The Joint Deity-Welcoming Festival: Implementation
Evidently, circumstances had changed by 1933, when the leaders of Jilong's temples and a group of other Taiwanese elites decided to implement the festival merger portion of the Customs Assimilation Association's 1921 proposal and created the Joint Deity-Welcoming Festival. The global Great Depression unquestionably influenced this decision. A prolonged economic downturn combined with an influx of new residents seeking jobs to strain the resources of the city government and local residents. Jilong's Taiwanese had initially met the economic difficulties with sizable celebrations—Mazu, Kaizhang Shengwang, and Chenghuang Ye were there to protect the city, after all—but after several years their financial anxieties grew. The increasingly intrusive colonial state also played a significant role. As early as 1930, the city government had insisted on sending a representative to planning sessions for the Chenghuang festival. This sort of pressure mounted over the next few years and took various forms, such as a new survey of temples in northern Taiwan, the first in almost 15 years, and a greater focus on transforming religious customs through the practices of social work. According to a substantial article in the Taiwan nichinichi shinpō, in October 1933, Xu Zisang and Lin Dexin—the temple managers for the Qing'an, Chenghuang, and Dianji—met with a few other prominent elites and, citing the tremendous cost of three separate festivals, which that year had totaled 400,000 yen, decided to hold one day of celebrations beginning in 1934. The temples would distribute the burden of planning and cost, with a different one playing the lead organizing role each year. Early in the fifth lunar month, the spirit images (shenxiang) of the three deities would be gathered in the Qing'an Temple, from whence they would emerge on the tenth day of that month and commence their collective raojing through the city. The deities' bonds to their communities and their terrain would be reinforced, albeit in a way that now distinguished less between individual gods and territories.