Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Competing Festivals: The Jilong Shrine Festival

The Jilong Shrine had its own festival, held each year on June 2, a date that maximized the symbolic linkage between the institution, the city, and the expansion of Japan's empire: that was the day on which, in 1895, the formal handover was finalized aboard a ship just off the coast from Jilong. For almost four decades, parishioners of the Jilong Shrine had organized a small festival at and in the immediate vicinity of the shrine itself. Three developments coincided in 1934: a long-awaited upswing in the local economy, the completion of a much-delayed major renovation of the main shrine buildings, and the first occurrence of the Joint Deity-Welcoming Festival of the main Taiwanese temples, which was scheduled for a few weeks later. The shrine managers decided to expand their institution's festival that year, both temporally and geographically. According to an article in the Niitaka shinpō, local officials and citizens mobilized to make the event happen:

…However, in the city, a Celebration Affairs Committee and an Executive Committee were entrusted with all matters, and the festival's cost of 5,000 yen was to be raised by soliciting general donations. Banks and companies were allotted 2,500 yen, and the neighborhood committees were allotted the other 2,500 yen, and they immediately set to work. The citizens exerted special energy to welcome these activities, to build the radiance of the first year of the grand festival and to wipe away the cares that had existed among the city residents over many years…

They turned the one-day ceremony into a three-day event, the first for honoring the spirits, the second for consecrating the new buildings, and the third for a large public festival. The events of the third day included the parading of portable shrines, a martial arts competition, performances by geisha, nō and kyōgen plays, ikebana, musical performances, fireworks, and numerous other activities. The geographic distribution challenged the established sacred geographies of colonial Jilong, because they extended shrine activities out of the core of Japanese settlement and across some of the more mixed residential districts east and west of the harbor. However, the Jilong Shrine Festival did not move into the core of old Jilong or into the heart of the territorial cults encompassed by the Joint Deity-Welcoming Festival.

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