Why is Chen's Ancestral Temple special?
Situated in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, Chen's Ancestral Temple is also called Chen Clan Academy or Chen's Lineage Hall. Chen's Ancestral Temple was constructed from 1888 and sponsored by Chen's scholars at home and abroad. The original function of this construction was intended as a family memorial temple for all the Chens in the 27 counties in Guangdong Province. Later it functioned as an academy as well, where students of the Chen clan gathered to study before their going to the capital to take the imperial examination. And in the early 20th century, the buildings were used to house various institutions. It was also used as a family shrine for the Chens to pay tribute to their ancestors every spring and autumn.
Now the temple serves as Guangdong Museum of Folk Arts and Crafts, exhibiting a variety of folk arts and crafts, such as Guangdong ceramics, carvings, sculptures and embroideries, all with a long history. Both its architectural decorations and its exhibits are gems of China's crystallization showing intelligence, wisdom as well as exquisite artistry of the locals.
Chen's Ancestral Temple Highlights
Chen's Ancestral Temple was a place both for offering up sacrifices to ancestors and for study. Famous for the exquisite and mythical decorations, the temple deserves the name of "A bright pearl of the architecture in Lingnan Region".
Covering an area of 15,000 square meters, the temple is a compound complex consisting of nine halls, six courtyards and nineteen buildings, all well connected by corridors. A pair of stone drums in front of the entrance door, measuring 2.55 meters and two colored drawing pictures of door-god of four meters are said to be the best in Guangdong. The compound was constructed in the traditional Chinese symmetrical style. The main hall named Juxian Hall is in the center of the temple. Once a place for clansmen to assemble before the establishment of the temple, Juxian Hall is now used as an ancestral hall. In front of the hall is a stone gazebo surrounded by stone balustrades. In the hall there is an exquisitely carved folding screen which is an excellent example of woodcarving.
All the buildings of the temple are designed with a variety of sculptures of wood, stone and brick in various styles. The carving techniques are the expressions of simplicity and ruggedness, precision and exquisiteness, reflecting the practice of pursuing elaborate and rich decoration. In addition, some of the contents and forms seem to have been influenced by the foreign cultures. Thus Chen's Ancestral Temple is one of the examples of the intermingling of the traditional Chinese culture and Western culture. The local artisans absorbed extensively the traditional techniques as well as the Western skills, not confined to the traditional materials and art tradition. They have enriched the Chinese folk arts and handicrafts, placing them further on the international stage of arts.