Hell to pay: Taoist gods take to Taipei streets to protest curbs on burning offerings

Taoist raise hell on Ketagalan Boulevard over new restrictions on the burning of incense, joss paper, and fireworks

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(By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Over 10,000 members of 100 temples from across Taiwan converged on the streets of Taipei yesterday to protest against measures taken by the government to reduce the burning of incense and joss paper in religious rituals.


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Dubbed by organizers as "The Biggest in History God March on Ketagalan Boulevard," the event included scores of troupes of lion and dragon dance teams, "Eight Generals" (Bajiajiang), divine palanquin bearers, local god puppets, floats, and temple banner bearers.


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The participants, dressed in the colors of their respective temples, first gathered at Freedom Square in the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall before making their way from Zhongshan South Road to Xinyi Road, along Hangzhou South Road and Aiguo East Road then onto Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office. Policed estimated that a total of 11,000 participated in the march, though organizers claimed that 50,000 were in attendance.


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The protest march was initiated by Wu De Temple of Beigang Township (北港武德宮) located in Yunlin County. Lin An-le (林安樂), chairman of Wu De Temple, claimed that the march would be more of a temple festival (廟會, miaohui), than a protest.


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"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.


Worshipers kneel to be blessed by goddess Matsu. (CNA Image)

Burning incense and joss paper has long been practiced as part of the Daoist worshiping tradition. Rumors have been swirling lately that the government's call for the reduction of consuming incense, joss paper, and fireworks for the sake of environmental protection will be expanded to a full-scale ban of all such activities, however, the Cabinet last week vehemently denied there would be an outright ban.


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Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), minister of the Environmental Protection Administration, sought to dispel the rumored crackdown on incense burning by saying the government had never requested temples to do so. It had only encouraged them to reduce the consumption of incense, joss paper, and fireworks. In order to show his respect for local religious practices, he visited Lungshan Temple in Taipei's Wanhua District Sunday morning.


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The protest groups at yesterday's march issued the four following demands:

  • 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.


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