Wed, Apr 19, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Book details Matsu statue in Taichung

ACCESS FOR THE GODS:Tests confirmed that the statue was made more than 206 years ago, a conclusion that is supported by a cavity in the core of the statue

By Chen Chien-chih and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A statue of the goddess Matsu is decorated at the Fuhsing Temple in Taichung’s Dali District on Sunday.

Photo: Chen Chien-chih, Taipei Times

Fuhsing Temple (福興宮) in Taichung’s Dali District (大里) on Sunday released a book on the history of its 200-year-old statue of the goddess Matsu, the nation’s only religious statue designated an artifact of significant historic interest.

The Blessed Icon of the Fusing Temple (聖物廕福興) is a work on the history of the temple and the statue that was compiled by Feng Chia University history professor Lee Chian-wei (李建緯).

Lee said the temple commissioned the university’s Graduate Institute of History and Artifacts to investigate the statue’s history.

According to the temple, the lacquer and camphorwood statue was created in Meizhou in China’s Fujian Province and transported to Taiwan sometime during or after the temple’s founding in 1717, a narrative that Lee’s finding does not contradict.

Unusual features of the statue include its articulated limbs and that it was constructed separately from its throne, design elements that differentiate it from other Taiwanese religious statues, he said.

Researchers discovered that above its wooden structure, the statue’s face was comprised of a layer of clay, a layer of paper and two layers of paint, which enabled analysis by X-ray, infrared light and ultraviolet light spectroscopy, he said.

The tests confirmed that the statue was made more than 206 years ago and the instrument readings are supported by the cavity in the core of the statue, which Qing Dynasty craftsmen often carved into religious statues to allow the gods ingress, Lee said.

In addition to Lee, Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), the Ministry of Culture’s Cultural Heritage Bureau Director-General Shy Gwo-lung (施國隆), temple manger Chang Tsang-yi (張滄沂), Legislator Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純) and other politicians also attended the book release.

In a speech, Lin congratulated the temple on the publication of the book and said that he was glad the central government awarded the statue historic artifact status last year.

After he took office, the Taichung City Government published The Blessed Taichung Matsu Temples of Taiwan (台中媽祖廕台灣) on the history and practices of the city’s 12 Matsu temples to assist in the preservation of Taichung’s cultural heritage, Lin said.

Chang thanked the city government and Ho for their participation in the research project, saying it resulted in the recognition of the statue’s historic value and the publication of the book.

Temple guardians had long found the paper on the statue’s face unusual and they previously wanted to replace the aging paper with modern paint, but divination rituals showed that Matsu did not approve of the suggestion, Chang said.

The goddess was telling the temple’s guardians that they should preserve the statue’s historic value and be respectful of its centuries-old craftsmanship, he said.

Shy said that the bureau’s designation of the statue is unprecedented, as heritage status is usually reserved for significant architecture or religious rituals.

The statue’s articulated limbs and the clay-and-paper constitution of the facial features are typical of religious art produced in the Qing Dynasty, making the statue an important relic, Shy said.

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