Descendants pay homage to King Qian of the Wuyue Kingdom

Wu Huixin
The annual commemoration at King Qian's Temple in Hangzhou holds profound significance for the Qian family, honoring Qian Liu, the founding monarch of the Wuyue Kingdom.
Wu Huixin

The 18th day of the first lunar month has held significant importance for the Qian family for centuries. Clan members convene at King Qian’s Temple in Hangzhou to pay tribute to Qian Liu, the inaugural king of the Wuyue Kingdom (AD 907-978).

This year, the ritual day fell on February 27, when the family hosted ancestral rituals to commemorate the king and promote the family’s moral code, which has been handed down for generations. The worship ceremony has been included as one of the intangible cultural heritage items in Zhejiang Province by virtue of its traditional values and historical importance.

The ritual comprises 10 procedures. To commence, a group of the 500 descendants in attendance struck the temple’s sizable bell 14 times, symbolizing the city of Hangzhou and the other 13 cities of the Wuyue Kingdom. Secondly, holy water and soil from the king’s birthplace in present-day Lin’an District are presented.

The descendants then placed baskets of flowers in front of the Wuwang Hall, where a statue of the king stands. Three primary incenses were burned alongside nine smaller ones as the fourth procedure in the ceremony. This is a holy deed to show respect to the king and to pray for good luck for the upcoming new year.

Descendants pay homage to King Qian of the Wuyue Kingdom
Ti Gong

Representatives from the Qian families read King Qian’s family instructions in front of the Wuwang Hall.

Following that, the descendants recited the funeral oratory and proceeded to sing a song in honor of King Qian. A ritual dance performance is also an indispensable part of the ceremony.

The pinnacle of the ritual is the reading of Qian’s family instructions. After founding the Wuyue Kingdom, the king and his successors prioritized education in their parental instructions to prepare their descendants to contribute to society.

The family instructions have been passed down for generations. Even in modern times, Qian’s family instructions are revered for their emphasis on nurturing moral character, fostering harmonious families and promoting the well-being of others.

Finally, all 500 descendants paid homage by offering incense in front of the Wuwang Hall. To preserve the ancient wooden architecture of King Qian’s Temple, the incense was not burned.

Qian Liu was the founder of the Wuyue Kingdom during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (AD 907-979).

The territory once spread across present-day Zhejiang Province, Shanghai, the southeastern part of Jiangsu Province, and the northeastern part of Fujian Province.

Descendants pay homage to King Qian of the Wuyue Kingdom
Ti Gong

The ritual dance performance is an essential part of the annual worship ceremony at King Qian’s Temple.

The Wuyue Kingdom flourished economically and cultivated its distinctive regional culture, a legacy that endures to this day.

King Qian advanced agriculture, constructed a barrier against tidal bores from the Qiantang River, expanded the capital Hangzhou, undertook river and lake dredging projects, and promoted maritime transportation and trade.

King Qian was revered for his benevolent governance. Historical records indicate that he maintained peace within the kingdom during a period of widespread turmoil in China.

While the Northern Song Dynasty consolidated its authority in northern China, the Wuyue Kingdom prospered in the south.

Typically, such powers would engage in conflict, yet the Wuyue Kingdom peacefully pledged allegiance to the Northern Song Dynasty, as King Qian prioritized the well-being of his people and sought to avoid unnecessary loss of life.

The emphasis on education by King Qian and his descendants has led to the emergence of several distinguished individuals from the Qian clan, such as Qian Xuesen, known as China’s “father of space technology”; Qian Zhongshu, a prominent 20th-century writer in China; and Qian Mu, a well-known historian.

These figures, among others, have collectively upheld the Qian family’s reputation as a prominent and influential family in southern China.

The establishment of King Qian’s Temple at the West Lake in 1077 reflects the deep respect the locals held for King Qian.

Today, the temple houses the Qian family archives, honors King Qian and serves as a venue for floral exhibitions and traditional opera performances.

In recent days, the temple has attracted visitors with a vibrant flower show celebrating the Year of the Dragon. Flowers are arranged in styles inspired by dragon-themed poems and bonsai art.

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