he was defeated in 208 at the crucial Battle of Red Cliffs on the Yangtze ("Chang Jiang") River, and Cao Cao had to retreat back to the north, where he declared himself the emperor of Wei in the year 220 and died in the same year, passing on the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Wei to his son, Cao Pi. Liu Bei declared himself the Emperor of Shu a year later in 221, while Sun Quan became the Emperor of Wu first in 229, and thus the period of the Three Kingdoms was officially "inaugurated".
What followed was a protracted period of infighting where two of the kingdoms would gang up on the third (and these alliances were constantly changing in an Orwellian-like manner, such that today's ally was tomorow's enemy, and of course vice-versa), but without a decisive victory, until the Western (CE 265-316) Jin Dynasty finally emerged as the victor of China, putting an end to the Three Kingdoms warlord period. Romantic historical accounts of the battles of this period in China's history abound, some made into movies and TV dramas (and melodramas), while some - in more recent times - have been rendered as video games.
** As indicated, chivalry among equals, even enemies, was not unknown in China at the time. For example, Guan Yu, who once briefly served Cao Cao after having been captured by Cao Cao's forces (Cao Cao naturally tried to win Guan Yu over to his side), escaped from his new "master" in order to rejoin his old one, Liu Bei, and was allowed by Cao Cao to do so without being pursued, later returned the favor, permitting Cao Cao to escape certain death at the hands of Liu Bei (who also, incidentally, forgave him, recognizing the necessity for Guan Yu, under the circumstances, to demonstrate chivalry). Guan Yu's valor was recognized even by his old enemy, Cao Cao, who had been in collusion with the Wu forces that had defeated, then executed, Guan Yu. Cao Cao saw to it that Guan Yu was given a burial befitting a man of honor. However, Guan Yu's defeat by Wu forces is as much credited to his lack of discretion (especially w.r.t. psychological warfare) - in spite of his personal bravery - as it is credited to the military superiority of the Wu forces ranged against him. Guan Yu was killed on the occasion in question together with his son, Guan Ping, and his subordinate, Zhao Lei. As indicated above, the state of Jingzhou was lost to forces under the Kingdom of Wu, acting in collusion with forces under the Kingdom of Wei.