The story behind one couplet in Wuhou Temple.
Wuhou Temple is much associated with the kingdom of Shu. It is the place to commemorate Zhuge Liang, Prime Minister of the kingdom. Wuhou was a top official title conferred upon Zhuge Liang after his death. It is unfortunate that no historical documents have recorded the time of its establishment. However, Du Fu, a top Tang Dynasty poet wrote a poem of which two lines say as below:
"Where would I find the Prime Minister's shrine? Somewhere outside Jinguan, in a dense cypress glade."
This poem helps us infer that Zhuge Liang Temple was already in existence in the Tang Dynasty. During the Tang and Song Dynasties Zhuge Liang and Emperor Liu Bei had their independent temples in Chengdu, at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty the two temples merged into one. Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty the merged temple was destroyed during the chaos of war. The present buildings are dated from the Qing Dynasty in 1672. The main entrance gate hangs a horizontal inscribed board. It says, "Han Zhaolie Temple". Han refers to the kingdom of Shu; zhaolie was Liu Bei's posthumous title. The board indicates that the whole temple was built in honor of Liu Bei. But why do all the people call it Zhuge Liang Temple instead of Han Zhaolie Temple? It is due to Zhuge Liang's great historical contribution, and his political and military strategies to the development of the kingdom. In the view of the local people his prestige contribution made this temple to be called Zhuge Liang Temple regardless of the emperor's dignity and the temple's original name. Gradually more and more people accepted the new name of the temple through common practice.
The temple compound consists of five main buildings: the Front Gate, the Second Gate, Liu Bei's Hall, Zhuge Liang's Hall and Liu Bei's Tomb. The buildings are all located along an imaginative axis line in a rectangular shape. Six huge stone tablets are flanked in the yard between the front and the second gates. Four of them were of the Qing Dynasty, one of the Ming and one of the Tang. The tablets of the Qing state the stories about the re-establishment of the temple; the one of the Ming describes the development of the temple. The one of the Tang is far more famous than the other five. It was set up soon after Wu Yuanhen, a local top military commander in west Sichuan and his 27 assistants worshiped Zhuge Liang in the temple in 809 during the Tang Dynasty. Pei Du,who served as a prime minister for his three Tang emperors in different times, composed an essay associated with the worship. In the essay he eulogized Zhuge Liang for his great contribution to and his spare-no-efforts in unifying the whole China and the development of Sichuan, Liu Gingchuo, a well-known Tang calligraphist, copied the essay on the tablet according to the pattern of Liu's handwriting. The three well-known persons joined hands to perfect the tablet, so later in people called it "The Three Perfection Tablet".
Inside the Second Gate is Liu Bei's hall. His statue stands behind the front altar, flanked by his son and grandson. To the right of the main shrine is a red faced image called Guan Yu; the left is General Zhang Fei, represented with a black face. Liu,Guan and Zhang are sworn brothers as prescribed in the novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
There are two galleries in the yard, which contain terracotta figures of the Qing Dynasty, 28 in all, generals on the right and ministers on the left. During the Three Kingdom Period the rulers of the independent kingdoms fought each other for supremacy.This period was regarded as a romantic epoch of knightly daring-do. The site is just about holy to thousands of Three Kingdom enthusiasts. The well-loved figures in the temple are the historical source from which later novels and dramas have captured the imaginations of generations of Chinese readers and audience.
Behind Liu Bei's hall is the second yard where Zhu Geliang's hall is located. Zhu Geliang's halls obviously lower than Liu Bei's. Visitors have to walk down several steps before they can get into the second yard. The disparity in the construction height displays the traditional Chinese hierarchical social system. Emperor is the son of Heaven. He is superior; and other people are inferior.
On the top of the entrance gate of Zhuge Liang's hall hangs a horizontal wooden board,which says,"Eternal Glory All Over the World (名垂宇宙)."Many ancient couplets hang inside the hall, but the most famous one is right in the middle of the hall. It says,“能攻心则反侧自消，从古知兵非好战；不审势即宽严皆误，后来治蜀要深思。”
It means that try to persuade an enemy to stop his attack during a war and the war will then disappear. No soldier wants to fight since ancient times. Try not to forget to weigh the conditions and situation, otherwise leniency and strict punishment will all fail. Those,who come to manage Sichuan,should think it over again.
This couplet contains two stories. Once as Zhuge Liang was the general commander of the Shu Kingdom, he was scheduled to attack the Wei Kingdom in north China. However, he was worried that the troops of the minorities might take a chance to harass the Shu Kingdom in southwest China.He came to realize that the good relationship with the minorities was very important. So he went to the southwestern area with his troops. Meng Huo( 孟获), the top leader of the minorities didn't accept Zhuge Liang's good-wish.He used his soldiers to fight against the troops from the kingdom.Zhuge Liang successfully defeated his attack and caught Meng Huo. Instead of punishing him, Zhuge Liang set him free.Then Meng Huo launched another attack and he met with the same defeat.Zhuge Liang set him a free again.On the seventh time after Meng Huo was caught, he prostrated himself before Zhu Geliang saying that he and his soldiers had given up any anti-Shu Kingdom policy. From then on the minority people and the Shu Kingdom lived in amity.
The other story tells how Zhuge Liang strengthened discipline. Once Zhuge Liang launched another military campaign against the Wei Kingdom. In order to make the campaign successful Zhuge Liang ordered Ma Shu, his close assistant to garrison the Shu army troops in Jie Ting, a vital strategic place to fight the coming soldiers from the Wei. Ma Shu thought of himself highly and placed his troops on the top of a hill near Jie Ting. As result, the Wei army soldiers occupied the strategic place. Ma Shu and his soldiers were defeated. Zhuge Liang had to withdraw his troops back to the Shu Kingdom. His carefully arranged campaign thus failed. Ma Shu had a close relationship with Zhuge Liang due to his hardworking and his contribution to the development shu's army. Tears ran down Zhuge Liang's face when he ordered to execute Ma Shu for his error.
The two storied displayed Zhuge Liang's flexible tactics in accordance with different occasions. More-over, Zhuge Liang used the same method to manage his government and the kingdom for the social stability and economic prosperity.
The second yard,dedicated Zhuge Liang, has a bell tower on the right and a drum tower on the left of the entrance. A most unusual casting iron incense burner is in the imddle of the path, which leads to the hall. Zhuge Liang's statue, accompanied by his son on the right and his grandson on the left, stands in the middle of the hall.The statue is 2 meters high. Zhuge Liang is dressed in a golden robe with a feather fan in his hand. He looks as if he was still concerned about his kingdom and his local people. On the left side of Zhuge Liang's statue is a bronze drum, a relic dated back to the 5th century. Originally ancient minority groups in souhwest China often used it as a cookery. Later it became a sort of music instrument for some special occasions.