The Joint Deity-Welcoming Festival: Origins
Japanese began to promote the reform of native religion, and its associated festivals, at least as early 1901, when one publication stated that one objective of Japanese rule in Taiwan was to turn the Taiwanese into "twentieth-century religionists" (nijū seiki no shūkyōsha; "Hontō no shūkyō kai," Taiwan nichinichi shinpō, March 2, 1901). Two decades later, the same Customs Assimilation Association that had raised a moralistic critique of the Ghost Festival proposed a substantial transformation of the Qing'an, Dianji, and Chenghuang temples and their deity-welcoming festivals. In February 1921, it suggested that all three should combine their assets, along with those of a fourth, into a single foundation managed by the Association, and should merge their separate deity-welcoming festivals into one event held on the same day. The Taiwan nichinichi shinpō took note of this proposal:
The resources and management of Jilong's four temples—to Mazu, Chenghuang, Shengwang, and Taiyang Ma—are all separate from each other, and their individual tax relations are not beneficial, and so we hope to unite them as a foundation organization. Moreover, each temple's festival occurs on a different day, and there are a lot of redundant expenses, so now [we suggest] changing to hold them all on the same day. Since the unification is by the Customs Assimilation Association, therefore the resources and the temple affairs will all come under the management of the Customs Assimilation Association.
A couple months later, it reiterated the proposal at its annual meeting, adding that the day of the joint festival should coincide with the annual Shinto festival of the Jilong Shrine. The Association did not try to compromise the functional and physical autonomy of the temples, nor did it call for a reduction in the size of their territorial cults; the sacred terrain would remain unchanged, only the date of its reinscription would be altered:
Regarding this year's new business, in Jilong, the festivals that are currently scattered among six Taiwanese temples should all be held on the same day as the Jilong Shrine festival, and thereby each year some 30-40,000 yen in expenses could be saved.
Jilong's Taiwanese did not embrace that alteration during the early 1920s, and the proposal went nowhere at the time.