Located at the junction of Meilan District and Qiongshan District in Haikou on the island of Hainan, the Temple of the Five Lords (Wugong Ci in Chinese), also known as the “Temple of the Five Officials”, is a memorial shrine to five officials who were banished to Hainan in the Tang and Song dynasties. The temple has become the most popular site among Hainan’s cultural relics. In the middle of the bustling city, it is so quiet and charming.
The temple was first built during the reign of Emperor Wanli (1573-1619) of the Ming Dynasty, and it was renovated in 1889 in the Qing Dynasty. The five officials commemorated in the temple are Li Deyu, a well-known prime minister in the Tang Dynasty, Li Gang and Zhao Ding, two distinguished ministers in the Song Dynasty, and Li Guang and Hu Quan, two prestigious anti-Chin generals in the Southern Song Dynasty. The statues of the five masters inside are so true to life that their air and manner can still be felt.
Although the periods of time the five lords lived in the island were not the same, they were all best-known as being patriotic officials and national heroes, and were deeply remembered by the people of Hainan for their propagation of advanced culture of Central China and their influence on the development of Hainan’s civilization. There are inscriptions and couplets of ancient writers in the temple which summarized the life and achievements of the five lords, expressing the feelings of reverence for posterity.
The Temple of the Five Lords actually refers to an attractive ancient architectural complex. After many years of renovation and development, the temple complex now has a floor area of over 2,800 square meters. With the gardens, springs, and ponds nearby, it occupies an area of 66,000 square meters. Notable buildings of the temple complex include Five Lords Ancestral Hall, the Guanjia Hall, the Xuepu Hall, the East Hall and West Hall (known in Chinese as Wugong Jingshe), the Sugong Ancestral Hall, the Ancestral Hall of the Two Fubo Generals, the Bai Pavilion, the Dongzhuo Pavilion, the Suquan Pavilion, the Xixin Hall, and the Youxian Cave.
The main building of the whole compound is the Five Lords Ancestral Hall, a red two-story wooden structure that stands more than 9 meters tall. With roofed corridors but without dougong, it has a total floor space of 560 square meters. A historical inscription on a board placed over the front entrance on the second floor declares it the “first building in Hainan”.
Sugong Ancestral Hall, located to the east of the Five Lords Ancestral Hall, was first built in 1617 to commemorate of Su Shi, an influential poet in the Song Dynasty, who was suppressed and banished to Hainan in 1097. In the hall, you will see some thirty engraved stone tablets with Su Shi’s poems. When Su Shi came to Hainan, he found that the local residents had no access to clean water, then, he directed them digging two springs. One of the springs still exists even to this day.
As one of the first batch of national key cultural relics protection units in Hainan, the Temple of the Five Lords houses many relics. The most famous one is a script by Zhao Ji, an emperor of the Song Dynasty. His calligraphic stroke is neat and firm, making it a valuable sample for both Taoism and calligraphy research.
If you are visiting the Temple of the Five Lords, then it is worth popping in the Haikou Museum as it is free and next door. There you will find further information on the five officials and more about the famous people in the history of Hainan Province.