Wuxian County Magistrate: The Upright Official and the Unintended Consequences

Discover the story of the Wuxian County Magistrate, his clash with tradition, and the birth of a new City God Temple.

In Wuxian County, I can’t recall the name of the county magistrate, but he was upright and highly respected for his governance. In Wuxian County’s customs, the City God was held in great reverence. People carved wooden statues of the City God, and beneath the splendid attire, there were mechanical devices that made the statues move like real people. On the City God’s birthday, the local residents would pool money to organize a temple fair. They would parade through the streets carrying the City God statue, displaying various flags, holding various ceremonial items, marching in formation, making a lively and bustling spectacle that crowded the streets with people. This celebration of the City God’s birthday had become an annual tradition that was never neglected.

One day, as the county magistrate was passing by the procession, he stopped to inquire about the event. The common folks explained everything to him. After some further investigation, he was informed about the considerable expenses involved in the celebration. He became quite angry and pointed at the City God statue, reproaching it, “The City God is, in essence, the ruler of our city. If it is incompetent and lacks any divine efficacy, then it’s just a useless ghost not worthy of worship. But if it possesses divine powers, we should be more prudent with our resources. How can we squander so much money, depleting the blood and sweat of the people?” With that, he knocked the City God statue to the ground and administered a severe punishment of twenty blows. From then on, this custom was abolished.

The county magistrate was upright and selfless, but he was also youthful and playful. One year later, while he was climbing a ladder in the government office to reach for a young bird under the eaves, he accidentally fell to the ground and broke his leg. He passed away not long after. People heard the county magistrate angrily shouting in the City God’s temple as if he were arguing with the deity, and this continued for several days without stopping.

The people of Wuxian County did not forget the county magistrate’s kindness. They collectively prayed for reconciliation and also built a new temple to worship the county magistrate. This finally calmed the noise. This newly constructed temple was also named the City God’s temple and held ceremonies in both spring and autumn seasons, placing even greater emphasis on it compared to the original City God temple. To this day, Wuxian County still has two City God temples.

《吴令》

吴令某公,忘其姓字,刚介有声。吴俗最重城隍之神,木肖之,被锦藏机如生。值神寿节,则居民敛赀为会,辇游通衢,建诸旗幢杂卤簿,森森部列,鼓吹行且作,阗阗咽咽然,一道相属也。习以为俗,岁无敢懈。公出,适相值,止而问之,居民以告。又诘知所费颇奢,公怒,指神而责之曰:“城隍实主一邑。如冥顽无灵,则淫昏之鬼,无足奉事;其有灵,则物力宜惜,何得以无益之费,耗民脂膏?”言已,曳神于地,笞之二十。从此习俗顿革。

公清正无私,惟少年好戏。居年馀,偶于廨中梯檐探雀,失足而堕,折股,寻卒。人闻城隍祠中,公大声喧怒,似与神争,数日不止。吴人不忘公德,群集祝而解之,别建一祠祠公,声乃息。祠亦以城隍名,春秋祀之,较故神尤著。吴至今有二城隍云。

Leave a Comment