A $2 tuktuk ride from the ancient city of Pingyao 平遥, in the deserts of Shanxi Province, there’s a wonderful little temple called Shuanglin Temple (双林寺). The name translates to something like A Pair of Forests Temple. Cute. Inside, though, you’ll find a strange sight.
Walk to the back, and you’ll come across the Goddess Temple, 娘娘殿, where villagers would come to pray to have children, and especially to have sons. In this room, like a scene from an Argento movie, all of the statues have had their eyes scooped out.
What is this madness, I wondered. It was brutal, and frightening. Asking around, with some additional research from my good friend Ginger, it turns out that these statues were all built at the end of the Ming Dynasty, or the early Qing Dynasty. They were made poorly, using clay faces and 琉璃 — a colored glaze — with extremely shallow eye sockets.
“So they probably just fell out,” someone at the temple hypothesized. They then went on to admit that the temple wasn’t protected — it was just a local village temple — and so it could have happened during the Cultural Revolution. But they probably just fell out.
Still pretty creepy… especially the ones where they’ve put new eyes in…