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门神与春联 Door Gods and Spring Festival Couplets

wh  10-09-03 14:57

In China, on the last day of the lunar year, the eve of Spring Festival, or the Chinese New Year, every household is busy putting door gods or spring festival couplets on their doors.
Chunlian, or spring festival couplets, originated from taofu, or peach wood charms, of yore.  In ancient times, during the New Year, Chinese would hang peach wood boards on each side of their doorways, six inches long and three inches across, on which were written the names of the gods Shentu and Yulei.  These two gods were said in legend to live on Dushuo Mountain, from where they would inspect hundreds of demons every day, and, if they found any demons to be disturbing the lands of mortals, would tie them up and feed them to the tigers.  It was said that by hanging one's door with peach wood charms inscribed with the names of these gods, one could drive off demons and banish evil.  Eventually, people began to write auspicious phrases in the place of the gods' names.
In 964 A.D., the Emperor of Later Shu, Meng Chang, asked the scholar Xin Yinxun to write a few words for a peach wood charm, but, unsatisfied with the scholar's writing, the Emperor himself wrote the words, "xīnnián nà yú qìng,jiājié hào chángchūn". From then on, peach wood charms were inscribed with poetic and rhyming phrases.  By the Ming Dynasty, the wooden boards were abandoned in favor of paper sheets, and called chunlian, or spring festival couplets.
As with the couplets, "door gods" are also hung on doors to pray for the peace and happiness of the family.  According to folk custom, door gods are symbols of righteousness and might. With hearts of integrity and kindness, mystical in nature and possessing extraordinary capabilities, these gods are duty bound to capture and protect from evil spirits.  Shentu and Yulei were the earliest two door gods.  By the Tang Dynasty, these gods had been replaced by the likenesses of two famous generals, Qin Shubao and Yuchi Jingde, the former wielding an iron club, the latter bearing a chain whip. 
In the past, most Chinese homes were made with double doors, so the two door gods were affixed opposite one another in pairs.  But as most doors in city residences have been replaced with single doors, door gods are seen less and less, but this custom can still be found in older areas of cities and in villages.



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Edit on10-09-21 14:39