Legislators, academics and representatives from cultural and religious circles urged the government on Thursday to protect a vegetarian sect temple in New Taipei City (新北市) that is in danger of being torn down over a land dispute.
“Pu-an Temple is one of the only vegetarian sect sites in the city,” temple spokeswoman Lee Jung-tai (李榮台) said at a press conference.
“Ten generations of people have lived on the site since the reign of Emperor Qianlong [1735 to 1796] during the Qing Dynasty,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said.
Only about 30 vegetarian halls of this type remain nationwide and only some of those maintain the unique features of the vegetarian sect, a form of lay Buddhism that dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644), according to the group.
The sect, which promotes the practice of Buddhism at home, has been active in Taiwan for more than 200 years. The vegetarian halls are where sect members assemble and hold their rituals.
The Pu-an Temple, built almost a century ago in Tucheng District (土城), includes a Chinese-style three-section compound, which differs from the more common types of temple building found in Taiwan, the group said.
A meeting held by the New Taipei City Government in March concluded that parts of the temple, including its vegetarian hall, qualify for historic building status.
However, the city government ruled that the temple cannot be listed as a historic building in its entirety unless the decision is approved before Thursday by the owner of the land on which the temple sits.
Unfortunately the landlord, the Tsu-yu Temple, has threatened to demolish Pu-an Temple over a land dispute, Lee said.
However, the group accused the New Taipei City Government of making a decision with no basis in law because the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act (文化資產保存法) does not stipulate that the consent of the landowner is required for a structure to be designated an historic building.
Wang Chia-cheng from the Ministry of Culture’s Bureau of Cultural Heritage agreed that the registration or designation of a cultural heritage site does not require the approval of the site’s owner.
He cited Article 9 of the act, which says that the relevant authorities need only “respect the rights and interests of the owners of cultural heritage sites.”
Meanwhile, bureau deputy director Chung Ching-po said that a historic building should not be damaged over a land dispute.
The ministry has expressed its concern over the issue to the New Taipei City Government and will continue to communicate with it over the dispute, Chung said.
The bureau plans to hold a meeting with legal experts and local government officials before Tuesday to discuss an appropriate course of action under the cultural preservation act, Wang said.