Longshan Temple (龍山寺) in Taipei City’s Wanhua District (萬華) which is constantly inundated with devotees from Taiwan and abroad, recently called on pious worshippers to help reduce pollution by using certified incense sticks or by paying tribute through their minds.
Amid growing environmental awareness and complaints about unpleasant odors generated by the temple, authorities at the temple posted an announcement last month stating that donated incense sticks are now forbidden and devotees are encouraged to worship deities either through their hearts or with certified incense sticks which are sold at the temple.
It has become a customary practice that worshippers donate packets of incense to the temple as a demonstration of their devotion, allowing visitors to enjoy free access to the incense, which is stacked on the reception desk.
Photo: Chiu Shao-wen, Taipei Times
“The temple is unable to conduct quality tests on these various incense donations, and many visitors have complained about strange odors and poor air quality at the temple,” said Chang Hsue-lin (張雪玲), director of temple affairs. “It is for these reasons that we must decline such donations in the future to ensure the quality of incense sticks that are burnt at the temple.”
The temple authorities’ actions have drawn a mixed reaction among worshippers, with some grumbling that it is a pity free incense sticks have been halted, while others have questioned as to “why it is only the temple that sells the certified kind of incense?”
Despite a few dissenting opinions, the majority of devotees have given the new policy their support.
Citing as an example a man who donated ten catty (0.6kg) of incense sticks to the temple worth NT$300, a middle-aged woman worshipper surnamed Chiu (邱) said that the deed may appear to have been benevolent, but it could pose health risks to other worshippers, and the low-priced incense sticks were of unknown origin.
Another devotee, surnamed Yang (楊), lauded the new policy, saying that the approach could bring down the volume of incense sticks used at the temple and that the Chinese National Standards (CNS)-certified incense on sale at the temple contained only seven sticks per packet — just enough for the temple’s seven censers.
Defending the new approach, Chang said the temple only decided to sell incense for the convenience of worshippers, who could opt to bring their own incense to the temple.
Meanwhile, Hsingtien Temple (行天宮) in Taipei’s Zhongshan District (中山) has also adopted a similar approach, encouraging devotees to pay tribute with their minds rather than with incense.
However, the temple does not unequivocally bar worshippers from donating incense sticks given the opposition vocalized by nearby incense vendors, temple administrator Lee Chu-hua (李楚華) said.
Attributing Hsingtien Temple’s eco-friendly policies to the unstable quality of incense sticks being donated, Ko Po-wen (柯博文) — the owner of a long-established incense manufacturer — said most worshippers tended to prize quantity above quality.
“Many people, in an attempt to express their gratitude to the deities tend to donate incense sticks in large quantities — about 10 catty’s worth. They usually go for China-made incense sticks, which, despite being cheaper, are of an inferior quality,” Ko said.
Ko advised people who are purchasing incense sticks for their homes to choose those manufactured in Taiwan for the sake of their health.
According to incense stick makers, while the quality of incense sticks cannot be easily judged, buyers can check details to gauge the standard.
“Taiwan-manufactured incense sticks tend to be thinner, produce less smoke and create ash at a lower temperature. When it comes to poor-quality incense the fumes they give off can irritate the eyes and the nose, and can even cause nausea and dizziness,” the operator said.
Smoke from incense sticks — whether of a good or poor quality — contains chemical irritants and suspended particulates that can set off allergic reactions for people with asthma or allergies, doctors have said.
People who worship gods at home should avoid burning incense or at least maintain proper ventilation, doctors have said, advising devotees to put on a respiratory mask when visiting temples.
Lin Ja-liang (林杰樑), a specialist in clinical toxicology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Linkou District (林口), said incense fumes would emit polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that contain first-grade cancer-causing benzene.
“Generally, when we are talking about poor-quality incense, we are talking about imports from China. In the absence of tests on the PAHs emitted by low-quality incense, customers should check the products’ country of origin and should opt for those made in Taiwan,” Lin said.
Additional Reporting by Lin Hsiang-mei and Huang Chi-hao
‘HONEYMOON’ IS OVER: A political science professor said that the Tsai administration’s popularity peaked after it successfully contained COVID-19, but is waning President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) and Premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) approval ratings fell significantly this month in the wake of the government’s handling of the distribution of relief funds and stimulus coupons to people and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a poll released yesterday by the New Power Party (NPP) showed. The poll showed that 68 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Tsai’s performance, down 8.9 percentage points from last month, while 21 percent said they disapproved of her performance. Her approval among respondents aged 20 to 29 fell 14.7 percentage points, the largest decrease when compared with other age
Food delivery provider Foodpanda had 564 consumer disputes from January to last month and failed to attend many mediation sessions with local governments nationwide, the Executive Yuan’s Consumer Protection Committee said. In a news release earlier this month, the committee said that it investigated consumer complaints and mediations for Foodpanda and rival Uber Eats during the period, when the number of delivery orders jumped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Uber Eats had 80 consumer disputes, the committee said. Of Foodpanda’s consumer disputes, 368 resulted from delivery drivers canceling orders after customers could not be reached, 108 were related to the quality or quantity
Peggy Chen (陳佩琪), wife of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), yesterday said that the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) claim that Taiwan had warned the WHO about possible human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 was “far-fetched.” The US on April 9 said that the WHO had put politics first and ignored Taiwan’s early warning in December last year, which the WHO denied the following day. The WHO said that it received an e-mail from Taiwanese authorities on Dec. 31 last year, but that “there was no mention in the message of human-to-human transmission.” Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC,
The Taipei City Government yesterday promised to improve its Taipei Card 3.0 application process after a city councilor said that it required applicants to provide irrelevant personal information. Taipei City Councilor Miao Po-ya (苗博雅) said that to activate the card — which can function as an EasyCard, Senior EasyCard, student card and library card, as well as provide discounts for restaurants, arts and entertainment in the city — people must provide personal information such as their passport number, occupation, education level, their spouse’s name, personal income, credit rating and health information. The city government said the system would help it digitalize and