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Century-old temple upgrades its image with the help of a robot

2017/09/23 15:18:19

Taipei, Sept. 23 (CNA) One of Taiwan's oldest temples, Jhushan Zi Nan Temple (竹山紫南宮) in Nantou County on Saturday got a new employee: Pepper, a humanoid robot manufactured by the Taiwanese electronics giant Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and among its duties is to help the temple modernize its image.

The temple began putting Pepper to work on Saturday in an effort to rejuvenate itself and reduce its staff's workload, an official said.

"We want to go beyond the traditional image of a temple and encourage more interaction with our pilgrims through new technology," said Liao Pi-chin (廖碧勤), a temple public relations officer.

Named "A-fu," which symbolizes good fortune, the 1.2-meter-tall robot has all the information about the temple uploaded into its system and can serve as a guide once approached by visitors, Liao explained.

With more than 7 million visitors a year, the temple said it hopes A-fu, which has a screen on its chest, can help improve its service quality and attract more young believers.

To start with, A-fu's main job for now is to describe to visitors the procedure of borrowing and returning lucky money from the temple.

Established in 1745, the temple, which honors the Chinese earth god Tu Di Gong (土地公) and his wife, is best known for its so-called "banking" service. Worshipers can borrow NT$100 (US$3.3) to NT$600 (US$19.8) from the temple, depending on the result of their moon block divination or fortune, and how much luck they would need.

They can then make a wish with the money -- such as for a better job, good academic performance, and peace for their family. They are expected to return the money within one year.

The procedure is rather cumbersome, however, as believers must be able to interpret the result of the divination and go through paperwork that requires an identity check.

But temple officials say A-fu can help address that issue, and even provide some entertainment for visitors.

For instance, people can seek interesting information from A-fu about Tu Di Gong, including the god's nickname and his marriage status.

A-fu can also jokingly tell a visitor's age simply by reading his or her palm. It did just that at its inauguration ceremony, drawing much laughter from the crowd.

Liao said A-fu is going through a "probation period" this month, and more adjustments will be made to its system depending on the feedback from visitors.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)