Taipei Confucius Temple Yi Gate

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Although the exterior of the Yi Gate doesn’t have quite the same sense of grandeur as the Lingxing Gate, it more than compensates for this with its beautifully curved double eave roof and the plethora of decorative delights that adorn the structure.

Among the most notable of these are the intricately-carved wooden screen windows that run along both sides of the main wooden doors featuring eight hornless dragons (螭吻/chiwen) arranged around a censer (incense burner).

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These mythical creatures are one of the nine young dragons commonly used as an ornamental motif or roof decoration in traditional Chinese architecture, and are believed to protect against fires, floods, and even typhoons.

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Just like the Lingxing Gate, only individuals who achieved the top grade in the imperial examination were allowed to go through the main doors of the Yi Gate and before entering were admonished to calm themselves down in order to prevent themselves from becoming arrogant.

In line with this ancient convention the doors of the gate in Taipei Confucius Temple are only opened on September 28 for the annual memorial ceremony in honor of the sage; at all other times people enter by one of the two side entrances, the Jingsheng and Yuzhen Gates.

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The Jingsheng Gate houses a very useful information center while the Yuzhen Gate is home to a shrine featuring a memorial tablet.

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On each side of the main gate adjoining the side entrances are two portraits of military officers made using Koji ceramics. In a rather convoluted form of word play, Chinese homonyms of the four symbolic items the figures are holding come together to mean “praying for good fortune and happiness”.

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One figure is holding a flag, pronounced as “qi”, in one hand, and a ball, pronounced as “qiu” in the other; when spoken in tandem as “qiqiu” these sound like the verb “to pray”.

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The other officer is grasping a powerful spear to ward off evil, pronounced as “ji”, which sounds like the Chinese word for “auspiciousness”, as well as a tablet pronounced as “qing” which has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for happiness – hence rounding off the four character phrase to “qiqiu-jiqing” or “praying for good fortune and happiness”.

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Complementing the portraits of the two military officers are four Koji reliefs of flowers representing the seasons, each of which resonates with symbolic meaning.  These are called: Spring Peony (pictured above), an emblem of wealth and social status; Summer Lotus, which represents integrity; Autumn Chrysanthemums, which signifies character and longevity; and Winter Camellia (pictured below), which evokes images of long life and the hope of the New Year.

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