Thu, Jan 19, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Temples expect surge of visitors

INTERNET INCENSE:One temple has launched a ‘virtual alternative,’ so that the not-so-orthodox can offer Web prayers from the comfort of their homes

Staff Writer, with CNA

Children from a local kindergarten touch the “spring cow” for good luck after its eyes had been recently painted at Baomin Temple in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township -yesterday.

Photo: Peng Chien-li, Taipei Times

A surge of worshipers is expected during the Lunar New Year holiday, as the upcoming year of the dragon on the Chinese lunar calendar is traditionally regarded as especially auspicious, local temples said yesterday.

Songshan Ciyou Temple in Taipei said the number of visitors this holiday is likely to increase by 20 percent, with crowds expected to start arriving on Lunar New Year’s Eve to be the first to light their incense sticks and pray for good luck.

A temple staffer surnamed Lin (林), who has been working at the temple for 30 years, said she expects about 10,000 people to flood into the temple within the first two hours of Lunar New Year’s Day, which falls on Monday.

Since the temple had two fences crushed during what Lin called a “riotous” Lunar New Year last year, she said the temple has asked for extra police officers to be deployed to maintain order.

Similarly, Hsinkang Matsu Temple in Chiayi County said more people are likely to ask for blessings during the holiday because Chinese dragons traditionally symbolize power and good luck.

As part of the efforts to control the crowds, temple operator Chang Fang-hua said the temple has launched an unprecedented “virtual alternative,” so that the not-so-orthodox could offer their prayers from the comfort of their homes via the Internet, without having to step outdoors.

“We have received about 5,000 requests to light an online ‘bright fortune lamp,’” Chang said, referring to a ritual that is believed to bring joy and true meaning to life.

“We have seen regulars coming back year after year” for what has become no more than a race to plant the first incense sticks, Chang said. “Still, we’d like to urge the public to remember that it is not just a race, but that it is supposed to represent one’s first wish of the New Year.”

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