The Door Gods

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on November 2, 2015.)

Door God statues at the Tian Hou Temple in Dapeng Fortress

Many Dao or folk temples feature a couple of fearsome warriors on their doors, placed there to keep out evil-doers. Although they're usually seen painted directly on the doors, or sometimes in the form of posters pasted on the doors, it is not uncommon to see statues of the Door Gods as well, similar to the statues of generals Heng and Ha at Buddhist temples.

These Door Gods have an interesting story.

The Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong was having trouble sleeping (perhaps from a guilty conscience, as he had killed two of his brothers in order to gain the throne). As the story goes, demons were causing quite a noise, so the emperor called two of his finest warriors. Qin Qiong (also called Qin Shubao) had pale skin; Yuchi Gong (also called Yuchi Jingde) was dark. Together they represent Yin and Yang, yet they were both historical personages who had been with the emperor since he was a prince, fighting by his side in many battles.

The two warriors successfully kept the night demons at bay, and the emperor had a peaceful night. The duo returned the next night, and the next, until finally the emperor decided that they, too, needed their sleep, and had images carved and placed on the doors of his room as a substitute.

And so not only temples, but even private homes at the Spring Festival, place the faithful pair on their doors for protection.

There are other pairs, and other stories, behind the Door Gods. A further story says that the civil minister Wei Zhong is used on single doors, or at the back doors of compounds.

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