Eleanor B. Morris Wu


Culturally preserving the historical, cultual, and architectural legacy of Chinese folk temples such as Lung-shan Ssu, Pao-an Kung and Hsing-t'ien Kung remains the provenance of the masses of devoted followers of these temples. But government, scholars, government tourist agencies and non-government organizations (NGOs) can also assist in their preservation. Indigenous folk temples in Taipei represent the religious and historical conflation of influences from the "great" tradition (Redfield 1953) of the literati/gentry of Chinese settlers to the island and influences from the "little" tradition of the common people. The Han settlers who came to Taiwan did not come to an uninhabitated area. Austronesian-speaking peoples inhabited the land, such as the pingpu peoples who inhabited the Taipei basin, and eventually intermarried with the Han population and assisted them in their tasks of construction. In the rigors of early settlement to the island of Taiwan, pioneers depended on ling or magical influence and the efficacy of local gods brought with them from the mainland to protect them. Having lost their lineage roots in immigration, folk temples became the source of social solidarity among the Taiwanese settlers and a source of conflict between them, while such folk temples were associated with a Chinese mainland place of origin. As the settlers increased, the literati/gentry immigrated to the island bringing concepts of jen or humanity and propriety in religious rites and rituals that were absorbed by the folk temples of the common people. Lung-shan Ssu, a Buddhist temple or monastery, and Pao-an Kung, a Taoist temple, were built during the Ch'ing dynasty, yet having survived the rigors of Japanese occupation and having developed syncretic forms of their religion to survive, remain popular today. A very popular 20th century folk temple is Hsing-t'ien Kung which represents the aspirations of Taiwanese in a burgeoning industrializing society, such aspirations being reflected in the syncretic origins and practices of the temple.

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