Temple of the Five Concubines

Temple of the Five Concubines

The Temple of the Five Concubines is a small shrine dedicated to sacrifice.

Temple of the Five Concubines (Wǔfēi Miào 五妃廟)

Unlike urban cemeteries in Europe where you can find people sitting next to grave stones and reading books, Taiwanese people are far too superstitious to treat a grave site as a park. The very idea of entering a cemetery for any purpose other than to clean the tomb and give respects to ancestors is close to sacrilege in Taiwan. This sentiment, however, doesn’t seem to be true for the tomb of five women who gave up their lives to honor their husband and their dynasty. The Temple of the Five Concubines, or Wǔfēi Miào, marks the grave of those women. It is in the center of a half-acre park that is well-used by locals and tourists alike. It is a good place to sit amongst the trees and read a book or catch up on gossip without having to give any thoughts to the five young ladies buried under yonder mound. But not everyone comes just to enjoy the park. This temple is often visited by those who want to honor the nobility of self-sacrifice. This is why it is also known as Temple of the Five Noble Ladies.

door detail

door detail

The young ladies buried at the back of the shrine were the concubines of Zhu Shugui, who held the title of The Prince of Ningjing. The names of the five concubines were Lady Yuan, Lady Wang, Xiugu, Sister Mei and Sister He. Zhu Shugui was not in direct line to the Ming thrown, but he served as a regent to the army of Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga). He was invited by Zheng Chenggong’s son, Zheng Jing, to help lend legitimacy to the Ming settlement in Taiwan. Years later, when the Qing army gained control of Penghu, Zhu Shugui realized that all was lost for the Ming. He summoned his concubines and announced his plans to take his own life. He suggested that they retreat to a nunnery. The concubines decided it would be more honorable to die with the prince and in turn hanged themselves one-by-one in the central hall of the palace (what is now the Grand Matsu Temple, Dà Tiānhòu Gōng, near Chikan Lou). Before taking his own life, Zhu interred the ladies in a hillside, known as Kuidoushan (Cassia Bud Hill), just south of the city walls. Their tomb has remained there since.

After the prince’s death, a shrine was built outside the tomb. It was renovated by both the Qing and Japanese administrations. The most recent renovation was in 1978. As Taiwanese temples go, this one is very unique. It is quite austere and compact, with dull colors and little ornamentation. The door gods are those of eunuchs and maidens. While your first reaction to the building might be “this is it?”, you are unlikely to find anything similar in all of Taiwan. It is registered as a first-class historic site by the Taiwanese government.

The temple is inside the Confucius Temple Historic District. The park takes up a full city block and is surrounded by an attractive red wall. It is located on a lovely tree-lined street named after the temple, Wufei Street. There are some shops and restaurants just across the street, including a fine Indian restaurant called Masala.

The small shrine of Wufei Miao is surrounded by a large park.

The small shrine of Wufei Miao is surrounded by a large park.

Admission is free. It is open from 8:30 – 21:00 year-round.

Location: 201 Wufei Street, West Central District, Tainan City, Taiwan

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Comments
4 Responses to “Temple of the Five Concubines”
  1. Alex says:

    Very cool! I didn’t know the story behind this at all. How do you know that some of the door gods are eunuchs? Is there a distinctive way that eunuchs are painted?

    • tainancity says:

      I think eunuchs are never represented with swords in their hands, but other than that I don’t know. I know the images on the doors are eunuchs because that’s what I read. It was common practice to keep eunuchs in Chinese courts, and two eunuchs also killed themselves along with the concubines. They are not buried with the five ladies. There is a shrine to those eunuchs somewhere in Tainan, but I’m not sure exactly where it is.

      • awaitinganame says:

        I just visited this temple and to the left I saw a very small shrine with a sign saying it was for the two eunuchs. The sign said they were buried to the right of the concubines’ grave. I have a picture of the sign if you’re interested, but I didn’t get a picture of the actual shrine.

        PS. Thanks for such a wonderful website!

      • tainancity says:

        Yes, I did notice that the last time I was there. I read somewhere that the eunuchs were buried elsewhere, but perhaps that information was wrong.

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