As many as 2,300 plots of land totaling more than 200 hectares with a total published value of NT$4.4 billion (US$152 million) are owned by deities, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) said yesterday, adding that those deity-owned lands would have to be transferred to people after a survey of land ownership in the country is completed.
Following the passage of the Cadastral Clean-Up Act (地籍清理條例) in 2007, the ministry began a national survey of land ownership in July 2008. To its surprise, the ministry found that, besides humans, registered organizations and corporations, there were more than 2,300 land plots owned by deities.
“It’s quite interesting that a lot of lands are owned by Matsu [媽祖, the Goddess of Sea], Tudigong [土地公, the God of Land] or [the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy] Avalokitesvara,” Department of Land Administration Director Hsiao Fu-tao (蕭輔導) said.
In the past, many people would donate lands to deities as a gesture of appreciation when they believed deities had granted them favors and the ownership of such lands would usually be registered under the deity, Hsiao said.
However, the land survey law stipulates that land ownership must be under the name of actual humans or officially registered organizations that enjoy the status of “legal persons,” he said.
“We are nearing the end of our surveying and we will ask relevant parties to transfer ownership of such deity-owned lands to qualified landowners,” Hsiao said, adding that the process is likely to start next month. “If the ownership of certain plots of land cannot be resolved, we will ask local authorities to sell those lands via auction.”
According to survey figures, Matsu of Wurong (武榮媽祖) is the richest deity in Taipei, owning a combined 120 ping (396.7m2) of land in the city center, with a total published value of NT$200 million, though the actual market value is NT$600 million.
Meanwhile, Avalokitesvara is the biggest landowner in Taipei City, as she owns more than 3,700 ping in Neihu District (內湖). However, since the land is located in a protected area on a hill, it is only worth about NT$13,000 per ping.
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