Mon, Aug 23, 2004 - Page 2 News List

City celebrates 120 years by reviving old ceremony

URBAN PRAYERS Taipei's mayor received and made offerings to the city god, asked him for continued prosperity and security, then sent the deity on his way

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

An acrobat performs at Taipei's Cheng Huang Temple at a celebration of the city's 120th anniversary since its founding.

PHOTO: WANG YI-SUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei City celebrated the 120th anniversary of its founding yesterday with a ceremony at the Cheng Huang (City God) Temple to pray for continued prosperity and security.

Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who officiated at the ceremony, directed top city officials to attend the ceremony on Wuchang Street (武昌街). It was the first time government officials had held such rites in over 108 years.

On July 7, 1884, Taiwan's first governor, Liu Ming-chuan (劉銘傳), declared Taipei City the country's administrative capital for the Ching Dynasty. Taipei City developed from that time into Taiwan's largest city as more government offices opened and business activities increased. On the first and 15th of every month, worshiping the city god was an important ritual for the ruling officials, according to Liao Hsien-hao (廖咸浩), the director of the city's Cultural Affairs Bureau.

Hu I-shou (胡益壽), the president of the Cheng Huang Temple, said Cheng Huang is a Taoist god who presides in judgement over the underworld and is honored for his impartiality in rewards and punishments.

Hu said that almost every city now has a Cheng Huang Temple, as in former eras people worshipped the city god to counter incompetence on the part of local officials.

Hu and Liao, who wore traditional long gowns, helped Ma to complete the rituals of receiving the god, making offerings and lighting incense, and then sending off the deity.

"We hope that by reviving such an ancient ceremony we can make citizens realize that Taipei is a city with rich stories and cultures," Ma said.

"Although Taipei is not as old as other ancient cities of the world, it is the city with the most abundant atmosphere of humanity," Ma said

Taipei City's 120-year anniversary coincided with the annual Chinese Valentine's Day, and the city government held a pop music concert at Ximending to help the community's lovers enjoy the festive occasion.

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