The Greater Tainan Government may have erred in its characterization of the ancestral home of Chou Yongcheng (周勇成), which was recently turned into a museum in Anping District (安平) using funds from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, an academic and others are saying.
Under the ministry’s International Spotlight project, the city renovated the Chou family home, turning it into a museum centerd on the theme of Xiang Yin Da Bin (鄉飲大賓), the main guests at a “xiang yin jiu li” (鄉飲酒禮) ceremony.
These ceremonies promoted filial piety, family unity and other Confucian morals. The Xiang Yin Da Bin traditionally meant the guest with the highest honors, but since that person had to be nominated by the local government and then approved by higher levels of administration, the position became pseudo-official.
Although the house was rebuilt after it was toppled by the 921 Earthquake, portions of the old walls, as well as relics, had been preserved by the Chou family, said Chou Chin-tse (周欽澤), the 11th-generation descendant of Chou Yongcheng and current owner of the building.
The museum also includes a wooden statue of what government officials believe to be the god of marriage, Yue Laou (月下老人), officials said, adding that such a figurine fits in with the city’s tradition of worshiping the matchmaking diety.
The figurine, which was found in a cleft between two walls, had likely been hidden there when the Japanese took over Taiwan, officials said.
They said the Chou family had kept the statue to bring together young men and women in the Anping area.
City officials presiding over the museum’s launch on Monday cast lots asking Yue Laou to return to his duty and help bring together couples who visit the house.
However, He Pei-fu (何培夫), a professor at National Cheng Kung University, said that the figurine was not a representation of Yue Laou, but of the god of longevity, Nanji Xianweng (南極仙翁) — also known as Shou Hsing (壽星).
Wei Chun-pang (魏俊邦), a manufacturer of deity figurines for more than 50 years, agrees with He.
Both deities are usually portrayed as elderly men with walking sticks, but there are a few distinctions between the two, He said, adding that the Xiang Yin Da Bin was considered a pseudo-official post in the Qing Dynasty and lumping it together with the belief in the god of marriage was unseemly.
The museum designer evidently felt this combination was something to be proud of, but it was very irresponsible, He said.
Ou Tsai-jung (歐財榮), a scholar of culture and history whose family has lived in Anping for generations, said that he does not recall anyone in the district who had a private temple to the god of marriage.
The myth is not in keeping with fact, Ou said.
Chou Chin-tse said that while none of his ancestors had been a matchmaker, the figurine had been found in the house.
He said his family had come to Taiwan under Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功) [also known as Koxinga (國姓爺)] and the house was built in about 1840 after the family settled in Anping. The house was named after a seventh-generation ancestor who had been selected as a Xiang Yi Da Bin.
Yeh Tse-shan (葉澤山), head of Greater Tainan’s Cultural Affairs Bureau, Tourism Bureau Deputy Director General Wayne Liu (劉喜臨) and 21st Century Foundation executive director Kao Su-po (高思博) also attended Monday’s ceremony.
Additional reporting by staff writer