Jump to main content

Religion

Origin of Temples in Taiwan

During the Qing Dynasty, plenty of people from Zhangzhou and Quanzhou in China came to Taiwan via boat trips. The Taiwan Strait was known for malicious winds and waves back then.

Thus, the immigrants often carried deity statues, incense, and ashes of incense with them, thinking that these would keep them safe. “Mazu” was the most popular deity because she is the goddess of the seas. People liked to place a statue of Mazu on a boat, so that they might have a safe journey.

In the early days of settlement, because medicine was rare, whenever a disease broke out, many people died. Therefore, people also worshipped the deity of plague - “Wangye.” Wangye was also known as “Thousand-year God” or “Thousand-year Governor,” with many different family names. Since Wangye can expel plague, people think that it can also keep people healthy. As the immigrant villages thrived, believers built all sorts of temples to thank gods for their protection. And Mazu and Wangye expanded to be the two most powerful folk beliefs in Taiwan. In fact, in those times, temples often provided moral teachings and urgent financial aids to locals, in addition to being religious centers.

  • Donggang Wangye Worshipping Ceremony

    Donggang Wangye Worshipping Ceremony

  • Lukang Tianhou Temple

    Lukang Tianhou Temple

Sanctuaries of Art

Temples are fine memorial buildings and the places of gods. To believers, they are also the hubs of spirituality. The rules for laying out the space of a temple are complicated, and in just one temple, a wide range of art, such as wood carving, stone carving, mud sculpting, pottery, paper cutting art, colored painting, and calligraphy can be found. These artworks are not just pleasant to the eyes. They reveal the “pursuing good fortune while steering away from bad luck” concept in Chinese culture, stories of moral enlightenment, and the artisans’ self-manifestations. They are full of folk elements and are inspired by old civilizations.

Divinations

At any local temple in Taiwan, it is common to find divination rituals being held. When believers want to make a wish or to know the outcome of an event, they offer incense and tell the deity in the temple their names, birthdays, home addresses, and what bothers them. Then, they use divination blocks to get hints. Divination blocks are made with bamboo or wood, in the shape of the Moon. The bulky side is “yin” and the flat side is “yang.” Throw a pair of the blocks to the ground and the believer will get a hint - a ying and a yang means acknowledgement or a good sign; two yangs means an ambiguous smile or not good, not bad; two yins means anger or a bad sign.

Another type of divination is to draw “oracle lots.” The lots are made with bamboo sticks and each stick has a number. To draw the lots, a believer should first shake a bucket of lots and take the one that pops up. Then, the believer takes the lot to the front of the deity statue and asks whether it is the right lot, using the aforementioned divination blocks. After receiving three “yes,” the believer goes to the oracle-lot cabinet to take out a poem according to the number written on the lot. Each poem contains some advice. In large temples, there are usually volunteers who interpret oracle poems for people.

  • Lukang Longshan Temple

    Lukang Longshan Temple

  • Nankunshen Daitian Temple

    Nankunshen Daitian Temple