“Be pious, and our Matsu will hear your prayers.” This is what Liu Chia-wen, vice general manager of Lugang Tianhou Temple, dedicated to Matsu, in Changhua County, told the Taipei Times. She said it with a radiant smile, brimming with confidence, in Lingxiao Hall at the temple’s rear two weeks ago. Lugang Tianhou Temple is enveloped in incense smoke throughout the year, and in response to the universal use of the Internet today, the temple has accommodated people’s busy schedules by offering them the option of worshiping online and praying for a trouble-free year.
Lighting lamps at temples to pray for protection from the gods and a successful year is a custom performed all year round, but especially around the Lunar New Year. The light offerings include lighting a Taisui lamp, a Guangming lamp for a bright future, a Wenchang lamp for education and job promotion, and a Lord Baidou lamp. There is also the matchmaker god’s logbook where temple staff enter the names of worshipers for the god to make matches for. Lighting lamps does not have to be performed by the worshiper, and people can light lamps for their family and friends. They can also light several types of lamps at the same time. But, generally speaking, one lamp offers prayers for one person only.
This year is the Year of the Dragon. Liu said that since more people are born in the Year of the Dragon than in other year in the Chinese zodiac, and since they risk offending Taisui in the Year of the Dragon, a huge demand in lights to pacify Taisui is expected this year. Also, the Dog is diametrically opposite to the Dragon on the Chinese zodiac wheel, and the Ox and the Sheep are at each side of the perpendicular axis, and therefore people born under these four signs should also pacify Taisui in order to protect themselves against bad luck.
In order to meet the demand for lamps among worshipers, Lugang Tianhou Temple, via Otiga Technologies, has offered its online lighting service since 2006, the first temple in Taiwan to do so. By simply providing one’s name, date of birth, and address, the whole registration process is done by a click of the mouse. Otiga Technologies vice president, surnamed Wang, said that other than the Internet, people can also light lamps through cellphones or 7-Eleven ibon kiosks. Unlike lighting virtual lamps online, Lugang Tianhou Temple actually writes the name of each worshiper on a lamp and picks the auspicious date for the lamp lighting ceremony. The first of these ceremonies in the Year of the Dragon will be held today. Online worshipers will receive a set of numbers, which are used to locate where their lamps are when they visit the temple in person. Although prayers to Taisui are usually done prior to the Lantern Festival, any day in a year is fine to light lamps, as long as it is an auspicious day. All the lamps will be turned off on the 24th day of the 12th lunar month.