Introduction to 2018 Tainan Temple Festivals Year
The Origin of Tainan Temple Festivals Year
Tainan is the capital city of Taiwan in terms of history and culture. The civic culture passed on by so many generations on this land over hundreds of years has diversified greatly, and most of which centres around religions that have been protected and passed on by local temples, and laymen voluntarily. It is imperative for Tainan, the historic and cultural capital city of Taiwan, to promote and preserve this traditional culture.
This year is the triennial temple festivals year, kicking off with Nanying King Boat ceremony organised by Jhenhu Temple in Sucuo, Anding District in early April; followed by the sacrificial rites for sending off epidemic gods by Changsing Temple in Sucuo of Anding District, the returning to Baijiao rites by Cihji Temple in Syuejia, and the Mazu (Goddess of Sea) welcoming ceremony by Kaitai Mazu Temple in Anping District. In Tucheng there is an Incense Offering ceremony by Luermen Shengmu Temple. In Madou an Incense Offering ceremony by Daitian Temple in Madou District.
In Sigang an Incense Offering by Cingan Temple in Sigang District, and the welcoming ceremony of Mazu by Tainan’s Grand Mazu Temple. The religious events held by temples in Tainan from April to June, 2018 include one national folk festival and six municipal ones. It is always this quarter of the year in Taiwan when most of the important temple fairs are held back to back. For those temple-fair lovers out there, they have something to look forward to. What is more, the Tourism Bureau of Tainan City Government has planned and implemented a joint marketing programme associated with 2018 Tainan Temple Festivals Year to give tourists a good idea of the unique folk festive activities in Tainan area and to promote religious tourism at the same time.
The Meaning of Incense Offering (Siangke)
Yisiang (Also Gesiang in Chinese) means to request incense from deities. Siang as in Siangke (incense offering) actually refers to Yisiang (requesting incense from deities); ke could be interpreted as the religious rituals in Taoism.
In Chinese, the so-called “three years, one ke (Taoist rituals),” “four years, one ke,” and “twelve years, one ke” mean that the incense offering ceremonies are held every three, four, and twelve years. In terms of the Stem-Branch ordinal years in lunar calendar, 2018 is the Year of the Earth Dog, and thus, called Incense Offering of the Year of the Earth Dog.
The Main Incense Offering Ceremonies in Tainan:
Soulangh Incense Offering Ceremonies by Jintang Temple in Jiali District: including inspection tours, five-day sacrificial rites for Wangyes (royal lords), and King Boat festival in every three years (held each Year of the Rat, the Rabbit, the Horse, and the Cock).
Syuejia Incense Offering Ceremonies by Cihji Temple in Syuejia District: including inspection tours, the returning to Baijiao rites, and water and fire requesting rites (as to extend gratitude to ancestral temple and deities) held every four years (held each Year of the Rat, the Dragon, and the Monkey).
Tucheng Incense Offering Ceremonies by Luermen Shengmu Temple: including inspection tours and three-day religious rites every three years (held each Year of the Ox, the Dragon, the Sheep, and the Dog).
Madou Incense Offering Ceremonies by Daitian Temple in Madou District: including tours of inspection by the five Wangyes (royal lords) held every three years (held each Year of the Ox, the Dragon, the Sheep, and the Dog).
Sigang Incense Offering Ceremonies by Cingan Temple in Sigang District: including inspection tours, three-day sacrificial rites for Wangyes (royal lords), and the King Boat Festival every three years (held each Year of the Ox, the Dragon, the Sheep, and the Dog).
There are many more other religious festivals including Siaying Incense Offering by Syuantian Deity (the God of the North) Temple in Siaying District, Wannian Temple in Wanli, South District, Shansi Temple in Guanmiao District, and Renshou Temple and Baosi Daitian Temple in Gueiren District, but to name a few.
Main Events at Incense Offering Festival:
The Wangye belief has been popular along the southwestern coast of Taiwan. When the Wangye patrolled the border to keep the place in order, he boarded King Boats to move around. The burning of King Boat starts off with construction of the boat, followed by welcoming Wangye, making tours of inspection, and then sending off Wangye, and burning the boat away to represent that Wangye is returning to Heaven to resume office and expel all the plague demons and evil spirits.
The temples whose King Boat rites comprise the construction of the boat and sending off Wangye are Jhenhu Temple and Changsing Temple in Sucuo, Anding District and Cingan Temple in Sigang District during the 2018 Tainan Temple Festivals Year. In addition, the Luermen Shengmu Temple in Tucheng only organises rites relevant to King Boat without sending off Wangye.
The timing to make incense offering and the rules and traditions followed in sacrificial rites vary from temples to temples. There is one common feature, however. Among the troupes in the tours of inspection, apart from a palanquin (sedan chair), martial and non-martial troupes, at the head of the battalion is a troupe with dozens of people on a vehicle carried by humans or on wheels. Alternatively, this troupe could be comprised of 108 people pass themselves as historical personalities and children dressed up in Chinese zodiac signs meandering on the streets and in small alleys. This troupe is the so-called Centipede Troupe.
In the tours of inspection in Tainan, the Centipede troupe always precedes the procession so as to vanquish demons and evil spirits, and hence, ensure smooth tours. As the troupe serves a religious purpose, all the temples along the route request the troupe to tour around the temple yard and linger on, so that followers can crawl underneath the “Centipede” to expel bad luck and pray for blessings. Therefore, the Centipede troupe plays a very important role in the incense offering event.
Main Centipede troupes are as follows:
Soulangh Incense Offering Ceremonies: the Centipede Troupe of Ningan Temple in Jiali District taking part in the incense offering ceremonies held by Jintang Temple in Jiali District (organised in 2017)
Syuejia Incense Offering Ceremonies: the Centipede Troupe of Jihe Temple in Houshe participating in the “returning to Baijian” rites or incense offering ceremonies by Cihji Temple in Syuejia District
Tucheng Incense Offering Ceremonies: Cingcaolun Centipede Troupe from Tucheng taking part in the incense offering ceremonies by Luermen Shengmu Temple
Madou Incense Offering Ceremonies: the Centipede Troupe of Daitian Temple in Nanshih Village taking part in the incense offering ceremonies by Daitian Temple in Madou District
Sigang Incense Offering Ceremonies: Sipuliao and Gongwunzih Centipede Troupes participating in the incense offering ceremonies by Cingan Temple in Sigang Districts.