Fri, Apr 12, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Highways and Byways: The shrines of Sinfeng

This historic area, located in the southeastern part of Tainan, is rich in traditional folk culture, with temples devoted to Matsu the sea goddess, Guan Gong, the Chinese deity for war and martial arts, and Confucius

By Steven Crook  /  Contributing reporter

Unlike the great majority of Matsu shrines, Tuku Tianhou Temple faces away from the ocean.

Photo: Steven Crook

During the Japanese colonial period, the southeastern part of Tainan was known as Sinfeng District (新豐), and the toponym has been preserved in the name of Sinfeng Senior High School (新豐高級中學). Old Sinfeng is now divided into four Tainan districts. From west to east, they are Rende (仁德), Gueiren (歸仁), Guanmiao (關廟), and Longci (龍崎). Road 182, the area’s key transportation artery, cuts through typical semi-industrial suburbs before entering sparsely-populated hill country on the Tainan-Kaohsiung border.

Traditional religious culture thrives in Sinfeng, and this article introduces three temples which may interest those taking Road 182 to or from Neimen (內門) in Kaohsiung. We’ll start in the west, at the newest and least well known of the three.

WITH ITS BACK TO THE SEA

Proving that the cult of Matsu (媽祖) is alive and well in Taiwan, this shrine to the sea goddess was founded as recently as 2004, and not completed until 2008. Tuku Tianhou Temple (土庫天后宮) is located a short distance inland off Freeway 1 in a neighborhood where several long-established families bear the unusual surname Lan (藍).

It’s sometimes said that every Matsu temple in Taiwan faces the sea, or the waterway by which Han settlers first approached that place. Every time I read such claims, I think of the east-facing Tuku Tianhou Temple. If it’s oriented toward the sea, it must be the Pacific Ocean on the other side of the Central Mountain Range. And not by any means does this modestly-sized hall of worship point toward a river that was navigable by the small, shallow-draft vessels used by Han pioneers.

The temple is at 33 Tuku 5th Street (土庫五街33號), 2.2km north of Road 182.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE

Red Line buses between central Tainan and Guanmiao stop within walking distance of Dunyuan Temple and Shansi Temple. There are at least two services per hour.


CONFUCIANISM CELEBRATED

Near Rende Cultural Center (歸仁文化中心), Road 182 intersects with Road 177. Less than 500m up Road 177, on the right, there’s a large Presbyterian church. Next to it, but set further back from the road, Dunyuan Temple (敦源聖廟) has kept the flame of Confucian thought burning since 1927.

This appealing little building — no bigger than a traditional single-story house—is named for the Dunyuan Society (敦源社), a local group that has studied and taught the Chinese classics since 1883. Four decades later, the society raised funds to build this Confucian temple.

The temple continues to be owned and managed by the Dunyuan Society, but the local government provides financial support. Government subsidies were especially needed after the Feb. 6, 2016 earthquake, during which serious damage was sustained and valuable items were looted from the ruins.

When no volunteers are on duty, the shrine is kept locked, but the spacious grounds are always open. An information panel profiles 17 local people who made something of themselves. On my first visit, the only name I recognized was Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), minister of the central government’s Department of Health from 2000 to 2002, and a prominent figure during the SARS crisis of 2003.

On my second visit, I noticed that another of the worthies had been elected mayor of Kaohsiung. Yang Chin-hu (楊金虎, 1898-1990) achieved this in 1968 as a member of the China Democratic Socialist Party (中國民主社會黨), one of two minor opposition groups permitted by the KMT during the Martial Law period. Yang was obviously an energetic individual: At the age of 72, and then again when he was 86, he married considerably younger women.

This story has been viewed 3377 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top