Meng Jiangnu Temple, also called the Vestal Virgin Temple, is situated on Phoenix Mountain about 6 kilometers east of the city of Shanhai Guan. It is said that the temple’s construction began before Song Dynasty (960-1279).
The love story of Meng Jiangnu is one of the 4 greatest legends of China. Generations that followed have very much admired the loyalty of Meng Jiangnu and respect her faithfulness and staunchness, so this temple is in commemoration of her story.
According to the first part of the legend, Meng Jiangnu fell in love with a valiant man named Fan Qiliang. However, their relationship and union was condemned by the community since he ran away from his construction duties on the Great Wall to be with her, and she was separated from him just a few days after their wedding. In search of her lover, Meng Jiangnu walked miles and miles to the base of the Great Wall where they told her he died and was buried. Crying endlessly for days upon days under the wall, it soon crumbled and she was reunited with Fan Qiliang’s body once more.
The existing temple today is the embodiment of the architectural style of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In front of the temple are built 108 steps using pedestrian flagstones conforming to the terrain of the mountain, symbolizing the hardships and obstacles on Meng Jiangnu’s journey to look for her husband.
When visitors ascend step by step to enter the front hall via the mountain gate featuring the stele “Zhen Nv Ci”, they can see the famous couplet hung on the columns that is renowned throughout the country. The first line reads “Hai shui chao zhao zhao chao zhao chao zhao luo”, and the second line reads “Fu yun zhang chang chang zhang chang zhang chang xiao”. There are actually a number of ways to understand these 2 phrases. Weighing every word carefully, the reader will begin to appreciate its inherent humor and wit.
In the middle of the hall is a mud statue of Meng Jiangnu. She is dressed in simple clothing with only light facial colors and a worried look on her face and endless grief and complaints in her eyes, making one feel the temporal dismal and loneliness of Meng Jiangnu as she searched for her husband from thousands of miles away. A visit to the Temple can be a sad and emotional one. Visitors may not know where to send their condolences to Meng Jiangnu’s loyal soul, but her lonely tomb will remain forever to tell her beautiful story to later generations.
In September 1992, the borough government of Shanhai Guann built a large cultural garden, Meng Jiangnu Garden, to the north side of Meng Jiangnu Temple based on elements from her legend. Visitors will surely have a deeper and more profound understanding of this moving love story after viewing the 20 scenes throughout the park alluding to her legend and the history of the times, such as making winter clothing at night, millions of young men building the Great Wall, and of Meng Jiangnu weeping at the Great Wall until she collapsed.
To the south of the garden, there is a rock cavity named “The Eye of the Sea” which is said to secretly lead to the Bohai Sea. Many curious visitors have paraded past the front of the cavity to listen carefully and respectfully in the hope of hearing to the sound of the sea waves and billows.
As well, the Meng Jiangnu Temple Fair is held from May 28 to 30 every year during which a number of rich, colorful, and interesting folk art activities are held, such as the big Yanggee, northeastern folk songs, 2-person dances, and children’s shows.