No. 24: Mingjiao Temple, Hefei, Anhui

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on June 25, 2012.)

Mingjiao Temple (明教寺) in Hefei, Anhui (安徽, 合肥市) is built on a platform (台) which, it is said, was once
used by General Cao Cao for reviewing troops. It now stands on a pedestrian street in a busy shopping area.
July 21, 2010 - In Wuhu, Anhui, I boarded the train for Hefei, the provincial capital, where I would visit Mingjiao Temple.

A funny thing happened on the train: I got into a trivial disagreement with an English-speaking Chinese passenger, and we ended up friends. In fact, upon arrival at Hefei, he paid for my onward ticket back to Nanjing, and took me to temple by taxi.

Having business elsewhere, he left me to explore on my own. The kindness of the people I meet while traveling in China never ceases to amaze me.

Mingjiao Temple has one of the strangest locations of any temple I've seen. It's on a raised area at the end of a pedestrian shopping street, squeezed in between high-end boutiques. The retaining walls keep it at its former level, while the entire area around is 6 meters or so lower.

This platform is important. Though the temple dates back "only" to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), it is said that Cao Cao, who figures largely in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, used to drill his troops on this very spot 1,800 years ago. The platform was a sort of mound from which he could review and direct the troops.

Frankly, there's not much to the temple. I was grateful that much of the front hall is given over to a vegetarian restaurant, where I had my second good meal of the day.

Also wedged into one corner of the grounds is a beautiful, small pavilion with a well (odd to see it 6 meters or so above the current ground level). The well is believed to be as much as 2,250 years old.

Despite its scale and location, Mingjiao Temple is a vibrant example of the tenacity of history.

GPS Info:
  • 31.86492, 117.29611



A view of Mingjiao Temple, Hefei, showing the scale and the unusual situation
The pedestrian street in front of the temple
A small well pavilion in a corner at the temple
Steps leading up to the raised platform from which Cao Cao is said to have reviewed his troops (postcard above)

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