Friday, April 24, 2009

Napoleon of Nanputuo Temple! (Xiamen)

Bill Brown .. Xiamen University

Napoleon seemed to think he was god--and evidently so did the Chinese--at least here in old Amoy (former name for Xiamen). In the succinctly entitled book published in 1853, "An Aide-De-Camp's Recollections of Service in China, A Residence in Hong-Kong, and Visits to Other Islands in the Chinese Seas," by Colonel Arthur Augustus Thurlow Cunynghame,

"There is still one very superb temple, [Nanputuo Temple] by far the best specimen I had yet met with. This, as usual, was filled with gods and demons of all denominations and attributes. The entree of these figures does not appear to be exclusively restricted to Chinese deities, a clay statue of Napoleon having been found in one of their temples at Amoy, in his cocked-hat and boots; how he got there, it would be difficult to determine." "(p.115)

I've not seen the Napoleon idol, but Nanputuo Temple has literally thousands of idols. It may well have been spirited off by some idle British soldier during their occupation of our fair isle of Amoy. I'll still have a go at looking for it, but I suspect it could well be in the British Museum in London, which has millions of artifacts from all over the world, hundreds of which were honestly acquired.

Who knows--maybe it was the Amoy folks' worship of Napoleon that led to the idea of the People's Liberation Army Temple in Quanzhou's walled city of Chongwu--a very unique temple with little green statues of --no, not leprechauns--27 PLA soldiers, replete in green uniforms, and surrounded by incense, fresh fruit and dried fruits and candies, and offerings of booze, soft drinks, cigarettes, and even cell phones and toy plastic tanks, helicopters, battleships and aircraft carriers (Just saw on the news yesterday China wants to build a real aircraft carrier).

But if you find the Napoleon of Nanputuo Temple, please let me know!

Dr. Bill
Some Fujian Temples

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