March 03, 2021

The custom of street lamps in Sixi Sibao

◎Liu Yonghua's street lamp custom in the West Sibao When discussing the public welfare undertakings in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it is easy to think of the concepts of “public domain” and “civil society” in European history. The two most famous examples are William T. Rowe's discussion of the public welfare undertakings in Hankou in the late Qing Dynasty and Mary B. Rankin's investigation of the aftermath and social reconstruction process in the Zhejiang area after the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement. The two things that are irrelevant in history are linked, which may take a lot of theoretical risks. In fact, the practice of Luo William and Rankin has been criticized by scholars such as Phillp P. Kuhn, Frederic Wakeman, Jr, and Huang Zongzhi. They believe that in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, China's search for the public sphere and civil society made a mistake of teleology. This practice not only misreads the complex and subtle relationship between the state and society in the traditional period, but also involves the public affairs. Social and cultural activities are separated from the context of Chinese native culture. These criticisms are considered quite insightful by the author. The purpose of this article is not to repeat these criticisms, but to take the case of the four-way street lamps in the West to illustrate how a seemingly modern public project is connected to the surrounding cultural atmosphere.

When it comes to streetlights, the average reader knows that in modern society, this is a very important part of municipal engineering. The emergence of street lamps in China is easily reminiscent of concepts such as the Western public domain. This may be the case when modern streetlight networks are popular in many large and small cities in China. However, these modern "inventions" are very easy for us to forget their predecessors, leading to a misunderstanding of it. What we have seen is that in the traditional period, "lights" have a very rich connotation. Streetlights, as a cultural phenomenon, have an intrinsic connection with traditional folk culture. From the perspective of the villagers, streetlights are not new things, but a natural extension of the social values ​​of the villagers. From the cultural point of view, street lights are mainly influenced by two concepts. The first is the concept of "lights." In many places in China, "lights" and "Ding" are homophonic, and Ding is the meaning of human beings. Adding lights contains the auspicious connotation of human reproduction. Due to the influence of this concept, family organizations are happy to set up street lights. The first is the bright view of Buddhism. The light can bring light, symbolizing the Buddha's light. Therefore, setting up street lights has the meaning of expelling demons. This is also worth noting. However, when the street lights appeared in China, it is difficult to verify.

The four guarantees mentioned here are a group of villages located at the junction of Changting, Liancheng, Qingliu and Ninghua counties in western Fujian. There are forty or fifty villages in the area of ​​tens of kilometers from the four guarantees, the largest of which are the villages of Wuwu Pavilion, Mawu, Changyuan and Jiangfang. During the local investigation, the author noticed that there was a common habit of setting up street lamps in the past. The four guarantees said that the street lights were "sky lights" or "add lights." There are two main reasons for the beginning of this custom: one said that it began in the Qing Dynasty during the Qianlong period (1736 - 1795), because the temple dedicated to the lanterns was built during the Qianlong period; when it began at the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom Movement It has the meaning of "anti-Qing Fu Ming".

The evidence mentioned in the previous one is not strong enough. The latter said that there is not much historical basis (the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom did not put forward the slogan of "anti-Qing Fuming"). These statements can be said to be better than nothing. Asked about the reason for setting the skylight, the usual answer is that the sky lantern has its own god, called the sky lantern bodhisattva or the sky lantern god, they have considerable mana, can exclude the outside evil demon outside the village. An old man from Jiangfang Village told the author that one of the sky lanterns at the entrance to the village was very spiritual. The alien demon, when he arrived at the entrance to the village, did not dare to go any further. It is said that there is a demon. After arriving at the entrance to the village, the power of the gods of heaven and lanterns is reluctant to retreat. They dare not enter, and stayed in the nearby culvert for three years. In this sense, the reason for setting up the sky lantern is quite close to that of Lishi. Some people think that the purpose of setting up the sky lanterns is to pray for "adding Ding." At the time of actually setting the skylight, about two reasons exist at the same time.

The method of making the skylight is quite simple, and the glass cover is covered with a common oil lamp. Vegetable oil such as tea oil and peanut oil can be added to the oil lamp. The sky lanterns are usually hung on the tree. It usually starts to light up when it is dark, and turns off when it is bright. The oil is dry and is added by the person responsible for adding the oil. Add oil to the oil lamp, some can only be used for one night, while others can be counted for several days. In some places, when you light the lights, you need to burn incense and worship the sky lanterns. The specific location of the hanging streetlights is generally at the corner of the village entrance and the street in the village. The former is a population of settlements, equivalent to the "threshold" that Arnoldvan Gennep calls, and its ceremonial importance is self-evident. From the perspective of the villagers, crossing this boundary means entering or leaving the village. It is quite necessary to set the skylights in this place. There are sky lanterns in the corner, mainly to overcome the darkness. Most of the corners are dark, and people have fear of darkness, thinking that this is the hiding place of demon and ghosts. Setting a skylight here can overcome the fear of passers-by. The number of sky lanterns depends on the size of the village and the importance the villagers attach to the sky lanterns. For example, Shuangquan Village is relatively small, only one sky lantern, and Wuge Village is larger, with two sky lanterns. Jiangfang villagers are interested in creating their own living environment, where there are many sky lanterns. Seven miles, scattered in the village, known as "seven stars as the moon." In the old days, if the villagers who moved out of Jiangfang met outside, they didn't know each other. Just ask Jiangfang a few skylights to know if they are from the same ancestral home.

The sky lanterns of Sibao villages generally have their own organizations and even fields. Take Wuge Village as an example. There are two skylights in the village. One is located at the south bridge of the village entrance. Here, there is a special club in the skylight, called the "sky lantern festival." This organization has 80 members, who are divided into several shifts, taking turns to be responsible for lighting and adding fuel. Every year on the fourth day of the first month of the month, members will do “meal” as usual, and everyone will have a meal. One is near the village of Chonggong, and is responsible for the public housing. This is a house in which the village’s Zou’s clan is very busy. Every year, the dragon lanterns are organized. The people who organize the dragon lanterns are called “out of the dragon”. There are 40 people each year. The task is responsible for these forty people. These forty people are divided into four groups (locally called four "A"), which are responsible for lighting and adding oil, and are responsible for about nine times per year. The sky lanterns in Jiangfang Village are taken care of by people near the lights. Each lamp has a large field of production, and it is also a way of taking turns to look after it. The number of these fields is not much. The foggy sky lanterns will have Tiantian pick (about three and a half), which should be counted as a large number. There are far fewer fields in the sky lanterns. According to the records in the 30th Anniversary of the 30th Anniversary of the Republic of China, "The Fans of the Fans of the Fans", Volume 19, "Soita Films", the third day of the book, the Tianguang Society of Shangbao has a field, with a meter of about five liters. Even with the lowest local tax rules, Huitian is only one acre.

Of course, it takes a lot of money to look after the sky lanterns. These fields should be enough to sustain the skylights for one year.

The time when the sky lantern disappeared in Sibao was during the Republic of China. At that time, in order to purchase guns and expand their strength, the local warlords confiscated Tiantian Huitian as “unprofitable public funds”. Lost the field, the skylights will not be able to continue to look after. However, in recent years, some villages set out to restore the M sky lanterns during the investigation of the Four Guarantees. A Jiangfang old man mentioned to the author that the village’s sky lantern has been restored. use. Specifically participating in the restoration, there are a total of 50 households living near the sky lanterns, who belonged to the same production team during the collectivization period. Different from the past, the oil lamp has been replaced by electric lights, and the cost of maintaining the sky lanterns is only supported by the congregation. The brief introduction of the four-day lanterns above, I believe that Li is enough to let us realize that the traditional rural street lamps Compared with the modern street lamps introduced from the West, there is no small difference in culture i. We can see that the street lamps of Sibao are a natural extension of the culture of the villagers and have a very close relationship with the religions and values ​​of the villages. If we really want to find public realms and civil society in China, we should probably point our attention to the religious ritual activities in urban and rural areas, not the other, as Paul Katz pointed out in a study on the worship of gods since the Song Dynasty. The local, and must start from the cultural context of China's own locality, to specifically examine the most profound feelings of the public domain and civil society in the investigation of the four-light skylight customs.

(Liu Yonghua: Ph.D. candidate, East Asian Department, McGill University, Canada)

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