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15 July 2015

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[Custom] Changsha Temple Fair for Fire God in Huo Gong Dian

Huo Gong Dian (also called Fiery Place or Fire God Palace) temple fair in the old days had a unique status in ordinary people's life. Besides various kinds of folk shows at the temple fair, such as storytelling, variety show, etc., a row of booths selling delicate and tasty foods also stood in front of it, boasting the most advanced and classic folk savory foods in Hunan.

The Origin of Huo Gong Dian Culture
The fire culture of Huo Gong Dian in Changsha could date back to the tribal clan period of China when the mankind has already learnt how to widely use fire for cooking and keeping warm. But people's inadvertence often gave rise to fire disasters. In order to reduce fire catastrophe, at around 26 -21 B.C., Emperor Ku (one of the five legendary emperors in old China) nominated an official professional in controlling fire source. To commemorate him, "Temple of Fire God" was set up on the Pozi Street of Changsha.  On 23rd of June in the 12th year of Emperor Qianlong's reign according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the temple was renovated.  Since then, June 23rd was set as the festa of Fire God's birthday.

In the third year of Daoguang reign in the Qing Dynasty, there were already many stores in the Pozi Street, when a squire named Cai Shiwang took the lead to raise funds to expand the Huo Gong Dian to 16 mu (around 1.07 hectare).

The development of Huo Gong Dian Culture
The three Chinese characters "Huo Gong Dian"  represent the Huxiang Culture and the Chuwu culture (i.e., Witch Culture in  the Chu Kingdom in Southern China which admires the God of Fire), Hunan's geography  culture and Hunan's distinctive food culture. As south of China has a relatively hot and humid climate, fire becomes one of its elements. The temple fair reflects the "enthusiasm" of Hunanese, while the cuisine highlights the "spiciness" of Hunanese. As the saying goes, "if you would like to join the crowd, go see the temple fair; if you expect to have a taste of typical Hunan cuisine, come to Huo Gong Dian."

The features of Huo Gong Dian culture
The Huo Gong Dian culture is featured by the distinct temple fair, a huge fire-wood powered Ding (an ancient cooking vessel), local cuisine (including edible wild herbs), as well as time-honored teahouses which are famous for the story-telling art.