Awakening the Green Mountain King

Mostly dormant for the past decade, Banciao’s Ling An Temple is reviving its unique annual religious procession this weekend to celebrate its chief deity’s birthday

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Dec 01, 2017 - Page 14

Hung Teng-hsing (洪登興) could spend all day talking about the miracles he’s seen.

“You might not believe what I tell you, but only people who have seen or experienced miracles know how it feels,” Hung says.

Even the founding of his Ling An Temple (靈安宮) was a miracle, he says. Under the instructions of patron deity Qingshanwang (青山王, or “Green Mountain King”), Hung’s family moved from Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華) to then-Banciao City (板橋) in 1979 and set up a small shrine on the third floor of their small apartment building. As their followers increased, Hung’s father prayed for a proper temple.

Soon, the brother of a woman they knew came by and asked if they were looking for a place.

“We asked how he knew, and he said a middle-aged man told him,” Hung says. “Nobody knew who the middle-aged man was. We first rented it, then bought it in 1980 and converted it into today’s temple. Nothing has changed much in 37 years.”

After holding only two religious processions for Qingshanwang’s birthday between 2005 and 2014, Hung resumed the formerly-annual event two years ago, with this year’s event falling on Sunday. Tomorrow, Hung will give a presentation in Chinese on the history of the temple and its unique bajiang (八將) troupe, not to be confused with the more common bajiajiang (八家將) or “Eight Generals,” will demonstrate and explain their performance steps and techniques.

Qingshanwang’s birthday is actually on Dec. 10, but Ling An Temple is hosting the procession a week earlier to avoid coinciding with Qingshan Temple’s procession as they have a number of shared performers.

COMMUNITY SPIRIT

As the name of the temple’s deity suggests, Ling An Temple originates from Wanhua’s Qingshan Temple (青山宮). Built in 1856, Qingshan Temple ultimately originates from China’s Huian County in Fujian Province. The deity Qingshanwang was a benevolent Chinese general in real life, either living about 1,800 or 1,100 years ago, depending on the version of the story.

Hung’s family lived within a maze of winding alleys off today’s Dali Road (大理路), and the Qingshan Temple’s procession route used to skip their area. Hung Teng-hsing ’s father, Hung Ting-fa (洪定發), gathered a few men and collected money from neighbors to host their own birthday celebration with a Taiwanese opera troupe and “borrowed” a Qingshanwang statue from the main temple.

After several years of celebrations, the community carved its own Qingshanwang and built a temple to house it. Named Hungfu Temple (鴻福宮), it has since been moved to Xizang Street (西藏街). Qingshanwang chose Hung Ting-fa as its first spirit medium.

In 1979, Hung Ting-fa received a message from Qingshanwang asking him to expand the deity’s influence southward. Hung uprooted his family and moved to Banciao, where he set up the aforementioned shrine that eventually turned into today’s Ling An Temple.

FAMILY TRADITION

The temple stopped its annual processions for the first time in 2000 due to the 921 Earthquake and again in 2005 after the death of Hung Ting-fa. Hung Teng-hsing thought it would be a good idea to restart the event in 2015 to celebrate the temple’s 35th anniversary. Hung says it costs about NT$1 million to hold a procession — this is without inviting any other temples.

As a much smaller establishment with fewer resources, Ling An Temple’s procession will be much smaller compared to next weekend’s Qingshan Temple celebrations. But it covers the basics of such events with nine troupes, including Taiwanese lion dancers, flower drum arrays and, most importantly, the bajiang troupe that serves as Qingshanwang’s bodyguards.

Tsai Ming-li (蔡明利) concluded his 30-year career with the troupe in 2014, passing on the torch to his nephew. Tsai says bajiang members are carefully selected for dedication and temperament.

“Our steps, clothes, face paint and roles are all different,” Tsai says, as he displays a wall of weapons and ancient torture devices wielded by the bajiang troupe.

Hung says that their face paint is slightly different from that of the parent temple because they first commissioned the leader of a theater troupe to design them, eventually becoming a unique new style.

The temple is still waiting for a new spirit medium, however, as Hung says they can only be appointed by Qingshanwang. While the temple cannot perform certain services, Hung says it remains quite popular.

“It’s mostly by word of mouth,” he says. “One person comes here and finds that it works, and they’ll go tell their friends and family.”