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Pay a Visit to Wind Lion Gods

A Talisman Rich in Local Features 
Because of Kinmen’s exposed location, plus the many wars it has endured since the Ming Dynasty, the locals, in order to ward off evil and pray for good luck, have often used talismans. The most common talisman installed in settlements is the Wind Lion Gods standing on the outskirts of villages or Shuiwei Pagoda at river mouths.  Both talismans are believed to have special powers to protect villages, and pray for the safety of all people.  The talismans placed at home are mostly for averting evils, such as talisman mirrors hung up at the house front, ceramic general figures, censers, rooftop weathervanes; ShiganDang (stone guardians) are inlaid onto the wall, ensuring a meticulous net of protection. 

The Origins of Wind Lion Gods
The
Kinmen Islands are close to the south-east outer sea of Fujian Province with no mountains surrounding them but hills of various heights covered in the middle.  Rainfall is not evenly distributed on the islands and the occasional monsoons there are especially strong in winter.  There is an old saying for such occasional monsoons:“The wind blows especially strong in Kinmen”; furthermore, many battles occurred on Kinmen as the dynasties changed, forests and vegetation were severely damaged over and over again and the locals suffered greatly from strong wind and sand.  According to the historical literature, villagers of Houlong and Neiyang were forced to move to other places because the villages were buried by sand.   
The purpose of widely installing Wind Lion Gods back in the old days was to pray for the locals to be spared from the sand storms but there is no record now of when such a custom started.  In the Sung Dynasty, in order to promote the development of overseas trade, the Maritime trade office was established in Guanzhou to handle all affairs of maritime trade.  Rituals to pray for smooth wind and sea-worship were conducted by staff from the office to pray for the safe voyages for all ships and boats.  The
Kinmen Island situated at the marine outfall of Guanzhou was also one of the beacons at that time.  During the Xian-Chun period (1266-1274 AC) of the Sung Dynasty, Taiwuyan Temple was built to enshrine God Tong-Yuan.  Legend has it that praying for wind or rain in the temple was always efficacious. This is the origin of the custom of praying for wind in Kinmen.  Since then, the rite for the Wind Lion Gods to subdue wind, combined with the Southern Minnan Taoism ritual (the Chinese pronunciation of the god that controls wind is similar to the Chinese pronunciation of lion) has gradually transformed the Wind Lion Gods into powerful beings subduing strong winds and protecting people from wind storms.  At the same time, it has become a guardian angel to prevent pests, protect roads from being damaged by floods and watch over the locals.

Looking for the Wind Lion Gods in Kinmen 
Wind Lion Gods are also referred to as Stone Lion Gods in Kinmen and are made of stones and of clay.  The former have an exquisite yet simple style passed down from Minnan stone carving; the latter are usually vivid and lively and look very much like lions.  Most of the Wind Lion Gods are created using well-thought-out ideas from local craftsmen.  The tallest clay-made Wind Lion God is Anqi Wind Lion God with a height of
385 cm and the smallest stone Wind Lion God is not even 30 cm tall.
Normally, Wind Lion Gods are installed on the outskirts of villages, facing east or north.  You will find Wind Lion Gods around local temples, such as The Saint of War Temple in Xiashu,
Fuyou Temple in Dongzhou, The Protection Temple in Qionglin, Wenyuan Temple & Wende Temple in Houshuitou, Huishan Temple in Yangzhai, Ganying Temple in Shanhou, Loushan Temple in Xiyuan.  People while attending rituals held in temples, may offer some of their bread or noodle offerings to the Wind God Lions nearby.
If you are planning an in-depth trip to Kinmen, visiting the Wind Lion Gods is definitely one of the must-sees, and the one you will remember the most.  How do you find them by following the maps and records? There is so much knowledge and fun in it for they normally stand tall at the entrances of settlements, on top of roofs of traditional buildings or are inlaid onto the walls of ancestral shrines or hidden in some corners of temples or even placed in construction materials that have been forgotten by people.
Since its styles, materials used and craftsmanship applied vary in different time eras, they naturally come with different folklore legends, which add a mysterious touch.  Looking for Wind Lion Gods in Kinmen is actually exploring the rich human and cultural aspects of Kinmen.

The Legend of Wind Lion God in Beishan of Guningtou
Back in the old days,
Guningtou Village by Twin Carps Lake constantly suffered from seawater intrusion.  After villagers installed a Wind Lion God at Beishan, the flooding stopped.  Seawater intrusion only reached to where the Wind Lion God was installed. Yet, at the same time, dark clouds started to cover the sky at Xiputou and no roosters or dogs could crow or bark.  According to the divination of a Taoist spiritual medium, it was caused by the installation of the Wind Lion God. He then suggested destroying the Wind Lion God to break the bad luck but the person who installed it heard the news and arranged for people from Lincuo, Nanshan and Beishan to watch over it day and night.  One day, when the person from Lincuo was on duty, Xiputou villagers told him that seawater intrusion only reached to Nanshan and Beishan and had nothing to do with people in Lincuo.  He then was coaxed to leave and gambled with others.  Then villagers from Xiputou climbed from the river banks and knocked off the left ear of the Wind Lion God.  Afterwards, everything was back to normal.

The Wind Lion Gods Hidden in the Walls of Private Residences 
A stone lion was built into the wall of a residence on
Guanao Road.  It was made of granite, very close to the stones used in construction.  The house owner hired a Feng Shui master to take a look at the energy of the house and the master suggested that the owner to install a stone lion to protect the house.  It served a purpose similar to a cornerstone and was installed before the house was built.  Stone lions and ShiganDang (stone guardian) were also installed in the wall of nearby residences.

Proverbs Regarding Strong Winds in Kinmen
♦ Blown to the southern Taiwu by winds: south
Taiwu Mountain is situated in Kanwei Township, Longhai City, Zhangzhou, close to the river mouth of Jiulong River and apart from and facing the North Taiwu Mountain on Kinmen IslandSouthern Taiwu Mountain was also one of the beacons on the sea back in ancient times.  You get to see both mountains at certain places on the island.
♦ On the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, Close Your Doors and Windows Tight: after the Moon Festival, a strong north-east wind blows hard in Kinmen.  Most of the locals wrap a cloth around their heads when going out and keep the doors and windows of their houses closed all day.
♦ Have sweet potato soup and close your doors and windows: sweet potatoes and taros are the major produce of the fall harvest.  The north wind starts to blow in Kinmen and the weather is getting cold.
♦ Winds of September: Winds that blow in the fall in Kinmen is called winds of September.

Wind Lion Gods Stand on the Roof 
Roofs referred to as Cuodinggai in Kinmen are most famous for the brick lions and ceramic general figures installed on the principal ridge.  They are normally called Wind Lion Gods.  Materials are delivered from the place where bricks are manufactured.  Although they are not essential for every household, it is believed that they have something to do with bad luck at the construction site or the bad fortune of people living in the house.  Its earliest record could be traced back to the “Weishi tingyu” by Chen-Zhi of the Sung Dynasty: “the fortune slip from
Fujian said: “When the lion falls, and dogs bark, the champion of scholars will arrive at the front door.” Nobody knows that on the day that the honor is bestowed to the champion scholar by the emperor, the stone lion installed on the roof will fall to the ground.  Dogs will start to bark and it is the day Huang, Kui becoames the champion scholar”.  Wind blowing from the sea in Minnan is so strong that the houses there are vulnerable to hurricanes.  It is believed that houses will be protected if stone lions are installed.
On the roof, the ceramic general wore his armor, drawing his bow, leaning to one side while riding on his mount that looked fierce, like a lion with its eyes and mouth wide open.  His pose looks as if he is ready to attack and he looks like a fighter that could deter invasions.  According to the “Kinmen Journal”: “ Warding off wicked spirits: on the roof of residences, we usually see ceramic monsters that look like lions with their mouths open wide or wearing armor like generals do.  They are called Chiyou; or painted small red-clay burners used because the head of the monsters could also ward off bad spirits.” In “Shiji” (the records of the grand historians): “ Chiyou was causing disturbances everywhere and disobeyed orders from high above; thus, Huangdi (literally Yellow Emperor from ancient times) summoned all his dukes and princes to fight against Chiyou and finally killed it.”.  “Liji of the Sung History” mentioned in ancient times, before armies set out, they would worship Chiyou and the commander’s flag in front of all the armies and this was called “Worshiping Chiyou and the Commander’s Flag”.  In the folk belief, people worship Chiyou for its abilities to summon wind and rain.  According to the book “The Classic of Mountains and Seas”, Huangdi (literally Yellow Emperor from ancient times) ordered Yilong to fight Chiyou.  Chiyou asked Gods of Winds and Rain to blow strong winds and bring heavy rain.  Hungdi thus ordered the fairy god ‘Mei” to stop the wind and rain and finally Chiyou was killed.”  Later, Chiyou was used to prevent roofs being damaged badly by winds and rain.  According to the book “Taibai Yingjing”, it could transform leather into armor.  The ceramic generals drawing the bow on the rood ridge could not only ward off wicked spirits but also protect people living in the house.


 

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