TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Statues of Daoist deities, accompanied by their worshipers and by temple managers, hit the roads of Taipei Sunday to protest against measures taken by the government to reduce the burning of incense and joss papers.
The protest march was initiated by Wu De Temple of Beigang Township (北港武德宮) located in Yunlin County. Reports said that there would be nearly 100 temples with more than 10,000 people participating in the march.
Lin An-le (林安樂), chairman of Wu De Temple, claimed that the march would be more of a miaohui, literally a temple gathering, than a protest.
“Temples have been reducing the burning of incense and joss papers, but one burner per temple is the bottom line. The government should not further interfere with religious activities,” said Lin.
Burning incense and joss papers has long been practiced as part of the Daoist worshiping tradition. The government’s calling for the reduction of consuming incense, joss papers, and fireworks for the sake of environmental protection has led to divided opinions.
The anger of the worshipers had been triggered by earlier rumors that the government wanted to introduce a total ban on the burning of incense and joss papers. However, Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), minister of the Environmental Protection Administration, cleared up the rumor by saying the government had never requested temples to do so. It had only encouraged them to reduce the consumption of incense, joss papers, and fireworks. In order to show his respect for local religious practices, he visited Lungshan Temple in Taipei's Wanhua District Sunday morning.
While some religious groups voiced their discontent over the government's measures, others decided to follow. In an interview with CNA, Li Chu-hua (李楚華), spokesperson of Hsing Tian Kong (行天宮), one of the most visited temples in Taipei, said that three years after the temple completely banned the burning of incense and joss papers, nearly 90 percent of the worshipers considered the atmosphere of worship had improved a great deal.
The protest groups made four appeals as follows:
- Temples will agree to reduce the burner to one per temple as the bottom line. In that case, the authorities should not further interfere with temples in reducing burners.
- The authorities should not initiate, persuade, or induce the ideas of concentrating joss papers for burning or closing burners and thus banning joss papers.
- The environmental organizations should not deliberately single out religious activities, which the protest groups believe have produced much less pollution than other activities, and hence divide people’s opinions on the religious practices.
- Any regulations involving religious activities should not be executed until religious groups have fully discussed, understood, and accepted those regulations.
The march started at Sunday noon at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the procession was heading for the boulevard in front of the Presidential Office, where it was expected to end at 5 p.m.