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

The Qing'an Temple: History

Of the three main temples, the Qing'an gong is the oldest by far. When people from Zhangzhou County began to settle in the Jilong region in the late 18th century, they established a small temple to Mazu in the hills to the west of the harbor, at least according to one account. Although the early Chinese settlers of Taiwan famously and often violently divided themselves by native-place loyalties, particularly between those from Quanzhou and Zhangzhou, one thing that they all agreed upon was the importance of Mazu, a deity with special connections to sea-faring peoples like those of China's southeastern coast. As the numbers of Zhangzhou residents increased, and they congregated on the flat lands just south of the harbor, local leaders moved the Mazu temple to its present location and gave it the name of the Qing'an Temple. Existing sources reveal little about the temple's early history, much like that of the town in which it was built, and do not reveal its position within the network of Mazu temples Chinese settlers established across Taiwan. Chinese societies organize their temples in hierarchies of parent and branch temples, connecting them with a ritual of “dividing incense” (fenxiang), through which parishioners establish a new branch by carrying incense from the parent temple, to which pilgrims return during important festivals to renew the connection by burning incense. The Qing'an was likely a part of the network centered on Beigang's Chaotian Temple, the most important Mazu temple in Taiwan. Regardless of its institutional heritage, the Qing'an Temple quickly became the most important sacred space in Qing-era Jilong.

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