Some tourists visiting the Jinguashih Shinto Shrine in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Rueifang District (瑞芳) have criticized the historical site’s owner, the state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower), for doing what they said was “unbelievably lousy” work while restoring the monument.
Taipower’s Shen-ao Power Plant began work on the shrine in May 2012 after receiving the green light from the New Taipei City Government’s Cultural Affairs Department, which designated the site a cultural heritage in March 2007.
Also known as the Gold Temple (黃金神社), the shrine was constructed in 1933 by a Japanese mineral company during the Japanese colonial era to pray for good luck for the old mining industry in Jinguashih (金瓜石).
However, only parts of the shrine, including its base and pillars, two torii gates and dozens of stone lanterns remained intact after the area was vandalized after World War II.
A torii is a traditional Japanese gate often found at the entrance of Shinto shrines that serves as a symbolic boundary between the sacred and the profane.
Local residents had hoped the restoration project would breathe new life into the area, only to discover that the company had used cement to repair the site, of which exterior walls and pillars were finished in washed granolithic material.
The choice of repair materials caused dramatic color discrepancies between the original structures and the patches.
Some characters carved onto the shrine’s torii that carried cultural significance were also covered by cement.
A tourist surnamed Lo (羅) said he “could not believe his eyes” when he saw how the repair work had “ruined” the Japanese temple.
“Most torii have the Chinese characters fengna (奉納, offering) and fengxian (奉獻, devotion) carved on the front and the names of contributors to the temple on the back,” Lo said, adding that although the characters on the shrine’s gates had worn away over time, they had still been visible to the human eye before the restoration project began.
“I doubt the company did its research before carrying out the repair work,” Lo said.
Tseng Chi-tien (曾繼田), chief of the Cultural Heritage Section at New Taipei City Government’s Cultural Affairs Department, said that while Taipower’s intentions to carry out the repair work were well-meant, the company was ordered to suspend the project after its choice of repair materials and techniques were found “inappropriate.”
“The department also requested the company to conduct thorough field research and submit another proposal for the shrine’s restoration. It will not be allowed to continue the repair work until the department approves the proposal,” Tseng said.
In response, Shen-ao Power Plant spokesman Lu Ching-lung (盧金龍) said the company submitted a restoration proposal for the shrine to the department for its review and made it a requirement that repair workers be equipped with the adequate skills.
“After all, monument maintenance is really not one of the company’s strong points,” Lu said.