Reopened to the public in 1999, one of Beijing's most captivating Daoist temples stands largely disregarded. Founded in 1322 by the devotees of the Zhengyi sect, the temple is dedicated to the god Dong Yue, who resides in the sacred mountain of Tai Shan. Aside from coping with the hordes of tourists who now visit his abode, Dong Yue is charged with supervising the 18 layers of Hell and the 76 departments.
The garishly represented emissaries of these departments may be found in the 72 halls that ring the main courtyard of the temple. Worshipers present themselves at the relevant hall, with offerings of money, incense, and red tokens inscribed with their names (fupai). With 76 departments (some are forced to share a cubicle), there are emissaries for every conceivable wish, and if viewed as a straw poll of China's preoccupations, the results are not encouraging. The Department for Accumulating Wealth ("justifiable" is added in the translation) is busy, while the Department of Pity and Sympathy, depicting beggars, awaits its first petition, and there are an alarming number of donations for the Department for Implementing 15 Kinds of Violent Death. This may or may not be related to the ongoing popularity of the Department of Official Morality, which rails against corrupt government.
A glassed-in stele at the northeast corner of the courtyard is written in the fine hand of Zhao Mengfu, recording the building of the temple and the life of its founder, Zhang Liusun, who died soon after purchasing the land. At the north of the complex stands the two-story Minsu Bowuguan (Folk Museum). This hosts exhibitions to remind Beijingers of their marvelous but largely forgotten traditions.