Halfway up the Rugu Mountain (乳姑山) in Taoyuan County lies a temple that serves as a shrine for a boulder known as Shihtou Gung (石頭公) that has been worshiped by the residents of Lingyun Village (凌雲) for more than a century.
Hsu Jung-chun (徐榮俊), the secretary-general of Longtan Township (龍潭), said the township had conducted a Hakka cultural survey last year and discovered the origins and evolution of the temple.
Hsu added that the township had made a detailed history of the temple so that the townspeople’s descendants would be able to understand their past.
The boulder weighs 5 tonnes and is located on an old path behind a tea field near the village.
Residents said that 100 years ago the path had been an important roadway from Hsinchu County’s Sinpu Township (新埔) and Cyonglin Township (芎林) to Longtan.
Originally the path was just made from pieces of rock stacked up on one another, but later on it was develpoed into a proper road.
The Hakka cultural survey last year showed that in 1839, ethnic Han people were settling in what is now Lingyun when Aborigines attacked them, Hsu said.
With nowhere else to hide, the Han people hid underneath the boulder and when the Aborigines were unable to find them, they hacked at the stone with their blades to vent their frustration and were scared off when the boulder began to bleed, Hsu said.
The Han people who witnessed the event attributed the bleeding to a miracle and after the news spread, all villagers wanted to worship the boulder, Hsu said.
The survey also found that during the Xianfeng (咸豐) era (1851-1861) in the Qing dynasty, a man wrote on the boulder the words wei wei zu cih tong ling (巍巍卒慈同靈), meaning the boulder would protect everyone, and set April 8 and Aug. 15 of the Lunar calendar as days to worship the boulder.
Wen Kuang-hsiu (溫光秀), an elder, said worshiping the boulder was the ancestors’ way of worshiping nature, adding that local beliefs usually placed the Shihtou Gung as the guardian deity of children.
When children cry at night parents usually take them in front of the boulder to pray, Wen said.
Parents also tie a coin, hollowed out in the middle, with a piece of red string to the child’s hand while asking for the Shihtou Gung’s protection, and after passing the coin above incense the parents hang the coin around the child’s neck.
This is said to make the child easier to raise, and parents only take the coin off when the child turns 18.
The boulder is known for its effectiveness at granting prayers and it is also considered the guardian deity of the village, Wen said.
Translated by Jake Chung, staff writer