19 Incredible Taoist Gods at Beijing’s Dongyue Temple

So the rapture left you behind, eh? Feeling cheated? Looking for a new deity?

Try Taoism. These gods will kick your ass!

Okay, maybe not all of them. Some, like this swarthy fellow, will just make sure when you’re reborn, you’ll get your deserved rank. Fail to accomplish enough good in this lifetime? You’ll be birthed as a “low class flying bird,” forced “to go on pecking at food” to stay alive. Sounds bad, but read on!

This next nasty fellow, caught slicing off the tongue of an ill-doer, works in the afterlife punishment offices. He pays evil back with evil. “This department is the headquarters for controlling the punishment,” read a nearby sign. Clearly, he’s controlling it! But don’t worry: the sign continued that “measures taken will be unbiased, just and accurate.”

In traditional Chinese thought, the afterlife is full of government bureaucracy, run by a paperwork- and red tape-stalled management. At Beijing’s Dongyue Temple (东岳庙), representations of 76 of these offices are on display. Sometimes reminiscent of my Chinese government offices, sometimes reminiscent of a Troma film, they’re almost all insanely cool. Fish-headed monsters, managed by fire-breathing goblin judges, sit in the room beyond decapitated na’er-do-wells and scowling horses.

As I sat reading Eric Shaefer’s history of exploitation film in the temple, I couldn’t help but compare his read on early exploitation to the Taoist statues. Both are equal parts exposé and education — this is exactly what will happen to you if you don’t follow the rules — and both bend so heavily towards titillation. And what titillation!!

Don’t miss the rest of these incredible statues. [6/3 Update: I just posted Gorier ones, from another temple.] But in the meantime, these are just plain cool.

4 thoughts on “19 Incredible Taoist Gods at Beijing’s Dongyue Temple”

    1. I’ve never seen any Taoist statues in the US… sadly, since they’re so completely remarkable. Good luck with the quest, and if you do find any, let me know!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *