South Sea God Temple

The South Sea God Temple (Temple of South Sea God) is situated in Miaotou Village, Huangpu District in Guangzhou on the southern coast of China, facing the South China Sea. It was built in 594, and is the only preserved, and the most complete and biggest group of buildings among the four ancient temples of the sea god in China. In ancient times there was a dock nearby. As an important site of the ancient Maritime Silk Road and a place for worshipping Zhu Rong, the God of the South Sea, the South Sea God Temple attracted many merchants from both home and abroad who stopped at the dock and offered sacrifices to the god for safety and good luck. Emperors of all dynasties also dispatched their officials to offer sacrifices. Today, each year between February 11th and 13th according to the lunar calendar, the temple fair attracts thousands of people, and is thus one of the biggest temple fairs in Guangzhou. Visitors coming to Guangzhou usually go there to worship.

The thriving of South Sea God Temple is evidence of the prosperity of the maritime trade of Guangzhou throughout history. Many precious historical relics including inscriptions written by emperors, carved stones, bronze drums, remain there.

The temple complex has been renovated in nearly every dynasty, with the existing one built in the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). It has been restored almost to its original appearance, and covers an area of 30,000 square meters (7.4 acres). Outside of the main gate, stands an archway inscribed with the Chinese characters 'Hai Bu Yang Bo' (peace and safety on the sea). The main buildings along the south-north axis are the First Gate, the Gate of Etiquette, the Pavilion of Courtesy, the Great Palace and the Zhaoling Palace.
 

The First Gate

Passing through the archway, there is a courtyard in front of the First Gate, with an ornamental pillar and a stone lion standing on each of the east and west sides. Four statues of gods at the First Gate guard the temple day and night. The Stele of Han Yu (a great litterateur of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907)) and the Kaibao Stele are on the east and west of the First Gate. The Stele of Han Yu, 2.47 meters (8 feet) tall and 1.13 meters (3.6 feet) wide, is the oldest stele preserved in South Sea God Temple. It offers significant references and evidence of the research of the origins and development of the temple, the customs of offering sacrifices to sea-gods in the Tang Dynasty as well as the maritime trade at that time.
 

The Gate of Etiquette

The Gate of Etiquette is the second building in the South Sea God Temple. In ancient times only officials were allowed to enter through the middle door; common people entered through the side doors. From the courtyard beyond the Gate of Etiquette to the Great Palace, there are long corridors on both the east and west sides, with 45 steles with inscriptions made during different dynasties scattered there. Because of this feature, the temple is sometimes called 'Forest of Steles in the South'.
 

Pavilion of Courtesy

Behind the Gate of Etiquette is the Pavilion of Courtesy where the ancient officials offered sacrifice to the God of the South Sea. The stele on the west side, with Kangxi's (an emperor in the Qing Dynasty) inscription in it, is the most attractive. Two kapok trees planted there are about 200 to 300 years old.
 

The Great Palace

The next building is the Great Palace, the most important building in South Sea God Temple. The phoenixes, dragons and jewels on the top of the roof represent beauty, power and wisdom respectively. In the middle of the palace stands a statue of Zhu Rong, the God of the South Sea. According to legend there was once a brilliant official named Chong Li who was in charge of fire in south China and entitled 'Zhu Rong' (meaning forever brightness) by the emperor. Due to his great talent and contribution, he later doubled as the supervisor of both a flood control project as well as the South China Sea. There are three other statues on each side of the statue of Zhu Rong. It is said that these six distinguished gentlemen made great contributions to the management of the sea. On the east side of the palace stands a large bronze drum, the third largest in China, made in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220), and an iron bell from the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644).
 

Zhaoling Palace

The last building is called Zhaoling Palace, the resting place of the wife of the God of the South Sea. The wife of the god was crowned 'Mingshun Lady' in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1127). It is said that she has the same supernatural power as Zhu Rong and can help people fulfill their wish of having children and is thus considered the patron saint of children and women.

 

Sunbath Pavilion

Sunbath Pavilion lies on a small mountain on the western side of the South Sea God Temple. Since ancient times it has been a good place to watch the sunrise at sea. The place has turned into ruins but still you can view the scenery of the mountain and the sea there.
 

How to get to South Sea God Temple

1. Take metro line 13 to South Sea God Temple Station. Then walk to the scenic area directly.
2. Take bus line B1, B1 Fast, B26, B28, B29, B30 or B31 and get off at the Nanhai Shenmiao (South Sea God Temple) Station.
Guangzhou Bus / Metro Search

Entrance Fee CNY10 (CNY20 during the temple fair)
Children between 1.2-1.5 meters (3.9-4.9 feet) enjoy half price tickets;
Free for children below 1.2m.
Opening Hours 9:00 to 16:30
- Last modified on Nov. 13, 2019 -
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