After being evicted from his temple early last year, the diety Tudigong (土地公, Land God) in Yenliao Village (鹽寮) in Hualien County’s Shoufeng Township (壽豐) was on Saturday not only moved to a new temple, but was also presented with a new wife by the residents of the village to make up for their eviction of the godly presence.
According to locals, the village first constructed the Land God’s temple in 1976, but at the time the villagers did not realize that the building was constructed on private land.
Last year, the landowners announced they had development plans and raised the idea of moving the deity to another temporary temple with other villagers.
However, because the temporary site was located nearby the village cemetery, it was felt that the deity’s heavenly mandate, which “concerned the realm of mortals and not the cemetery,” meant that such a location would compromise the heavenly protector.
When the village warden, Kung Chih-kuan (龔志冠), heard of the villagers’ concerns, he offered his home as an temporary alternative.
Worried that the deity might not find a mortal’s home “comfortable,” Kung said he cast divination blocks — zhijiao (擲筊) or bwa bwei as they are called in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) — every morning for three months, asking whether the deity felt comfortable in his home. Every time the divination blocks indicated that the deity was in fact happy there.
The divination blocks are a pair of crescent-shaped wooden blocks that usually fit in the palm of one hand.
If a question being asked of a deity is of great importance, it is usually asked and the blocks also cast three times with three positive answers needed for a resounding “yes” response.
Even though the deity seemed content to stay at Kung’s house, Kung said he and the other villagers agreed that a deity should ideally be housed in a temple.
Kung then began a fundraising campaign in the hope of raising enough money to build a new home for Tudigong. He eventually raised NT$500,000 for the construction, while a businessman named Lin Wen-lung (林文龍), who had made money in the tourism industry, provided a plot of land next to the quay in Ganzaishujiao Village (橄仔樹腳).
However, the deity was not able to move immediately and in March he was invited by the villagers to follow the goddess Matsu on an island-wide tour to mark Matsu’s birthday. Upon his return, the villagers told Kung that as the deity had already left his house, it could not go back there.
The village then placed the deity in the village office for roughly a month before relocating him to Tzu Tian Temple (慈天宮), also a temple for the worship of Matsu in Hualien County.
Apologetic for having kept the deity homeless for a year-and-a-half, the villagers finally welcomed him to his new home on Saturday and held a banquet to stage a “house-warming” party for the deity.
To further show their sincerity in “making ammends” to the deity, the villagers also decided to find him a new wife, a decision approved by the deity itself after Kung used divination blocks to ascertain the Land God’s opinions on the matter.