The Qingshui Zushi (清水祖師) temples in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水) and Taipei City’s Wanhua District (萬華) have announced that other temples will no longer be able to borrow the Penglai Lao-tsu (蓬萊老祖) — possibly the oldest wooden Qingshui Zushi statue in the nation.
The policy took effect yesterday, the first day of the sixth lunar month.
“[Officials of] the two temples have collectively decided that the Penglai Lao-tsu statue should no longer be borrowed because many of our devotees have complained that they came especially for it, only to find that that it had been lent,” said Lee Tsung-tsan (李宗燦), vice chairman of Tamsui Qingshui Zushi temple’s management committee.
Photo: Lee Ya-wen, Taipei Times
“Sometimes the Penglai Lao-tsu statue has been absent from the temple for 20 days out of a month and that is not fair for to devotees,” he said.
Another key reason to stop lending the statue, carved from a piece of agarwood, is that it is more than 100 years old and needs to be protected, Lee said.
Pai Chih-lieh (白志烈), the executive director of the Tamsui temple, said that the Penglai Lao-tsu statue was damaged in March as it was being transported to a temple that had borrowed it.
“After the accident we decided that we needed to better protect the statue,” Pai said.
The statue is one of several that were carved in China, Lee said. Some were taken to Southeast Asia by Chinese settlers, and their whereabouts are unknown, while most of those that remained in China were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, he said.
“The one we have in Taiwan might be the only remaining one, so it is our obligation to better protect it,” Lee said.
Temple administrators said they gained consent from Qingshui Zushi on the decision by throwing divination blocks — two crescent-shaped wooden blocks.
Qingshui Zushi is another name for a Buddhist monk, Chen Yingzhao (陳應昭), who lived from 1047 to 1101 in China’s Fujian Province and gained fame providing assistance to those in need and reportedly performing miracles. After he died, locals began worshiping him as a deity.
In Taiwan, Qingshui Zushi is believed to be able to warn of tragic events.
Before the Qingshui Zushi temple was completed in Tamsui in 1937, the statue was kept in private homes or at the temple in Wanhua, which led to a dispute between the two temples over the ownership of the statue.
They resolved the debate by agreeing to take turns housing the statue.
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