Yi Yin Ancestral Hall is located in the village of Wei Place, 20 kilometers southwest of Yucheng County in Dianji Township, and is the tomb of Yi Yin, a famous minister of the early Shang Dynasty.
In 2011, the legend of Yi Yin was selected as a folklore category as a provincial non-patrimonial heritage. In the ancient and vicissitudes of Yiyin Shrine, the reporter met Bi Daoliang, the director of Yiyin Culture Museum and the inheritor of Yiyin legend. He is 50 years old and a native of Wei Place village. In 1986, he returned to the Yiyin Ancestral Hall as a volunteer interpreter after he was transferred from the army. Today, he not only takes up the job of tour guide and inherits the story of Yi Yin Ancestral Hall, but also takes up the job of master of ceremonies for the annual ceremony of worshipping the God of Kitchen in Henan Province, and is known by locals and tourists as “the first mouth of Yucheng”.
Yi Yin (1649~1550 B.C.), surnamed Si, Yi, and Zhi, was one of the founding fathers of the Shang Dynasty, an outstanding politician and thinker, one of the founders of the Taoist school, and the ancestor of Chinese cooking.
He was famous for helping the Shang to destroy the Xia
Bi Daoliang briefly introduced the life history of Yi Yin to the reporter. According to legend, Yi Yin came from a slave background and was born by the river Yi, hence his name Yi. He was a close slave of the ruler of the state of Auxin, but he heard that Shang Tang was “virtuous and benevolent”, and he aspired to be one of them. When Shang Tang was married to Youxin, he came under Shang Tang as the dowry servant of the daughter of the Youxin clan and became his “junior minister”. As a cook, he took the opportunity to use the metaphor of “cutting and cooking” to present his case to Shang Tang, asking him to “cut down Xia and save the people”.
Yi Yin assisted Shang Tang in destroying the Xia Dynasty and helped him to establish various rules and regulations, which led to social stability and economic development at the beginning of the Shang Dynasty, thus making him famous all over the world. After the death of Shang Tang, Yi Yin successively assisted Waiping, Zhongnon, Taijia, and Woding, and served five emperors for nearly 60 years, laying a solid foundation for the 600-year reign of Shang Dynasty.
He made remarkable contributions to the politics, military, culture and education of ancient China. The Book of Han – Penal and Legal Records (Hanshu – Penal and Legal Records) juxtaposes Yi and Lu (Jiang Ziya) in a book praising his governing and military talents. In his treatise on Yi Yin written by Su Dongpo, he was praised as “one who knows the affairs of the world and has the discipline of the world” from the perspective of governing the country, and he was praised for not being moved by selfish interests, “so his talent is complete, and he controls the world with his complete talent, so he is not in disorder when facing great events.
Throughout the history of China, it is difficult to find anyone who is more versatile than Yi Yin. “To rule a big country is like cooking a small meal” is a vivid description of his political career. When he was a slave, he was keen to learn the ways of Yao and Shun and recommended himself to Shang Tang with a tripod; after he took the top position, he assisted Tang in destroying Xia with his excellent political and military skills and created the prosperity of the early Shang Dynasty. He was revered by later generations as “Yuan sage” and was on par with Confucius, the “supreme sage”.
Yi Yin was held in high esteem by the Shang dynasty, and he was called “the spokesman of heaven”, i.e., the spokesman of heaven.
After Yi Yin’s death, the then Shang king Wodin buried him with the highest celestial rituals, at the southern end of the capital square, looking at his tomb and not forgetting the grace of his assistance. This location is the present-day village of Wei Place. Yi Yin’s tomb is surrounded by stone walls, 2 meters high, and nearly 200 cypresses planted by Tang around the tomb, which are strong and lush.
Yi Yin released Taijia
Invention of tonics admired by the descendants
Yi Yin is the founder of traditional Chinese medicine tonics. While ancient people lived relatively short lives, Yi Yin lived for more than a hundred years, which is thought to be related to his expertise in making tonics and treating diseases and health.
According to the local people, after Yi Yin’s death, a rare grass grew on his tomb, which no one had seen before, and its branches and leaves were tender and fluffy and edible. This grass is divided into yin and yang, just like heaven and earth. Married women will pick the corresponding part of the grass and make soup, and take it to get a male and a female. Every year, during the second day of the second lunar month and the eighth day of the fourth lunar month during the ancient temple fair, countless people come here to ask for tomb grass.
There is also a legend that there was a filial son near Wei Place, whose mother was dying of an incurable disease, and this filial son went to the street near Wei Place to buy burnt cakes in order to do his filial duty to the old man before his mother died. When he passed by the Yi Yin Temple, he paid his respects at Yi Yin’s tomb and prayed for his mother’s recovery. When he got up to leave after paying his respects, he noticed that Yi Yin’s tombstone was tilted after the heavy rain, so he reached out to correct it. The burrito he was holding brushed against the monument and a red spark appeared, which he did not care about at the time. When he returned home, his mother ate the cake and miraculously recovered from her illness. The story spread, and more and more people knew about it. In the future, whenever someone had a difficult illness, they would buy a steamed bun or a burrito and rub it on the tombstone of Yi Yin.
These legends, on the one hand, express the simple wish of the common people to pray for the blessing of the gods, and on the other hand, show the esteem and respect for Yi Yin in later generations.
It is said that at the beginning, the Yi Yin Temple was so large that it had a “temple property” of nearly 100 acres. Later, as dynasties changed and villagers built houses and opened up the land around, it was gradually eaten away, leaving only the 100-meter-square Yi Yin Ancestral Hall today.
Folk craze is still emerging
In recent years, with the city’s in-depth exploration of cultural resources, there has been a boom in the study of Yiyin among the people. 75-year-old Wang Zi Ping is an ordinary farmer and a senior member of the Yucheng County Yiyin Cultural Research Association. He has focused on collecting Yiyin legends and historical materials for more than 20 years, and has completed two manuscripts of Yiyin Biography and Yiyin Legends. He said in an interview: “There are footprints of Yi Yin in Luoyang, Heze and other places, but his main place of activity should be near Yucheng, and after his death he was buried in Yucheng, where he has been admired by people for generations. He dared to assist Shang Tang in destroying the Xia Dynasty and invented tonics to save the people, so he was revered by all generations.”
In 2011, Shangqiu Yi Yin Cultural Research Association was established. At present, the research association has more than 50 unit members and more than 160 individual members, involving many industries such as catering, medicine and education. Xia Wenyu, secretary-general of the association, told reporters that he was deeply touched when people from the catering industry from all over the country organized themselves to pay homage at Yucheng Yiyin’s tomb in 1999. He said, “Other chefs came from Taiwan, Singapore and other places for thousands of miles to pay respects, while we in Shangqiu surprisingly many people do not know, so it can be said that we are guarding a treasure mountain without knowing to dig it.” Personally, he spent six years collecting and organizing various materials about Yi Yin, creating a novel and a 32-episode TV script. Xia Wenyu said, “Chinese culture has not produced only one ‘sage’ Confucius in the last 5,000 years. In the period of history before Confucius, Yi Yin should be considered an iconic figure that can stand alongside him and occupy a very important position in Chinese civilization.”
The importance of the Yi Yin Temple in the cultural heritage of Shangqiu is becoming increasingly prominent. At the time of the interview, the reporter learned from Yucheng County Cultural Bureau that, in addition to strengthening the excavation and propaganda and promotion of the legend of Yi Yin, they have now embarked on a joint effort with relevant departments to carry out planning for the maintenance and protection of cultural relics and tourism development. In the near future, through the vicissitudes of the Yi Yin Ancestral Hall will regain its luster.