The Qingyang Palace (Green Ram Temple) is situated at the southwest of Chengdu City in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, facing the Wuhou Memorial Temple on the south and adjacent to the Thatched Cottage of Du Fu in the west. Qingyang Palace is regarded as the sacred place of Laozi, the father of Taoism. It is the oldest and largest Taoist temple in Chengdu, and one of the most famous Taoist palaces in China.
Qingyang Palace was first built during the Zhou Dynasty. The existing buildings were mostly built during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The main architectural structures in the Qingyang Palace include the Hunyuan Hall, Eight-diagram Pavilion, Hall of Three Purities (Sanqing Hall), Doulao Hall and Hall of Jade Emperor, of which the Eight-diagram Pavilion and Hall of Three Purities show unique characteristics.
The Eight-diagram Pavilion is the most magnificent building on the Qingyang Palace ground and is a building full of Taoist symbolism. Erected without a nail or wedge, it is built on square pedestal with a colored glazed dome on top, reflecting the “Round Sky and Square Earth” world view and cosmology of ancient China. There are eight pillars with dragons drawn in relief in the corridor, and colorful caissons and the symbols of eight trigrams are ornately arranged across its ceiling.
The Hall of Three Purities, the main hall of the palace, houses three statues featuring the Taoist Trinity, the three highest Immortals in the Taoist pantheon. There are 36 pillars in the hall, among which the 8 wooden ones represent the Eight Heavenly Spirits of Taoism while the remaining 28 stand for the stars in the sky. In front of the hall there is a bell on the left side weighing over 3,000 kilograms, which was cast during the Ming Dynasty. On the right, there is a drum. On the 1st and 15th days of the Chinese lunar calendar, and on other important occasions, people will toll the bell and beat the drum.
This Qingyang Palace is often referred to as the “Green Ram Temple”, the “Green Ram” refers to a pair of bronze goats which inhabit the Hall of Three Purities. These two goats have become the symbol of the Qingyang Palace. The one with two horns was cast in 1829 during the Qing Dyansty. The other one with one horn is fantastically-shaped and is supposed to be the incarnation of the 12 animals standing for different years in China’s lunar calendar. Thus, the “goat” has the ears of a mouse, the nose of an ox, the claws of a tiger, the back of a rabbit, the horn of a dragon, the tail of a snake, the muzzle of a horse, the beard of a goat, the neck of a monkey, the eyes of a rooster, the belly of a dog and the rump of a pig. Legend has it that the goats can help people cure various diseases. So long as the people touch the corresponding part of the goats, they will get rid of their diseases. Despite their strange appearance, the two statues are easily the temple’s largest draw.
Qingyang Palace houses many important Taoist relics, among which the most valuable one is the wooden engraving of Dao Zang Ji Yao (Abstract of Collected Taoist Scriptures). Engraved during the Qing Dynasty, this volume contains over 130,000 two-sided wooden engravings. It is the only one of such book in China.
Qingyang Palace is still used for prayer purposes even today. A trip to Qingyang Palace is a great way to either reflect on the ancient religion with a warm cup of tea, or watch locals engaged in a spirited game of mahjong.
The annual temple fair will be held on the 15th of the second lunar month, which is said to be the birthday of Laozi. During that time, an annual flower festival will also take place next to Qingyang Palace.