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Qidao temple on the central axis of Beijing in the Ming Dynasty

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Reporter: Zhao Xinfeng, Beijing, China


Chairman of China Vexillology Research Center


Mailboxxfqz98@163.com


Title:Qidao temple on the central axis of Beijing in the Ming Dynasty


Thesis:


In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, established the system of Qidao temple to worship flag Gods,

stipulating that Qidao temples should be established all over the country.Zhu Yuanzhang also offered sacrifices to the flag God in person many times.In 1420, Zhu Di, the founder of the Ming Dynasty, built the city of Beijing and established the Shanchuan Altar in the south of Beijing,which is today's Xiannong Altar in Beijing.The Shanchuan altar is used to worship the Gods of mountains, rivers, wind, clouds, thunder and lightning in China.There is a Qidao temple built in the Shanchuan altar to worship the military flag God.Every spring and autumn and before the expedition, the emperor sent officials to the Qidao temple to worship the military flag God.In 1753, Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty demolished the Qidao temple and rebuilt it into a sacred warehouse.This presentation tells about the sacrificial rites of the Qidao temples and the classification of the military flags in the Ming Dynasty.


 Qidao temple on the central axis of Beijing in the Ming Dynasty


Since the Qin Dynasty, there has been a tradition of offering sacrifices to these flags in China.With the development of the Han, Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties,the use of the flag and the ritual of sacrifice have become more standardized and stricter.

However, it was Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, who built a temple for the flag God and formed a national sacrificial system.


1. Establishment of flag guard institutions

 

Zhu Yuanzhang was born in a peasant uprising.It took him fifteen years to establish the Ming Dynasty.Zhu Yuanzhang attached great importance to the construction of the army and national defense.At the beginning of the founding of the Ming Dynasty a military system of garrisons was established from the capital to counties throughout the country.Grass-roots units were named after "flags",that is general flags and small flags.At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, 396 Wei garrisons were set up throughout the country,each Wei with 5,600 defenders.Set up 65 thousand family department,Each department had 1,200 men hundred family department set up under the thousand family department There are 120 people in each hundred family department,and a general flag is set up under each of the  hundred family department.The general flag is composed of 50 people and a small flag is set under the general flag.Small flag, 10 people.


Zhu Yuanzhang also set up 12 Wei of the pro-army including Jinyi Wei、flag bearers Wei and other Wei, in total have 12 top Wei under the personal command of the emperor.Among them, the Jinyi Wei were responsible for the guard of honor for the emperor to travel,and the flag bearers Wei were responsible for holding and managing all kinds of flags.This is also the first royal institution specially set up for flag bearers in Chinese history.


2. Built a Qidao temple and saluted in person


Zhu Yuanzhang built a Qidao temple and saluted in person,and he also attached great importance to the etiquette system.As soon as he ascended the throne,he set up an etiquette organization to formulate the etiquette system.In 1368, the etiquette officer reported: "The marching system of the Huangdi in ancient times stipulated that the Ya flag was the spirit of the general and the image of the army,and that sacrifices must be offered whenever the Ya flag was set up.".In the Tang, Song and Yuan Dynasties, there were sacrifices to the flag.It is suggested that a Qidao temple be established in the capital.At the time of Awakening of Insects solar in spring and Frost's Descent in autumn, officials are sent to offer sacrifices.Zhu Yuanzhang ordered the establishment of a Qidao temple behind the Dudufu(governor's office),and the Dudufu was responsible for offering sacrifices to the Ya flag God and the Liudao gods.

 

 In 1369, Zhu Yuanzhang built an altar to offer sacrifices to many gods, such as Tai Sui, the sun and the moon, stars, wind and clouds, thunder and lightning, and flags.In 1370, due to the severe drought during that spring,Zhu Yuanzhang set up many altars,five altars in the middle, including the God of Wind, Cloud and Thunderstorm,seven altars in the east, including the Qidao God etc.six altars in the west, including the Chenghuang God etc. to offer sacrifices in person.In the summer of 1371, a severe drought hit again.Zhu Yuanzhang wore cloth clothes and straw sandals.He walked from the palace to the Shanchuan altar to offer sacrifices,exposed himself to the sun during the day,slept on the ground at night,and prayed for rain for three days.In 1377, a new Qidao temple was built in Shanchuan Altar,offering sacrifices to seven gods, namely, Ya flag God, Liudao gods, Wufang flag gods, warship God, gun God, crossbow God and battle array God,with offerings of calves, pigs, sheep and wine.


3. The sacrificial system of the Qidao God


Zhu Yuanzhang formulated a comprehensive and detailed Qidao system,including the level, color, quantity, and name of the Qidao flag, as well as the officials, places, time and sacrificial offering.At the end of each year, when offering sacrifices to the Tai Temple, the Qidao God was first offered outside the Chengtian Gate.The kings came to the capital to worship the emperor and offered sacrifices to the Qidao God outside the Chengtian Gate.

 

In the spring of 1375, an imperial decree was issued ordering the crown prince to lead the kings to offer sacrifices to the Qidao God in the Yuewuchang,set up an altar and make Sanxianli.Later, in the spring, the ceremony of offering sacrifices to the Qidao God in Yuewuchang was cancelled,and it was stipulated that the flag God should be offered in Yuewuchang on Frost's Descent day every autumn,and in the flag temple on Mid-Autumn Festival every year.


Sending a general to expedition: The emperor gave the Jieyue(tomahawk) to the general,and the general arrived outside in the Meridian Gate,he first set up a flag,sounded a golden drum and held the Jieyue(tomahawk) high for display.Before sending troops, the general will go to the flag temple to offer sacrifices and make Sanxianli.

 

The emperor's personal expedition: The emperor and generals accompanying the sacrificial officials must abstain from alcohol and meat, only vegetarian for one day.When offering sacrifices, it should set up the Ya flag spirit tablet and the Liudao spirit tablet.The emperor wore a military uniform and went to the Qidao temple to worship,first worshipping the military Ya God, and then worshipping the Liudao God.


Emperor sacrifice Qidao: the prince of the kingdom, need to establish of the Qidao temple,sent military officers to wear military uniforms salute.Wei and department in all parts of the country set up Qidao temples behind the offices,and the highest military officers and adjutants offered sacrifices in person.


4, Zhu Di inherited the Qidao system.


Zhu Di was the fourth son of Zhu Yuanzhang.In 1370, 10-year-old Zhu Di was granted the title of King of Yan by Zhu Yuanzhang.In 1380, when Zhu Di, King of Yan, was 20 years old, he took office in his fieid of Beiping.He is wise and tactful, and he led the army to conquer the Northern yuan Dynasty many times and managed the border troops in North China,so, he had a high prestige in the army.In 1403, Zhu Di proclaimed himself emperor with the year title is Yongle,and later generations honored him as Mingchengzu.


Ming Chengzu added to 72 Wei based on 48 Wei in the capital of Zhu yuanzhang.It continued the system of worshipping the flag of the gods by Zhu yuanzhang.On the first and fifteenth day of each month,the God of fire and the God of thunder are also offered sacrifices,Sacrifice by the Shenji Camp at the Jiaojunchang.Mingchengzu incorporated more than 3000 Mongolian cavalry who had surrendered and set up 3000 battalions.The 3000 battalions were divided into five part called Si,which respectively held the dragon flag, the Qidao, the brave flag and the armor of the emperor etc.In 1408, Mingchengzu leave the capital for an inspection tour.Before departure, he reported to the world, the Sheji, the Taimiao, and the Xiaoling, offering sacrifices to the gods such as river and Qidao.


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5. The Qidao temple on the central axis of Beijing


In 1403, Mingchengzu changed Beiping to Beijing, and Beijing became the provisional capital.He ordered large-scale immigration to Beijing for many years,giving immigrants a series of preferential policies, such as tax relief for five years, free cattle and seeds.In 1406, Mingchengzu issued an edict.Beginning in 1407, to build sacrificial altars, temples, and palaces in Beijing in imitation of the Nanjing Palace.These buildings were built based on the capital of the yuan Dynasty.From the Zhonggu Tower at the north end to the Yongding Gate at the south end,it is built on a straight line running through the north and south, with a total length of about 7.8 kilometers,which is the origin of the " central axis of Beijing ".To 1420, the construction of the Forbidden City, the Shanchuan Altar and the Qidao Temple in Beijing was completed.In November of that year, Mingchengzu issued an edict to move the capital to Beijing in 1421.After Mingchengzu moved the capital to Beijing,Every year during the Spring Festival, the Forbidden City sets up Wanshou lamp and Wanshou banners in front of the Qianqin Palace to pray for blessings.From the 24th day of the twelfth lunar month to the 18th day of the first lunar month, they must be hung for 24 days.From production to erection and withdrawal after use, more than 8,000 people are needed each time.


In 1532, Emperor Jiajing changed the name of Shanchuan Altar to Tianshendiqi Altar.In the Mid-Autumn of Chen, Xu, Chou and Wei years,the emperor personally offered sacrifices,and in other years, officials were sent to offer sacrifices.The Qidao temple, officials of the flag guards were sent to offer sacrifices alone.During the reign of Emperor Wanli, the Shenqi altar was renamed the present Xiannong altar.


In the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1753),Emperor Qianlong demolished the Qidao temple and rebuilt it into a sacred warehouse.It was used to store the grain harvested by the emperor himself.Since then, the Qidao temple has been removed from the royal sacrifice.


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6. Conclusion


The Qidao temple is dedicated to the flag God and the military flag God,which rose in the Emperor Zhu yuanzhang of the Ming Dynasty , inherited in the Emperor Ming Chengzu, and disappeared in the Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty.Because of the belief and worship of the Qidao,the Ming Dynasty had a grand flag guard of honor in the world,as well as a large-scale artillery and musket force "Shenji Camp" in the world at that time,establishing a strong military and national defense force.Mingchengzu sent Zheng He on six voyages to the West and five expeditions to Mongolia,and more than 30 countries came to pay tribute.After the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty, the military forces were weakened,and when the Eight-Power Allied Forces invaded Beijing in 1900,sacred warehouse became the headquarters of the US Army.


The Qidao temple system of the Ming Dynasty has far-reaching influence, and there are also sacrificial Qidao temple villages in Beijing.The mountain village of Mentougou District, more than 70 kilometers away from the Forbidden City,still preserves the tradition of holding a meeting on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month every year.Beijing Central Axis is applying for the World Cultural Heritage.I also suggest that the relevant departments in Beijing restore the Qidao temple building in Xiannong Altar,and build the Chinese Flag Cultural Exhibition Hall.This proposal has also won the "Creative Planning Award" of the "Beijing Central Axis Cultural Relics Activation and Utilization Competition".I also hope that this idea will become a reality as soon as possible at the 30th Beijing International Congresses of Vexillology in 2024 to show the world China's long flag culture.

 

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Reference: 《明史》History of Ming Dynasty
                 《明实录》The Memoir of Ming Dynasty


Special acknowledgment is given to Jianghai Xu for the help of English translation; to Nan Ke and Jiayao Shen for English revision.

 

June 18, 2022, Beijing

 


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