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

The Japanese Occupation of Taiwan's Sacred Space

When Japanese forces arrived in Jilong, having fought their way overland after coming ashore at Aodi, along the coast to the east, they sought lodging and other facilities. The first iteration of the Taiwan Government General established its temporary offices in the building that housed the Qing Imperial Maritime Customs, in the northeast part of town, and the armed forces, under the command of Prince Kitashirakawa no Miya Yoshihisa, requisitioned at least two temples, the Dianji and Chenghuang, for their lodging. In the process, they broke several deity idols at the latter and blew up a portion of the former with an accidental weapons' explosion. These occupations were temporary, but reconsecration constituted a more profound invasion of Taiwan's sacred spaces. As Japanese settlers began to arrive in Taiwan, both government officials and private citizens, they established outposts of their own religious traditions, principally Buddhism and Shinto. One of the most convenient ways that Japanese Buddhist sects found to implant themselves in Taiwan was by taking over existing temples and setting up their own branches in the same places. This happened in at least three cases in Jilong: the Pure Land (Jōdō) sect made use of the Chenghuang Temple for a time, taking it over from the military; the Shinshū sect occupied the Longwang miao, not too far from the customs house; and the Sōdō sect took over the Shuixian miao, west of the harbor, before replacing the Shinshū at the former Longwang site. In light of these religious intrusions, the reterritorialization of the island's sacred geography was a key facet of Japan's colonization of Taiwan; in these instances, settlers rather than the Government General  provided the motive force.

As readers move through this pathway, they should be attentive to the roles of the colonial state and the Japanese elites who established the temples, the deities that they enshrined within them, and also the overlapping scales of temple, city, island, and region that characterized both physical and imaginative geography. Also consider which perspectives operate, and dominate, on each page: The state or the everyday? The god's-eye or the person's eye?

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