Tue, Dec 18, 2012 - Page 11 News List

Women sedan carriers break religious gender barriers
打破禁忌 神明遶境娘子軍抬轎

Women carry sedan chairs and ritual items during a ceremony for welcoming the Wang Yeh gods at Wufang Village’s Chengying Temple in Pingtung County’s Hsinyuan Township on Dec. 11.
屏東縣新園鄉五房村澄瀛宮十二月十一日神明祈安遶境活動由女性擔任轎班。

Photo: Yeh Yung-chien, Liberty Times
照片:自由時報記者葉永騫

In Taiwan’s various religious customs and rituals, women are traditionally not allowed to touch or get close to the sedan chairs that are used to carry gods. But in the ritual ceremony for welcoming the Wang Yeh gods, also known as the plague gods, at Wufang Village in Pingtung County’s Hsinyuan Township they have broken the gender taboo by allowing women to carry sedan chairs and religious items. Hsu Jung-huang, director of Hsinyuan’s Chengying Temple, says that the times and society are changing. Women can serve in the army, so of course they can be sedan carriers for the gods, he says.

Looking back at the month-long ceremonies for welcoming the Wang Yeh gods that recently ended in Pingtung’s Donggang, Liouciou and Nanjhou townships, only men were seen carrying the Wang Yeh sedan chairs and religious items, and every temple scrupulously reminded women about the traditional taboo of touching or getting close to sedan chairs or religious items.

But the group of sedan carriers for the recent Wang Yeh welcoming ceremony at Chengying Temple consisted almost entirely of elderly women and mothers.

Hsu says that with a population of only 2,000 people, practically the entire village is mobilized to help out with the ceremony, so almost all of the young men in the village take part in the large Songjiang battle formation troupe and help conduct traffic. Women, on the other hand, are usually responsible for serving as sedan carriers — a division of labor among the sexes that allows them to work together in welcoming the gods.

The temple worships mainly the Wang Yeh gods surnamed Chu, Chih, Yen and Tang as well as Kuo Hung-fu. Having women serve as sedan carriers initially caused some controversy and some people said it was entirely inappropriate, but Hsu believes that it is not a problem as long as a woman does not participate in the ceremony when she is menstruating, which has allowed the temple to overcome the sexist tradition. Everyone has gradually accepted this new way of thinking and the women sedan carriers have become a unique feature of Wufang Village’s ceremony.

(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)

台灣各類宗教民俗,女子不得靠近神轎,但屏東縣新園鄉打破傳統禁忌,五房村糖府千歲的祈安遶境活動,神明的轎班人員就多由女性出任,神明法器也有部份由女子手持;澄瀛宮總幹事許榮煌說,時代在變,社會也在變,女性都能當兵,當然也能勝任神明轎班。

反觀為期一個多月的東港、琉球、南州迎王平安祭典剛剛結束,盛大遶境隊伍,轎班清一色男性,王爺的神轎及用品,廟方三令五申交代女子不得觸摸、靠近,這是傳統民間禁忌。

但新園鄉五房村澄瀛宮糖府千歲日前祈安遶境活動,卻是娘子軍出動,七頂神明轎班多由婆婆媽媽組成。

總幹事許榮煌說,五房村僅有兩千多人,這次祭祀全村總動員,年輕男子幾乎都加入宋江陣,其餘男性投入交通指揮、村內婦女就加入轎班,男女分擔工作,合力為平安遶境奉獻。

澄瀛宮主祀朱、池、鹽、糖府千歲及廣澤尊王,這回轎班多是娘子軍曾引發議論,有人說不妥,但許榮煌認為,只須月事來時主動迴避即可,廟方突破傳統思維,讓大家慢慢接受新觀念,娘子軍也成了五房村神轎一大特色。六十三歲陳連女就說,為神明抬轎覺得很光榮。

(自由時報記者葉永騫)

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