This sign appears in the window of a Thai restaurant in Washington DC, and was sent in by a visitor to Omniglot who would like to know what it means.
Can you help?
It is entirely in Chinese. The top row 報德古堂 is likely the name of a temple/welfare center/organization established in honor of the Buddhist monk 宋大峰 (which three characters of middle row) who did a lot of charity work in the town of 和平 (incidentally means “peace”) in the district of 潮陽 in Guangdong Province around 1000 AD. It is a predominantly Teochew area, and people in the region have migrated in more modern times to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, US, among other places.
The two characters on the right column mean “seal” (a seal for nonhuman/paranormal stuff). The two characters on the left column mean “peace.” The entire middle column means “宋大峰 祖師[honorable title for dead monk] 勒[command] 鎮[suppress]“; the decorative stuff around the last character after the character for “command” is very common in seals like this. These things are used to ward off or suppress unclean stuff (usually bad spirits) around the area where the seal is placed; it’s a very common practice in Chinese folk religion.
Correction: “宋大峰 (first three characters of middle column)”
It was a rather common belief in the older days that people who were extremely upright and did a lot of good work in their life became semi-godlike entities after death and that you can call upon them to help you ward off evil.
If you type in the name of the temple in Google, you can find a few old pictures actually.
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