Tue, Mar 03, 2009 - Page 2 News List

People turning to temples amid economic recession

DONATIONS DOWN Officials at a number of temples say a much larger percentage of devotees are seeking employment advice, but are giving less in donations

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

A growing number of people are visiting temples to ask the gods for career advice during the economic downturn, but they are donating far less than in previous years, sources at various temples around the nation said on Sunday.

A large number of people who have been either laid off or forced to take unpaid leave have turned to the gods to help alleviate their distress, while even those with jobs have visited temples in search of comfort and a sense of security, the sources said.

Career guidance has been the top concern of people visiting temples in recent months, ranking ahead of the usual marriage and health concerns, said Lee Chu-hua (李楚華), a volunteer who is responsible for interpreting divination slips drawn by believers at the Hsingtien Temple (行天宮) in Taipei.

In normal times, the number of people asking for guidance on careers, marriage or health based on the divination slips were evenly distributed, but since the economy has turned sour, more than 60 percent are looking for employment advice.

Owing to soaring unemployment, so-called “iron rice bowl” jobs, referring to the system of guaranteed lifetime employment at state enterprises, have become unusually popular, Lee said, as the number of people asking about their chances of passing public service examinations has seen a sharp increase recently.

Yet despite the growing throngs looking to the heavens for help, donations have not shown proportional increases this year, said Liu Yu-lin (劉玉麟), an executive of Jenn Lann Temple (鎮瀾宮) in Dajia (大甲), Taichung County.

Because of the weak economy, most of the contributions received this year have been NT$100 or less, or the consumer vouchers distributed earlier in the year by the government to all citizens, Liu said.

In consideration of the downturn, the temple has lowered some of its fees, such as reducing the registration fee to attend a Buddhist religious rite from NT$1,000 to NT$200, a volunteer at the temple said.

But even with the decline in revenue, Chenlan Temple will continue its charitable work, such as providing emergency relief aid and scholarships to help people in need ride out the tough economy, the volunteer said.

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