The Temple of Shen’an: Exemplary Writer and Traveler in Ming China

ethnic china

The Temple of Shen’an: Exemplary Writer and Traveler in Ming China

Almost at the entrance to Kunming’s famous West Mountains there is a small temple that goes unnoticed by most travelers. It certainly cannot compete in importance, beauty or decoration with the impressive Taoist temples carved into the rock cliff near the Dragon Gate, nor the great Buddhist temples built in the middle of the well forested mountain, but it is such a quiet and special place, that I do see it recommended for those traveling without haste, and can become a beautiful complement to the visit of these majestic mountains. Be careful, it closes at 3:00 in the afternoon.

It is the Sheng’an Temple (升庵祠) or Sheng’an Memorial, because in Chinese it is used a character that, even translated many times as an ancestral temple, is often used also for monuments built in honor of a relevant character. The temple can also be reached directly from Gaoyao village.

Yang Sheng’an life

Yang Sheng’an is a fascinating character. He was a high official in the Ming court, and was involved in the so-called Great Liyi, a dispute in which ministers with a sense of decency objected to the emperor naming his father, who was not an emperor, posthumous emperor. Yang Sheng’ai was among the incorruptible, who received a good thrashing with bamboo canes. As a result some died. Yang Sheng’an, perhaps because he was still young, survived the beating, and then faced the harsh banishment to the city of Kunming.

During the 2,000 km journey from the capital to Kunming, Yang Sheng’an took notes of different aspects of the journey and created a beautiful book. That was not the only one of his works. On the contrary, he is considered the most prolific writer of the Ming Dynasty with more than 400 books to his credit. I believe that in these troubled times, every traveler should make a stop to pay homage to this great traveler, politician and writer.

The temple

His temple, following the traditional design with a courtyard in the center, has a beautifully decorated gate, two exhibition halls on the sides, and a memorial hall as the main hall. The room on the right has some calligraphy and the covers of some of his books. The one on the left is more focused on calligraphy.

The memorial hall is presided over by a large statue of Yang Sheng’an and on the walls of the inner wall is a display of paintings relating to Yang Sheng’ai’s journey from Beijing to Kunming. To some it may seem like a retrospective memory of the adventures of such a complex journey, but what the pictures show us is a character of integrity, and at the same time a person who manages to overcome professional setbacks and make the most of life. A traveler, a writer… an honest man.

As might be expected, the memorial of an honest man does not attract large crowds, nor does the simple decoration of his temple.

Temple of Xu Xiake

The temple has a second courtyard dedicated to another important figure of the Ming dynasty in Yunnan. The traveler Xu Xiake, perhaps the most famous traveler, geographer and writer of the first half of the 17th century. His memory is intimately linked to Yunnan, because in the 13 volumes of his Diary of a Journey to Yunnan, actually 40% of his seminal work «The Travels of Xu Xiake» he makes interesting descriptions of the life and customs of the minorities of this province, and other peculiarities of Yunnan. It is not for nothing that he came to Yunnan twice and spent much of his life here. And it is said that he lived precisely in this house now dedicated to the memory of the two writers and travelers.

To cite this post: Ceinos-Arcones, Pedro, "The Temple of Shen’an: Exemplary Writer and Traveler in Ming China," in Ethnic China, 3 febrero 2021, https://ethnic-china.com/the-temple-of-shenan-exemplary-writer-and-traveler-in-ming-china/.

jinuo book

Last posts

The world of Shanghai courtesans

The world of Shanghai courtesans

The world of Shanghai courtesans The Sing-song girls of Shanghai. A novel by Han Bangqing. The action of this novel takes place, as its title indicates, in the world of the singing girls of Shanghai, of which it is also a description. The singing girls were a type of...

Yunnan Top 10- The places that every traveler must visit

Yunnan Top 10- The places that every traveler must visit

Yunnan Top 10- The places that every traveler must visit Lugu Lake. Scenery. Lugu Lake is the most beautiful lake in Yunnan. Located at an altitude of 3,000 meters, its ever-blue waters provide incredibly beautiful scenery. In the vicinity of the lake live three very...

Chinese characters -person

Chinese characters -person

A sample of the first three pages of the English translation of my book on Chinese characters 人 rén – person, human being • adult • each.  This is a pictogram of a person standing, with legs separated. Person > kind of person > every > other. It is one of the...

Traveling to Yunnan Province – the new Shangrila

Traveling to Yunnan Province – the new Shangrila

Traveling to Yunnan Province - the new Shangrila Yunnan is the most interesting province in China and the most recommended for those looking to travel to exotic places or planning a second trip to China. Its location, in the extreme southwest of the country, its...

Diao Yinan-The Lake of the Wild Goose

Diao Yinan-The Lake of the Wild Goose

Diao Yinan-The Lake of the Wild Goose In short, a film to watch and enjoy. An original plot, very well handled, moves the protagonists through degraded urban environments, in which the mastery of the artistic team manages to endow a naive beauty. The action begins at...

The Grand Canal of China

The Grand Canal of China

The Grand Canal of China The Grand Canal was first built during the Sui Dynasty (581-618). Its original design resembled a "Y" whose leg would point west, as it connected the rich lands of the Yangtze River delta with the capital Luoyang on one side and the capital...

Basic Geography of China

Basic Geography of China

Basic Geography of China The People's Republic of China, with an area of more than 9,600,000 km2 is the third largest country on our planet, after Russia and Canada. The name China derives from the name given to it by its neighbors, because the Chinese call their own...

The religions of China

The religions of China

The religions of China Every people has the religion they inherit from their ancestors. This widely spread aphorism is truer in China than in other countries. Scholars say that the primitive religion of the Chinese, as of the peoples who lived near them, was the cult...

Notes on the Chinese theater

Notes on the Chinese theater

Notes on the Chinese theater The Chinese were extremely fond of theatrical performances. According to their traditions these originated in the time of Emperor Ming Huang of the Tang dynasty, later revered as the patron saint of actors, without whose help it is...

Pin It on Pinterest