This page is referenced by:
Sacred Geography and the Everyday
This page explores the intersections between sacred and physical geography, and how everyday human activities merge sacred and physical geographies.
Evan N. Dawley
In the preceding two pages, I have made numerous references to human activity in defining sacred geography and placing limits on the actions of deities, and I have noted the territorial or human bonds that anchor divinities to specific locations or communities. What these references mean is that sacred and physical geographies often intersect and overlap with each other. To put it another way, human activities call upon aspects of sacred geography and sometimes bring them into the world through ritual actions. Traffic moves in both directions, in fact: the hell scrolls referenced in the previous page are based upon journeys to hell taken by spirit mediums and others, including the Tang Emperor Taizong. (Such journeys are, of course, common across space and time; see, for example, Odysseus's visit to the netherworld, or Dante’s Grand Tour of European sacred geographies.) The most important interfaces between the sacred and the profane (cf., Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion) occur at the sites of temples, in everyday devotional acts, and in annual festivals. I explore these institutions through the separate Taiwanese and Japanese pathways, and examine the conflict around annual festivals in a third pathway.
Temples are the earthly homes of deities and the most socially significant nodes of intersection between the different types of geography. Although they are clearly physical structures, because they house manifestations of divine beings, they take on a sacred aura; that is, they become—or rather, societies define them to be—sacred places. The map below contains the locations of the most important temples in Jilong, and readers should zoom in and pan around in order to also see the locations of parent temples and other sites in Japan and China to which the Jilong institutions held important connections. The key institutions that readers will visit in this module include the Qing'an, Dianji, and Chenghuang Temples, for the islander/Taiwanese in Jilong; the Jilong Shrine, Kubōji, and Kōzonji for the Japanese settlers; and the Lingquan Temple, a fusion of Buddhist traditions. In all cases, the deities were moved from location to location in conjunction with human migration. When Chinese settled in Taiwan, they carried their gods with them and built them new homes in new lands. When Japanese colonized Taiwan, they built Shinto shrines and enshrined particular deities within them; even though the kami were everywhere, they had to be invited to Taiwan, installed there by the colonial settlers. With very few exceptions, such as a shrine in Tainan to Zheng Chenggong or Koxinga, the seventeenth-century half-Japanese merchant/pirate/Ming loyalist who drove the Dutch East India Company from Taiwan and installed his own regime there, Japanese settlers did not enshrine local kami. Rather, they imported familiar kami from their homelands and enshrined them in the colony.
When people perform everyday devotional acts—burning incense or ghost money, or offering food, at a Taiwanese temple; invoking a kami with sake or a written prayer at a Japanese shrine—they open pathways to sacred realms and invite divine intervention. Annual rituals, such as the summer Ghost Festival referenced in the hungry ghosts scroll on the preceding page (Zhongyuan jie or Yulan Penhui in Chinese; Bon matsuri or O-bon in Japanese), or the temple festivals examined later in the module, also bring together sacred and profane space. During such events, rituals open gates in the boundaries between worlds and allow sacred geography to spill into the physical and act upon it.
These practices and institutions reinforce an earlier point: sacred space, as imaginative geography, is a manifestation of power. In the setting of colonial Jilong, building and renovating temples, and performing festivals, were not simply acts of faith. They were tools, or weapons, in a much larger struggle over the physical geography of Taiwan and the identities of its residents.
You have reached the end of this pathway and should follow the route below back to the landing page, from where you can move into the rest of the module.
The Dianji Temple: Extra-Religious Activities
This page discusses the Dianji Temple's function as the site of a market and of "culture lectures" and other activities.
Evan N. Dawley, Becoming Taiwanese
Evan N. Dawley
Taiwan Culture Association
The reasons for this close affiliation between temple and city were not simply of a religious nature, in large part because of the attempts that the Government-General made to constrain the temple by curtailing its secular activities. The Dianji Temple, like many if not most religious institutions within the Chinese cultural sphere, was the site of an important local market, which made it a center of commerce, entertainment, and the transmission of news and gossip. In fact, the combination of the mundane and sacred functions reinforced the Dianji's prominence. However, the Japanese colonial regime looked upon such market places as unhygienic and a threat to public health, and so began to construct state-regulated market places where they could enforce new standards of hygiene that challenged established patterns of social relations even as they may have reduced outbreaks of disease. The first, which opened in 1908, was a few blocks to the south of the Dianji; a second opened in the main Japanese district across town a few years later.
The Dianji Temple also became embroiled in cultural and political movements during the 1920s. As a social center with an open courtyard and sizable inner hall, it was one of the few places in Jilong where public events could be held, which made it a prime location for local residents to present “culture lectures” (wenhua jiangyan) as part of a larger trend begun by the Taiwan Culture Association (Ch. Taiwan wenhua xiehui; J. Taiwan bunka kyōkai) early in that decade. Across Taiwan, these lectures addressed topics including education, women's liberation, social and political reform, and reforming local customs such as funerals and religious festivals. Most of the speakers were Taiwanese, with an occasional Japanese visitor, and they were always well-attended. The colonial authorities, however, viewed these lectures with less enthusiasm and often acted to control or shut them down, as was frequently the practice in the Japanese home islands. One night in September 1924, according to a report in the Taiwan minbao, a key news source that facilitated the development of Taiwanese identities, the Jilong municipal police went to the home of the Dianji Temple's manager, who had agreed to host a culture lecture the following day, and warned him that it could not cause disruption or have negative content. At about the same time, Jilong's mayor—a Japanese official—cautioned local residents that culture lectures defiled the sacred ground of the temples, and warned that if residents continued to hold them there, then the city government might have to take over managing the institutions directly.
Continue along this pathway to explore more of Jilong's pre-colonial sacred geography. Or click here to return to the module landing page to choose another itinerary.
The Dianji Temple: Renovation
This page examines the renovation of the Dianji Temple during the early 1920s
Evan N. Dawley, Becoming Taiwanese
Evan N. Dawley
Whereas both the Qing'an and Chenghuang Temples had Xu Zisang as their manager, a series of members of a local Lin family led the Dianji. They passed the role of temple manager from father (Rongqin) to sons (Guanshi and Dexin). (Xu became a representative on the Dianji's management committee, so he had influence here as well.) In 1921, Lin Guanshi launched the first major renovation of the temple's structures since its establishment. Leaders completed some minor repairs in 1897, but after almost 50 years of operation, the Dianji had fallen into disrepair. After an economic cycle of wartime boom, post-war decline, and subsequent recovery swept Japan's empire during the latter half of the 1910s, the moment arrived to restore the temple. By the time Lin and others finished this project, they had completely transformed the temple , with new front and back buildings and a second floor in the main structure, at the cost of some 40,000 yen. A list of prominent donors—Xu Zisang and the mining magnate Yan Guonian, most notably—highlighted the temple's local importance, and the inscription on the stone tablet erected to mark the finished renovation in 1923 emphasized its attachment to local society:
Calamities cannot invade a place with a bright spirit, and animals will not experience disease. That being the case, the temple’s appearance must be dignified. How can it be only for the sake of admiring it that it is built?
The Dianji Temple was not, however, purely a local institution. Lin Benyuan, a prominent commercial elite of northern Taiwan and a leader of the well-known Lin family of Banqiao, southwest of Taipei, provided the temple with lands that served as its financial foundation. Therefore, the Dianji had material links to other parts of Taiwan, as well as spiritual roots across the Taiwan Strait.