Ritual images: Gaoluo

This first page under a new series on ritual images again concerns Gaoluo.

Apart from their ritual manuals and gongche solfeggio scores, all four ritual associations in North and South villages of Gaoluo have collections of images, including god paintings, diaogua hangings and donors’ lists, from various stages since the 19th century. Here is a selection (for details, see my Plucking the winds, pp.43–56, 203–205, 277–82 and passim).

South Gaoluo yinyuehui

SGL old pantheon detail

Foot of 1930 pantheon, with old qing bowl on altar table.

1930 donors' list, South Gaoluo

1930 donors’ list, South Gaoluo, displayed for New Year’s rituals, 1989.

SGL paintings

1930 pantheon flanked by Caishen God of Prosperity (right) and Xishen God of Joy. New Year 1995.

SGL guiwang

Ghost king, one of the association’s oldest paintings.

SGL god

Li Bing, God of the Hour, one of the Four Officers of Merit (sizhi gongcao 四值功曹).

Gaoluo 1989

Opening the Altar in the Lantern tent, 1989.

GL Dizang

Dizang and underworld hierarchy, Shan Fuyi c1983. Funeral, 1995.

GL pantheon 1993

Pantheon, Ma Yusheng 1993.

Diaogua hangings are displayed along the alleyways during the New Year’s rituals. Each group conststed of four paintings (yilu 一路 “one road”). The 1930 donors’ list commemorates the commissioning of forty-three such groups from the Painter Sun from Doujiazhuang village in Zhuozhou nearby. 108 such images were still on display during our visit at New Year 1989, depicting the story of Houtu, the Three Kingdoms, and scenes from The Ennobling of the Gods, notably the specacular battles for the town of West Qi—the Star Wars of its day.


New Year 1989.

SGL diaogua group

SGL diaogua single

After the Great Leap Forward and the famine, the revival of the early 1960s (however short-lived) was significant for the transmission of traditional culture. Not only were the ritual associations reinvigorated (cf. Guanyin Hall donors’ list below), but the village opera troupe also revamped their equipment (Plucking the winds, pp.143–5). Like the ritual associations, they too sought donations from all the village households:

opera beiwen 1964 edited

North Gaoluo yinyuehui

NGL dengpeng 1993

Shengguan before the Ten Kings, lantern tent 1993.

NGL Yanluo

Yama King, from 1990 Ten Kings paintings.

NGL Shiwang detail

Crossing the Bridges, detail from Qinguang image of 1990 Ten Kings set.

South Gaoluo Guanyin Hall (Southern Lantern Association)

SGL SMA veil

Ritual curtain, 1907.

SGL SMA beiwen

Donors’ list: 1930 (from right), and 1962 (on left).

SGL SMA Houtu 2

Houtu painting, 1930, by Painter Sun.

SGL SMA hangings 1995

Diaogua hangings, with donors’ lists behind, lantern tent 1995.

SGL SMA Houtu painting

Diaogua hanging, Wang Laoguo, 1930s.