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'Gods on Ketagalan' parade draws thousands of worshipers
【Society】2017-07-23  21:34:13
Taipei, July 23 (CNA) Thousands of temple representatives and worshipers took part in a street parade in Taipei on Sunday, mainly to display their opposition to the government's effort to cut down on the burning of incense and joss paper in religious rituals.

Dressed in colorful temple uniforms, the participants from temples across the country assembled at Freedom Square in the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall compound before setting off on the parade two hours later.

During the rally, several temple groups rehearsed their parade routines and musical performances, while dragon and lion dancing troupes suited up.

Meanwhile, food and drink vendors also gathered near the crowd, selling sausages and lemonade, among other things.

The rally, which police estimated was attended by 11,000 people, soon took on the festive atmosphere of big temple fair, with its costumed figures, music and colorful banners.

At 2 p.m., the parade began, led by pop singer Yuming Lai (賴銘偉) and an eight-general formation, known as Bajiajiang.

Thousands of followers marched from Zhongshan South Road to Xinyi Road, along Hangzhou South Road and Aiguo East Road then onto Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office.

According to Lai, the participants aimed to highlight their opposition to what he described as a fuzzy government policy of preventing air pollution by either reducing or banning the burning of incense and joss paper in religious rituals.

He said religious beliefs are fundamental to people's quest for tranquility and he suggested that the government allow the temples to decide whether to change a centuries-old religious tradition.

"Different temples will take different approaches (to incense burning), but it does not matter, as long as they find ways to comfort distressed temple worshipers," Lai said.

The parade, titled "Biggest in History, Gods on Ketagalan," was launched by a temple federation initiated by Lin An-le (林安樂), chair of the Wude Temple in Beigang Township of Yunlin County, in an appeal to give temples the right to decide on the incense and joss paper issue.

Local temples have been managed autonomously for more than 10 years, Lin said. "Heritage can't be interrupted," he said, referring to the tradition of burning incense and joss paper, commonly known as ghost money.

They will agree to cut the number of incense burners at the temple from several to one so that worshipers will only have to burn one incense stick instead of several, he said. "This is the bottom line."

As part of the government's efforts to improve air quality, local temples have been encouraged to reduce the burning of incense and ghost money.

However, there has been some controversy over the government's approach due to conflicting online reports on whether it wants to reduce or end the practice.

On Sunday, Lin Ching-chi (林清淇), head of the Ministry of the Interior's Civil Affairs Department, stressed that the government has no intention to shut down the burners at temples.

Rather, the government is encouraging religious groups to take the initiative to cut back on the burning of incense and joss paper in the interest of environmental protection, he said.

In line with stance of the Environmental Protection Administration, the Ministry of the Interior is suggesting that all the relevant government departments take the approach of "encouragement rather than coercion" with regard to the issue, he said.

(By Liu Chien-pan, Wu Hsin-yun, Claudia Liu and Elizabeth Hsu)
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