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


Temples are the principle representation of sacred geography within the physical world, or the points at which sacred and physical geographies interface with each other. As human constructions, they populate the built environment of Taiwan with distinctive architecture and as focal points for religious practices. Within Taiwan during the era of Japanese rule, members of different ethnic groups used specific names for these structures, depending upon which religious tradition the temples belonged to. The Taiwanese called (and call) most of these instiutions gong 宮, miao 廟, or simiao 寺廟; Japanese settlers referred (and refer) to Shinto institutions as jinja 神社. Both Taiwanese and Japanese called their Buddhist institutions si or ji 寺 (the first term is the Mandarin pronunciation, the second the Japanese), but Taiwanese referred to a particular type of Buddhist temple as zhaitang 齋堂. English usage tends to lose these nuances, since the words temple and shrine are largely interchangeable in meaning. Within this module, I use “temple” for all sacred spaces, although I reserve “shrine” specifically for those within the Shinto tradition, and occasionally use the original terms to highlight ethnic affiliation.

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