Now, you are at the front gate of the Shanghai City God Temple. The front gate of temple is often called “Mountain Gate”, as the early Taoist hermits built their chapels in the mountain in order to live a life of tranquility and taciturnity. City God Temple’s mountain gate was built in 1535, the 14th year of Emperor Jia-jing’s reign during Ming Dynasty, thus today it enjoys a history of more than 450 years. The structure of mountain gate consists of stone pillars and timber beams. The four golden characters up the gate read “to protect the coastline”, which actually means to protect Shanghai. The characters were originally written by Shanghai county sheriff Fengbin in the Ming Dynasty; however, what you see today is a reproduction based on historical pictures, created in 1994 from which time the City God Temple has once again been open to the public. The two stone lions in front of the mountain gate also have a history of hundreds of years. People believe that patting their heads will bring peace and luck. After being touched by thousands and thousands of visitors, you can see their bodies are very shiny now.
There used to be a square in front of the mountain gate, Fangbang Middle Road built in the last few years of the Qing Dynasty- used to run through the gate. To the opposite side of the temple gate, there is the screen wall with two flagpoles in the front. Normally we have flags with writings that pray for the peace of the people and for propitious weather that promises a harvest. The screen wall is made of steel gray bricks. On the side to the gate, there’s the picture of a sacred animal, whose name is “Tan”. With a single horn, horse hooves and fish scales, it looks like another kind of sacred nimal “Qilin”. As a sacred animal, “Tan” could eat all kinds of evil, but then it ate too much and became greedy, and began eating pearls and gems. Still hungry, the animal wanted to eat the sun in the sky. On the way in pursuit of the sun, it dropped into s deep valley and could never get out again. The picture of “Tan” on the screen wall warns visitors to the City God Temple that greed is the source of all evil.
There are three goats on the other side of the screen wall. “Goat” in Mandarin sounds the same as “Yang” which has a positive connotation and is the opposite to the negative “Yin”. “Three goats” refers to “Triple Yang that Brings Prosperity” from I-Ching, the Book of Changes, as one of the 64 diagrams which refer to prophetic implications to the universe. And this diagram here means the Yang, or the positive power is waxing, while the Yin, or the negative power, is waning. Winter has gone and spring is on the way. People’ lives and careers are getting better.