Taoist deity Shennong (神農大帝, God of Agriculture) was yesterday conferred with a distinguished honorary doctorate by the Chiayi County-based National Chung Cheng University in a gesture of gratitude for a local temple’s donation of land during the university’s founding.
Shennong was the first deity to receive a diploma from a Taiwanese university and possibly the world’s only divine being with a doctorate, university president Wu Jyh-yang (吳志揚) said.
When the school was founded in 1989, it was built on 131 hectares of farmland previously owned by the the Shennong-worshipping Gufeng Temple, 60 hectares of which were a donation, a crucial factor in the decision to build the university in Chiayi rather than Yunlin or Tainan, which were vying to host the new university, Wu said.
Photo: Yu Hsueh-lan, Taipei Times
For the conferment ceremony yesterday, the divine being’s idol was clothed in an custom-tailored academic robe and its head was adorned with an academic square cap.
Wu moved the cap tussle, in view of people who attended as Shennong’s guests of honor.
Renowned embroider and tailor Chou Jang-ting (周讓廷) from the county’s Putzi city (朴子) was commissioned by the school to make Shennong’s academic robe.
Chou said tailoring Shennong’s robe took 100 hours in comparison with the typical 10 hours needed for most other temple idols.
The decision to accept the conferment of the degree from the school was made unanimously by the temple’s board of directors, Gufeng Temple Secretary-General Lai Hsiao-te (賴孝德) said, adding that members of the board felt this was a happy event.
Wu said that while many universities had conferred honorary degrees to people who had contributed to their founding or distinguished members of society, including former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) who received a National Chung Cheng University honorary doctorate, the distinguished honorary doctorate given to Shennong was the highest honor of its kind.
“It is only appropriate for us to demonstrate our gratitude to the temple,” he said, referring to the temple’s donation.
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