Three Widows Chastity Arch瓊林一門三節坊
The Three Widows Chastity Arch in Cyonglin was erected to recognize Madam Chen, wife of Tsai Chung-Huan (22nd generation descendant of Sincang's senior second branch) as well as her daughters-in-law Chen and Huang.
Madam Chen became widowed at the age of 29 while pregnant with her third son. She went on to single-handedly raised her three sons Fang-kuei, Shang-wen and Shang-shen. After her sons grew to adulthood, Shang-wen married the daughter of Chen Wen-Hsin but he passed away when she was 21. Her youngest son Shang-shen married the daughter of Huang Chih-Chuan in Wen-Shui, and she became a widow at 29 as well. This meant that there were three young windows in the family but they all remained to their husbands and looked after their families. In their old age, they were surrounded by sons and grandchildren, with over eighty people spanning five generations living together under one roof.
In 1831, the local government ordered the erection of an archway to recognize the three widows from one family for maintaining their chastity. The Three Widows Chastity Arch was built with four columns, three openings and two levels. The arch itself was built with Quanzhou marble and green granite from Quanzhou. Much of the structure has been damaged by earthquakes and man-made disasters.
The main plaque of the stone arch has dragon head scroll ends, while the relief carved in the middle depicts two dragons fighting for a jewel. On the reverse side, the same dragon head scroll-ends appear as well against a green granite backdrop. On both sides were the inscriptions "Yi Men San Jie" (Three Chaste Women in One Family). The arch beam is one entire stone slab carved to give the impression of tiles and water drops. On either end of the eaves were cement ornaments. In the middle is a fiery jewel and a circle of flames. The second plaque shows a glaring kylin. The four columns each feature two sets of couplets on either side describing the three chaste women's achievements.
In ancient times, the construction of arches was intended to recognize chastity, filial duty, loyalty and martyrdom. They set an example to the community at large and encouraged righteous behavior, so were always built across an important thoroughfare where the deed could be viewed by all passersby. The location of the Three Widows Chastity Arch was the center of Kinmen's old official road.
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