Sunday, 17 February 2008

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Abstract and Acknowledgements




Jerome YuChien



This thesis deals with certain aspects of the Chinese popular religion of Taiwan; specifically , the cult of the Land God represented by stone(Chio Tho-ti-kong) and/or tree (Chhiu Tho-ti-kong) and the enormously complex relationships between this deity and both the Stone God (Chio-thau-kong) and the Tree God (Tua-chhiu-kong). The results of the study indicate that scared trees and stones worshipped as gods can be distinguished from the Land God which is represented by trees or stones. The distinction between the Land God and stone/tree gods can also be applied to the study of legends, traits, functions, images, deification stories, the dates for annual festivals etc.

This thesis also demonstrate that common people only partly accept the authority of the standardised written accounts fostered by elites and/or local leaders, and take it as only one of their authorities. besides it, they have their own mechanism to sustain their religious culture and have their own authorities to follow. The investigation of this mechanism and/or authorities can be easily overlooked if we limit our studies to the religious cultures dominated by the elites. Furthermore, the mechanism fostered by the state and elites seemed to serve as a carrier of messages such as civilization, order, and loyalty to the state, that is, "keepers" of social values. On the contrary, the authorities preferred by common people can serve as "challengers" to those who are privileged and who set social values.

This thesis consists of two parts: text and illustrations. The text, including notes, bibliography and character list, comprises 300 pages. All the 112 illustrations attached are colour photos I took in my field sites. The study will serve readers in the fields of Taiwanese culture, Chinese popular religion, history of religion, and anthropology.


I am grateful to many people for help in carrying this thesis to completion. First, Iwant to express my sincere gratitude to those whom I interviewed druing my fieldwork. I also want to thank my supervisor Dr. Stewart McFarlane, especially for his patience and advice. In addition, I hereby acknowledge the generous financial support of the National Youth Commission of the Executive Yuan in 1992-3, and that of the Academia Sinicaa in 1993-4. Special thanks are also due to both Dr. L. S. Davis and J. A. Laidlaw for their reading of draught chapters and for providing invaluable criticism. Next, Mr. Andrew.T. Clarke also deserves thanks for correcting many mistakes in my use of English.

Many academics and staff in the Institute of Ethnology ( e.g. Prof. Zhuang Yingzhang, Prof. Xu Jiaming, Prof. Lin Meirong, and Prof. Pan Yinghai) of Academia Sinica, Taiwan and Department of Religious Studies ( e.g. Ms. Janice Parkes, Dr. Roderick Main, and Prof. John Clayton), Lancaster University, England have helped me in mumerous ways -- to all of whom I am thankful.

I am indebted to Ms. Susan Lucas for her kindness when I studied in England. Finally, for both financial help and general support, I am deeply grateful to my family.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Chapter One: Introduction

Field Methodology:

This study is based primarily on field research conducted in Taiwan. In the summer of 1991, I returned to Taiwan from England to visit my parents, and did the preliminary fieldwork in northern Taiwan where my family lived. Even though the work lasted only two months, I took many pictures, wrote a field report and took all of these materials to Britain to show my supervisor. He found it was worthy of study and advised me to devote a year's library work to this subject to prepare the intensive fieldwork.

The intensive fieldwork was carried out between 1992 and 1994 in the widest range of villages and towns on the island -- chosen at random -- that I was able to visit, given the time and resources at my disposal. Usually, when I first arrived at a site, I would talk informally with people to get them to "open up" and to encourage them to express themselves in their own terms, and at their own pace. If possible, I would start a semi- structured interview in which I used a written list of questions and topics that I had arranged in a particular order. I used neither structured questionnaires nor tape-recorders in order not to exercise excessive control over people or even get them nervous.

I conducted interviews with the shrine staffs and with many of the believers in the neighbourhoods; and got to know them more as I established friendly relations with them. Since I did not assume that I had an automatic right to carry out the investigations, the research was a reciprocal one. Every time I went to a shrine, I prepared to offer something (e.g. the photos I took and the results of my research) to thank the people I interviewed. (note.1)Because I am a native Taiwanese, I did not find it difficult to explain my presence or the nature of my investigations to the people concerned.

In the first half of 1996 I visited the field sites again to do supplementary fieldwork, that is, to ask the questions that I missed in intensive fieldwork, and to make sure of those things I was uncertain of when writing the thesis draught. (note.2)

The first scholar who did research of the worship of stone and tree in Taiwan and its relation with the "She" Cult is Ling Shun-sheng. (note.3)He started his study on Chinese classics and Occidental works of this subject in 1955. In total, he produced five monographs (1958; 1959a; 1959b; 1964; 1967) on this subject and received many compliments from scholars concerned with the subject (cf. Mabuchi 1970:349; Pearson 1970:317).(note.4) In November 1963, Ling Shun-sheng received a letter from his daughter Ling Manli from Oregon, USA, in which were enclosed two colour photos of a dolmen. He was surprised and sent her a letter immediately, inquiring about the origin of these two pictures. In her reply, she said: "The two pictures were given to me by a missionary by the name of Rev. Robert P. McKinnen. He said the two pictures were among the photos of local scenes taken by a photo studio at Taizhong (Tai-chung) County of Taiwan for one of his friends, but he does not know himself the exact location of the dolmen." Later, the dolmen in these two pictures was found located in Taizhong City through some field search by Ling Shun- sheng and his colleagues (Ling Shun-sheng 1967:136). He claimed that over 80 dolmens were discovered by him and, in his estimation, there should be approximately several thousand dolmens existing on this 30,000 sq-kilometre island of Taiwan (Ling Shun-sheng 1967:134). Since he was well versed in Chinese classics, his study on them is trustworthy and thus I will apply them in my investigation in the following chapters.

Unfortunately, his interpretation of the divine stones and trees has left much to be desired. He found a number of divine stones and trees in both east and west Taiwan. He claimed that these natural objects worshipped by aboriginal tribes (both Plain and Mountain Aboriginals) were dolmen and menhir-like and signified the genital organ of both sexes. He then maintained that these traits revealed that they were not only merely similar but also virtually identical with Chinese "She" Cult (esp. Ling Shun-sheng 1958:56f; 1959a:178; 1964:41).

There are at least two objections which can be raised against Ling Shun-sheng's interpretation of these natural objects. First of all, the worship of genital, menhir, and dolmen-like stones is a universal phenomenon (Hartland 1917b; Graesser 1972; Edsman 1987; Mohen 1989), many peoples in the world, including Taiwan Aboriginals and Han-Chinese, practice such worship, the evidence he presents does not prove that they are virtually the same as the Chinese "She" Cult.(note.5) Second and most vitally, as I will explain in the following sections, neither Plain nor Mountain Aboriginals had any contact with China until the coming of Chinese in the seventeenth century. This contact remained very limited (certainly not sufficient to account for major cultural phenomena); and even until the beginning of the twentieth century, within the overall frame of East Asia culture history, Taiwan Aboriginals had relatively little contact with the Han-Chinese population. In fact, Taiwan Aboriginals were outside the cultural and religious orbit of China (Herz 1986:19; Copper 1990:17). Therefore, a different interpretation from that of Ling Shun-sheng is needed.(note.6)

Affected by these considerations, I decided to do a fresh round of field research and find the sites of divine stones and trees by myself. Since I was born in Yilan County (located in the northeast Taiwan) and is currently a consultant of religious policy of the County Government, I am sure that I have visited all the stone and tree deities in this county. Moreover, the study of Lin Mei-rong (1987:53-81) on the worship of the Land God of her hometown (Chhau-tun Town of Nantou County, central Taiwan) includes a preliminary report on all divine stones and trees of the town. Therefore, I am sure that I have included all divine trees and stones of these two areas in this thesis. Additionally, both the gazetteer of Lam-tau County written by Liu Zhiwan (1961) and an article on the tree worship of Taiwan written by Yuan Chang-rue (1993) were helpful for my field work.

I limited myself and did field research only on the stones which were not hewn or inscribed with any characters such as Shi Gandang or stone lions and others, although they were also regarded as divine. I believe that the divine stones and trees I researched belong to a single category. Moreover, I exclude the stones and trees which are not worshipped by the public. (note.7)In total, I researched 61 stone and 39 tree shrines in Taiwan (see also Appendix). I would not affirm that I have visited all the divine stones and trees of the single category, but I am certain that those I have researched are typical for the purpose of my study.


In preparing the thesis, I have had two objectives. Most obviously, the thesis is a description of a feature of Chinese religion, that is, the worship of three natural objects -- land, stone, and tree. Although scholarly works dealing with community religious organisations, calendrical festivals, and family rites have become a great concern over the past thirty years, the discussion of the worship of natural objects has been almost neglected in the anthropological and sociological literature (cf. Yang 1961:353; Feng 1970:21; Allan 1979:5). However, I believe that the study of the three deities is also important in a number of ways that are easily missed if we limit our consideration to colourful festivals and household rites which are easier to field research (cf. Jordan & Overmyer 1986:8; Lin Mei-rong 1991.).

The second objective in studying these three deities arises from the fact that believers in them are relatively low on the social scale and have little political power. For this reason their beliefs are often misunderstood. Once, I had lunch with a friend in the Academia Sinica. He asked what subject I was studying for my Ph.D. thesis. I answered: "The worship of stones and trees." He immediately replied: "People even worship stones and trees! Do they worship chamber pots?" Moreover, it is often heard in Taiwan within intellectual circles that many religions in Taiwan are superstitious: "The veneration of cultural heroes seems reasonable because of their virtues. However, the worship of stones and trees is extremely superstitious since they cannot even speak!"

The religious beliefs of common people does not have official spokespersons or theologians to explain and defend their beliefs and practices. One of my reasons for writing this thesis is to demonstrate the seriousness of these religious beliefs and practices and to correct the misunderstanding of the religious beliefs that is common, even in Taiwan itself.

In order to achieve these two objectives, in the rest of this chapter, I give a geographical and historical introduction and a general view of Chinese popular religion of Taiwan, the island where I did my fieldwork. In Chapter Two, I review the textual data relating to Chinese worship of natural objects, especially divine stones and trees. Chapter Three portrays the images, functions, and traits of the Land God in order to offer a setting for the following chapters. In Chapter Four, by using the data collected from my fieldwork, I examine how the divine stones and trees are identified with the dates for annual birthday festivals and why some of them do not have any birthdays attached. Chapter Five discusses the religious custom of nominal adoption, the most traditional and distinctive role that the deities play in popular religion. In Chapter Six, I illustrate that some natural objects are themselves regarded as deities or as possessed by certain supernatural beings while others are not. Chapter Seven analyzes why in some places the divine stones and trees get involved in the "Everybody Happy Lottery" while in some places they do not. It is also argued that the prevalence of the Lottery, together with the transformation of roles of these deities, can be read, to a certain degree, as a resistance against or even a subversion of the contemporary social order in Taiwan. In Chapter Eight, by applying the theories of paleographic and historical studies, I demonstrate that aspects of modern stone and tree worship are closely connected with the "She" Cult but are not inevitably surviving examples of it. In the final chapter, I conclude that sacred trees and stones worshipped as the Stone and Tree Gods can be distinguished from the Land God that is represented by a tree or stone. The distinction between the Land God and the Stone and Tree Gods can also be applied to the study of legends, traits, functions, images, deification stories, the dates for birthday festivals etc. Moreover, I reiterate that common people have their own mechanism to sustain their religious culture and have their own authorities to follow.

Geography and Ethnicity:

Taiwan is an offshore island in the western Pacific and 100 miles southeast of the Chinese mainland. The island, which is approximately 245 miles long and 85 miles across at its widest point, has one of the highest population densities in the world - - about 1285 persons per square mile in a 14,000 square mile area. Over half the island is mountainous with few inhabitants; the other half, to the west, is fertile with more than 3,000 people per square mile (cf. Wu Lien-chin 1987:111; Copper 1990:1).

Some geologists say Taiwan was originally part of the Asia mainland. Others argue that its volcanic soil and the fact that it is part of the long chain of islands extending from the Alaskan Aleutans indicate that the island's origins are similar to those of Japan, the Philippines, and other islands off the eastern Asia coast. This evidence suggests either a more distant time connection - or none at all - to the Asia mainland. Recent geological studies reinforce the latter view, suggesting that Taiwan rose from the sea rather recently - a million years ago (Copper 1990:2).

Taiwan has abundant rainfall year-round; the mean annual precipitation is 102 inches. Generally the east coast receives more rain than the west, and the mountains more than the lowlands. One odd feature about Taiwan's rain patterns is that the dry season at one end of the island coincides with the rainy season at the other. In the north the heaviest rainfall is between October and March; in the south the rainy season occurs between April and September (Copper 1990:4). The plentiful rain supplies water for irrigation of agriculture in rainy seasons and for streams lakes and reservoirs when needed in dry times. Besides, much of Taiwan's soil is either volcanic or partly volcanic and thus is fairly fertile despite centuries of farming.

Although the Daoyi (Island Savages) in the Shangshu (the Book of History), the Dongdi of the Han Dynasty, the Yizhou of the Three Kingdoms, and the Liuqiu of the Sui Dynasty, are generally believed by historians to refer to Taiwan, it is now known that there were no Han Chinese people settled on the island (Chen Chi-lu 1972:119). But knowledge of the island probably existed already a long time before at such early times. Fishermen or merchants, driven from the China coastal waters by storms, told tales of a beautiful island far off in the ocean (Proksch 1984:13). Until the collapse of the Ming Dynasty in 1662, rulers of mainland China had by and large ignored Taiwan. The island was seen by Chinese as part of the Ryukyu chain, and, in the dynastic records of the sixth century Sui dynasty, was referred to as "Tai Liuqiu" or "Great Ryukyu" (although, later it was also known as "lesser Ryukyu") (Long 1991:4). In 605 one official was dispatched by the Emperor Yangdi of Sui Dynasty to investigate reports that in clear weather a smoky haze could be seen across the Taiwan strait (Long 1991:4f).

Copper, a historian of Taiwan, states that "in 1517 Portuguese vessels en route to Japan sighted Taiwan and named it "Ilha Formosa" (1990:18). But Proksch, another historian, maintains that the Portuguese sailors named the island "Ilha Formosa" in 1590 and the name "Formosa" was since introduced to the Western world (1984:13). However, the exact date is not vital, because the Portuguese did not lay claim to the island, nor did they try to colonise it. Besides, the name "Ilha Formosa" only means "beautiful island" in Portuguese language and the sailors could have dubbed many islands "Ilha Formosa", when they saw beautiful islands on their voyages.

Ironically, even though the island was only 100 miles away from the Chinese world, it was not until the Ming Dynasty (1368- 1644) that its exact location was known by them and the name Taiwan used by Han Chinese (Baity 1975:16; Copper 1990:18). Like Copper (1990:1), many historians do not know the origin of the name "Taiwan" which literally means "terraced bay". However, benefiting from his long-term field study in Taiwan, Schipper (1977:771) considered that:

The name Taiwan is derived from Tayuan, an early name of a little island not far from the coast of Formosa on which the Dutch built their first and most important stronghold. Named An-p'ing after the victory of Koxinga in 1662, the former island is now a suburb of Tainan City, as the water strip separating the two has long since silted up.

Taiwan is densely populated by approximately 22 million people and is occupied by two main ethnic groups, namely, about 2 percent of the indigenous group and 98 percent of Han-Chinese group (cf. Lamley 1977; Gates 1981; Herz 1986; Chiu 1987; Chuang Ying-chang 1988; Pan Ing-hai 1989; Copper 1990; Long 1991). According to some records, before the Dutch arrived in Taiwan in 1624, a few Han-Chinese had already lived in various aborigine villages in the area around present-day Tainan and traded in rice and salt. Some of them married indigenous women but were not stable residents (i.e. none of them were farmers) of the aboriginal community (Chen Chi-lu 1972:121; Allan 1979:2; Chuang Ying-chang 1987:181).

The Han-Chinese are not themselves homogeneous in any sense. In the past few millennia, the Han-Chinese have assimilated different heterogeneous elements to become the greater Han- Chinese people. Further developing after the Han Dynasty, the Han-Chinese have extended their sphere to cover almost the whole area of China (Chen Chi-lu 1972:119).

In Taiwan today, the Han-Chinese can be divided into three groups (Mandarin speaking Chinese, Hollo speaking Chinese, and Hakka speaking Chinese) according to the difference of language each group speaks (cf. Lamley 1981:283).(note.8) The Mandarin speaking Chinese are those who migrated into Taiwan after World War II and their Taiwan-born offspring. This group comprises 13% of the population in Taiwan. Because most of them are people in public service and soldiers who were forced to leave China by Chinese Communists and who took refuge on the island in 1949, many still identify themselves as Chinese and not Taiwanese. (note.9)

Hakka (literally, "Guests") speaking people include 13% of the whole of the population in Taiwan. Some scholars point out that the Hakka people originated in the area called "Zhongyuan" (the area south of the Yellow River, north of the Yangtze River, west of the Huai River and east of the Han River) and migrated in a southerly direction (Copper 1990; Long 1991:14). A total of five major southward migrations were interspersed with numerous smaller moves. The fifth-century invasion of China by northern tribes instigated the first major migration. During the reigns of Kangxi (1662-1722), Qianlong (1736-1795) and Jiaqing (1796-1820) in the Qing Dynasty the fourth major Hakka movement, from Guangdong to Taiwan, occurred. One reason for this last migratory move was population pressure in Guangdong Province. A second reason was the Manchu invasion of China. The Hakka People resisted the Manchu Government but were defeated. As a result, only with the reign of the second Qing Emperor Kangxi were they allowed to hold jobs in the civil service. They could not own land. These tough conditions left many Hakka people with no choice but to migrate to the Pescadores, then on to southern Taiwan (Long 1991:14). The reasons for migration to Taiwan changed after the Qing Government brought Taiwan under Chinese rule, when many migrated to Taiwan because of better economic opportunities (cf. Chuang Ying-chang 1988:169f).

The culture and customs of the Hakka People, who are probably the earliest Han-Chinese to emigrate to Taiwan (Long 1991:14), were unique. Because the Hakka were long persecuted and isolated in China, they developed a strong self-identity, a quality they have retained in Taiwan. Although they are all classified as Han-Chinese, the social customs and mores of the Hakka still differ from those of either Hollo speaking people or the Mandarin speaking Chinese. In Chapter Seven, I attribute one of the reasons that most of the Hakka people do not get involved in the "Everybody Happy Lottery", the most prevalent illicit gambling, to their cultural difference. However, they consider themselves Taiwanese because they, like their forebears, were born in Taiwan (cf. Copper 1990:37).

The principal ethnic group in Taiwan is Hollo speaking Chinese who include approximately 72% of the population.(note.10) During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), they came from Fujian Province, directly across the Taiwan Strait, and migrated to Taiwan. The fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644 brought a major wave of migration from Fujian Province to Taiwan, pushing some of the Hakkas inland while inhabiting most of the western plain (Copper 1990:8). Nowadays, though still officially less powerful than the Mandarin speaking Chinese, Hollo speaking Chinese dominate many sectors of the business community. They also control the farming sectors of the economy, as well as the local politics in most of the country (Copper 1990:9). Consequently, they also call themselves Taiwanese.

Therefore, in the thesis the term "Taiwanese" is used to designate persons of Han Chinese ethnicity whose forebears settled the land prior to the end of World War II and who identified themselves as "Taiwanese".

Historical Development of Taiwan:

Because Mandarin has been the only official language in Taiwan since Mandarin speaking Chinese took refuge on the island after World War II, most people have been raised and educated speaking more than one language, Taiwan's population may be said to be bilingual or trilingual. Owing to ethnic differences and historical changes, the religions of Taiwan can best be described in terms of their historical development, which can be divided into seven major periods: (1) the pre Dutch period, before 1622, (2) the period of Dutch and Spanish rule, 1622-1661, (3) the period of Koxinga, (4) Manchu rule, 1661-1895, (5) the period of Japanese rule, 1895-1945, (6) the post-war period (cf. Chiu 1987:252).

Although the island is only 100 miles away from China, Han- Chinese were not original inhabitants. Prior to the seventeenth century, Taiwan was sparsely occupied by a few tribes of aborigines who are considered to be of Indonesian or Malayan origin and who migrated from Indochina and the Philippines in prehistoric times, even though we still cannot be sure whether they were the first settlers or not (cf. Diamond 1969:2; Proksch 1984:13; Chuang Ying-chang 1987:183; Wu Lien-chin 1987:111; Copper 1990:7-12). It has been hypothesised that during Neolithic times (c. 3000-2000 BCE.), Oceanic Negroids brought in horticulture from Southeast Asia, followed by Mongoloids with millet from northern China, and Indochinese with Bronze age culture. About 300 BCE a Megalithic and Iron Age culture was introduced by peoples from the Philippines to this nearby island (Chiu 1987:252). However, pottery excavated in northern Taiwan shows a marked resemblance to that of mainland China, leading others to maintain that the first settlers came from China as early as one thousand years before the Christian era (Proksch 1984:13).(note.11)

The descendants of these ethnic groups are now restricted mainly to the infertile regions and are known collectively as the indigenous peoples. They are traditionally divided into two groups, the Mountainous Tribes and the Plain Tribes. The Mountainous Tribes are Taiyal, Saisiat, Banun, Tsou, Rukai, Paiwan, Puyuma, Ami, and Yami. The Plain Tribes are Siraya, Bazay, Gavalan, and Kitagalan etc. Certain distinguished Western ethnologists have argued that some indigenous tribes were "Lonkius", the descendants of a people who had fled the cold north and settled in the Kurile archipelago to the north of Japan, through Japan and the Ryukyu chain, and south as far as Formosa (cf. Long 1991:3).

For some Chinese ethnologists, however, the "Lonkius" are a mainland Chinese people. They are said to have reached Taiwan as early as 1700 BCE, as a shortage of agricultural land under the Shang Dynasty led primitive tribesmen eastward from present-day Guizhou Province, in south-western central China, and finally sent them across the straits in the search of new land to farm. In support of this theory, historians have pointed to a Taiyal tribal myth that the tribe is the result of a union between a princess and a dog. In southern China, the Miao people, an aboriginal group in Guizhou were said also to worship the image of a dog as the founder of their tribe (Long 1991:3). Even if this tenuous link is taken as evidence for a historical connection, I must say, this does not alter the view that Taiwan's early historical ties to China were not close: The Miao people are not Chinese, nor did they speak a Chinese language at the time of a possible migration to Taiwan. However, a possible Miao connection does link Taiwan to China more closely geographically (Copper 1990:17).

The other tribes of early inhabitants are of less controversial ancestry. Their languages and customs have much in common with those of early Malay and Filipino peoples, and they are of Malayo-Polynesian ethnic stock and reached Taiwan by way of the Philippines. It seems that for some centuries, the Malays and the Lonkius coexisted at different extremities of the island in mutual ignorance of the other's presence (Long 1991:3f). Then in the seventh century after Christ, the Malays moved northwards, gradually extending their settlements over much of the island, and forcing the Taiyals into the foothills of the northern end of the central highlands.

In spite of this, little is known about the indigenous tribes prior to a few centuries ago because they did not keep written records. Nevertheless, it has been established that the aboriginal population was evenly distributed throughout the island and that they made their livelihood by fishing, hunting, and some shifting agriculture. Land was owned in common; the political and social systems were tribal (Copper 1990:17).

The indigenous tribes have a very rich collection of myths, legends, and genealogies. Myths of creation, the origin of man, celestial phenomena, gods and spirits, culture heroes, and sacred animals are popular among all the tribes. Many myths have etiological motifs identifying the sacred origins of cultural events and ritual actions (Chiu 1987:252).

Besides these myths, fairly extensive legends and genealogies of tribal history and geography have been preserved. Rites of passage are common to all tribes and are normally observed by all members of the society. Communal rites of opening up the land, sowing and planting, weeding and purification, picking the first crop, harvest, and thanksgiving are observed by all the tribes. Rites of animal hunting and head-hunting are conducted on special occasions. During the rituals, myths are recited and mythic events are reenacted to strengthen the people's sense of identity and harmony with their environment (Baity 1975:27; Chiu 1987:252). Some archaeological results prove that they worshipped stones which symbolised genitalia. All in all these peoples were very much outside the cultural and religious orbit of central China (Herz 1986:19). They were able to maintain their own traditional culture and religion intact until the arrival of the Dutch, Spaniards, and Chinese in the seventeenth century.

Dutch Colony:

In 1622, led by Kornelis Peyersoon, the Dutch came to the Pescadores (small islands situated between Taiwan and China) but were driven away in 1624. However, the Chinese Ming Government allowed them to stay in Taiwan. Thus the Dutch built Fort Orange, later called Fort Zeelandia, at Tayouan (now Anping District) and Fort Providentia at Saccam (now Tainan) on the southwestern coast of Taiwan and became the temporary rulers of the island (Chen Chi-lu 1972:120). The mercantilistic Dutch traders ruled by the Dutch East India Company encouraged Chinese immigration into Taiwan to work as labourers and to produce sugar for export and rice for local consumption (Wu Lien-chin 1987:111). As it was recorded in the Batavia Diary (April 2, 1631), the Dutch East India Company even sent her own ships to transport Chinese labourers to Taiwan (Chen Chi-lu 1972:121). Due to this type of encouragement, the Chinese population in Taiwan increased constantly. They had already exceeded several tens of thousands by the middle of the seventeenth century (Chen Chi-lu 1972:122).(note.12)

As the Chinese population increased, they began to form their own communities and practise the traditional Chinese religions of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism as well as the Chinese popular religion (Chiu 1987:253). In the meantime, the Plain Tribes, who lived on the western coastal plains, were conciliatory to the Dutch and to their Christian missions. Many of them accepted Christianity (i.e. the Dutch Reformed Church), and others were influenced by Chinese religions. The chief Plain Tribes nearby were the Siraya (Sydeyan), although it seems that as many as five distinct linguistic groups were ministered to as a few fragments of the devotional works prepared by the Dutch missionaries in the languages still remain today (Herz 1986:19).

On April 31, 1661, a Ming Dynasty loyalist resisting the Qing Dynasty, Admiral Zheng Chenggong - known as Koxinga in Western languages - led the main body of his forces from Jinmen (Quemoy) to Taiwan. On Feb. 1, 1662, Fort Zeelandia was surrendered to him. This brought the Dutch colony and its missionary work to an end (Herz 1986:27). Thus, as no native ministers had been trained, the Siraya Christian Church was left without pastoral oversight for more than two centuries. Indeed, it all but ceased to exist, though a romanised catechism in the Siraya language remains (Herz 1986:27). Eventually, most Plain peoples came to adopt Chinese habits of speech, dress, religion, and social custom following Koxinga's conquest of the island (Herz 1986:20). (note.13)

The most distinctive survival of Sirayan religious practice is the worship known generically as the Worship of A-lip. This is a cult of sacred jars, today usually of Chinese manufacture, among the Siraya, a cult related to certain others in Borneo and the Philippines (Herz 1986:19f). Among the highly sinicised descendants of the Siraya, the jar cult is still followed by non- Christians today. An account tells us that in preparation for the imposing and the lifting of the "Xiang" (i.e. a spirit), a human head was to be taken to please the gods. Under pressure from the Qing Government to cease head-hunting, the Siraya substituted the skulls of wild boar and deer.

Moreover, some scholars argue that the jars are of genital symbolism. Their argument is based on the unique altar of the A- lip temple at Beitouyany. No skulls are hung at this altar; rather the vases are joined on the raised altar by cylindrically shaped stones which they readily interpret as phallic in contrast to the pregnant jars (Shepherd 1984:39).

To the east and south, respectively, of the Siraya are the Paiwan and Rukai Mountain Aborigines. Among these groups jars have a great deal of religious significance (Shepherd 1984:38). The jars played a similarly prominent role among the traditional Siraya which our sources fail to describe (Shepherd 1984:39).

Koxinga Dynasty:

Koxinga, son of a Japanese mother and a Chinese pirate father (Proksch 1984:14), made a last-ditch stand in south China against the invading Manchu armies. He retreated to the Pescadores and Taiwan where he laid siege to the Dutch forts. He expelled the Dutch and changed the name of the island to Taiwan and made Tainan the capital. Soon massive Chinese migrations to Taiwan from the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong began, although the Chinese emigration to Taiwan had started before that time.

Koxinga laid the foundations for the establishment of Chinese society in Taiwan. After his arrival in Taiwan, the Chinese population increased very rapidly. His soldier-farmer policy along with the adequate system designed by the Dutch, on which all subsequent Chinese administration was based, established the principal foundations of Chinese success in opening up new territory, and the immigrants gradually spread out over the flat area which was most suitable for intensive farming. As their towns and cities grew in number, they also built many shrines, temples, and monasteries to house the gods they brought with them from mainland China. Often the temples became the centres of Chinese communities (cf. Chuang Ying-chang 1987:182). Besides, the pioneering farmers built shrines of the Land God to protect their agriculture and against demons and aborigines.

But the Koxinga family controlled Taiwan for only 22 years (1661-1683). Just one short year after Koxinga drove the Dutch from Taiwan he fell ill and died. The Qing Government made repeated attempts to crush the rebels, and the Dynasty which he had established ended when his grandson surrendered the island to the Qing Government in 1683. From that time on China obtained dominion over Taiwan (Proksch 1984:14f).

Qing Dynasty:

As part of China, Taiwan began to attract not only peasants and fishermen, but all classes of Chinese including scholars who came seeking a less restrictive intellectual atmosphere (Proksch 1984:15). Little by little, they displaced indigenous tribes from the lowlands, and pushed them further into the mountains. Steady emigration from China raised the population of Taiwan from a few thousand in 1600 to more than two million by 1895 (Wu Lien-chin 1987:112) and Chinese popular religion, which will be our main concern in the following chapters, for the first time became the dominant religion in the island.

Taiwan was still a marginal part of China, so the development of the island was not a high priority for the government. The new government's control of Taiwan produced few improvements (Copper 1990:75). For example, though in 1884 Peking reorganised its political administration in Taiwan, appointing Liu Mingchuan, a very capable official, as governor, and two years later made Taiwan a province, as late as 1871, when some Japanese castaways were killed by tribesmen in Taiwan, China's government felt justified in disclaiming authority over all but Taiwan's western seaboard (Long 1991:14). After China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War in 1894, China ceded Taiwan and the Pescadores to Japan in perpetuity as a prize under the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.

Japanese Colony:

Taiwan's modern economic development began in the early part of this century, soon after it became a Japanese colony. The Japanese colonial government, intending to make Taiwan a stepping stone in its advance toward Southeast Asia, promoted Japanese education and industries in Taiwan. Besides this, the Japanese introduced Shinto religion and Japanese Buddhism into Taiwan, and the indigenous tribes and Taiwanese natives were forced to take part in Shinto worship. 63 grand shrines and 116 local shrines were built by the government all over the island (cf. Chiu 1987:254). Meanwhile, the leaders of traditional Chinese religions suffered oppression, and many temples were closed by the government.

Japanese control over the island came to an abrupt end at the conclusion of the Second World War. The Japanese colonial government surrendered Taiwan, and with American support China again took possession in 1945. Thus Shinto Religion also ended on the island. However, the influences of Japanese Buddhism are still visible in Taiwan.

Nationalist Government and its Religious Attitudes:

In 1949, when the Chinese Communists defeated the Nationalist armies on the mainland and assumed control of China, the Nationalist Government soon established its capital in Taipei and a new wave of nearly two million immigrants arrived in Taiwan with the Government. Because they hailed from various parts of China, they were generally known as mainlanders, or "Waishengren" ("outside province people").(note.14) Although being immigrants and a minority, they hold the majority of positions in the top ranks of the national government, in the education and academic systems, and in the military (Copper 1990:9).

In the meantime, because of the Chinese Communist Government's hostility to religion, many religious leaders were among those who took refuge in Taiwan. These included Kong Decheng, a descendant of Confucius; Ven. Yinshun, an eminent Buddhist abbot; the Thirty-seventh Heavenly Master of Taoism; Lama Kangyurwa Hutukhtu, the nineteenth reincarnation of the Living Buddha of Kangyur monastery; and Archbishop Joseph Kuo and Cardinal Tian of the Roman Catholic Church. Altogether about twenty thousand Muslims and innumerable Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, Taoists, and Confucians came to Taiwan, turning this island into a rich showcase of world religions (Chiu 1987:254).

A statistical report of Taiwan (Grichting 1971; qtd. in Wu Lien-chin 1987:105f) shows that between 40.8 and 46.2 % of the total population identifies itself as Buddhist. Between 35.9 and 41.3 % identifies itself as belonging to Chinese popular religion. Between 8.3 and 11.5 % claims no religious affiliation. 2.5 and 4.1 % identifies itself as Protestant, and 1.9 and 3.3 % as Catholic. Around 1 % of the total population identifies itself as Taoist,(note.15) and around 1 % as Confucian.

The religious attitudes of the Nationalist Government can be seen in textbooks used during the nine-year national compulsory education. These textbooks are standardised for the whole country by the Ministry of Education and must be used by all schools in Taiwan, even private ones, such as Catholic and Buddhist schools. The contents of the textbooks obviously represent the official viewpoint and also play the most powerful role in the education system. The nine-year textbooks have been properly analyzed in an article by Jeffrey Meyer (1987:45-50). In the following I only summarise this paper to show what the religious attitudes have been taught in/by them.

To the viewpoint of the textbooks, the "true" religions are those that support the social order, public opinion, morality and law, and there are therefore viewed as valuable (Meyer 1987:46). "The teachings of religion all stress avoiding evil and doing good, cherishing universal love. Pious believers generally speaking rarely offend against social order" says one of the textbooks (Meyer 1987:47).

In the textbooks, the Confucian tradition, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity are presented as positive religious traditions. The Taoist and Buddhist contributions to Neo-Confucianism are acknowledged, as is the latter's interest in the method of cultivating the inner mind of the individual.

The textbooks suggest that some religions do preserve important values, especially in upholding morality and public order (Meyer 1987:50). However, many religious practices such as Taoism alchemy and elaborate Baibai (i.e. traditional Chinese popular religious festival) are wasteful and superstitious, and ought to be discarded. Yet the teachings of true religions all stress avoiding evil, doing good, and cherishing universal love. One who follows the principle of these teachings will thus find they are good for one's personal interior life. On the contrary, with its institutional structure and vast canon, the religious Taoism would seem to qualify as a true religion, but because of some of its practices and since it does not have a clear-cut moral code, the textbooks consider it "superstitious" (Meyer 1987:47-8).

There is obviously no sense of the human being as homo religiosus in the textbooks. There is no sense of the transcendent element in the various expressions of religion presented, so it can be said that the understanding of religion conveyed by the textbooks is certainly rationalised and secularised. The textbooks do not think this infringes on the religious rights of Buddhists, Christians, etc., nor that it conflicts with the principle of separation of religion and state (Meyer 1987:47).

In brief, the overall impression of religion which the textbooks give would be something like this: religion is a part of the history of China and other great world cultures. The real religion is clearly one of the great traditions institutionalised, possessing a corpus of sacred writings and a clear moral code. Thus it is the foundation for all moral training in the school system, and on occasion they allude to a basic unity of these great religions, although this point is not made definitely clear (Meyer 1987:46).

As a result, most of the educated and even some researchers on religions have considered the popular religious traditions (or even religious practice in general) as a "social problem" and "superstition" in need of "improvement" or even "abandonment", echoing official concerns about the rationalization and institutionalization of religious practice (cf. Cohen 1987:293; Jordan 1994:137).

Popular Religion in Taiwan:

As far as Chinese popular religion in Taiwan is concerned, most believers often have little notion of what religion they practise. They merely say that they are "worshipping (baibai)" or "worshipping the deities (baishen)". If asked the name of their religion, people sometimes give an easy (and high-status) answer and identify the religion as "Buddhism" or "Taoism", even though the temple where they worship may not have any Buddhist statue in it and they may not know any Taoist deities (cf. Harrell 1977:56; Proksch 1984:19).

Actually, one of the characteristics of Chinese popular religion is its de-emphasis of the religious boundaries between various faiths, that is "syncretism". Popular deities come from a wide variety of sources. Some deities are found in Taoism or Buddhism, some are historical personalities, while still others are even the heroes of classical pseudo-historical fiction (Tsai Wen-hui 1979:26; Cohen 1987:289). Thus, the religion comprises elements from ancestor worship and the cult of the dead, from nature worship, local cults, popular Taoism, popular Buddhism, and Confucianism.

There is no single sacred text or set of documents that contains all the basic beliefs, doctrines, and values. These basic ideas must be sought instead in many different places and forms: in sacred books, votive art, rites, temple murals, family worship, myths, exemplar tales, popular theatre, puppet shows, fiction (Feuchtwang 1974b:124; Cohen 1987:289), comic books, and television series in Taiwan today (cf. Sangren 1993:8).(note.16)

When scholars describe the religion in English, it is named "popular religion" (e.g. Smith (1899) 1969; DeGlopper 1974; Feuchtwang 1977; Cohen 1987:289), "peasant religion" (e.g. Granet (1922) 1975), "diffused religion" (e.g. Yang 1961), "folk religion" (e.g. Berkowits et al. 1969; Grichting 1971; Jordan 1972; Harrell 1977), "Chinese religion" (e.g. Freedman 1974), "local religion" (e.g. Sangren 1988) or even "local cults" (e.g. Katz 1992). In brief, there is no consensus for the naming of the religion among scholars (cf. Wu Lien-chin 1987:104).

In fact, since Robert Redfield (1956; qtd. in Sangren 1984:1) introduced the terms "great tradition and little tradition", debate over their formulation and utility has constituted an important arena for competing conceptualizations of society and culture, especially in South and Southeast Asia (Bell 1989). Today, many scholars would probably agree that dichotomies such as great tradition/little tradition(s), urban/rural, and elite/folk greatly oversimplify complex historical spatial patterns of cultural interaction (Bell 1989).

In order to avoid these dichotomies, Katz (1992) uses the term "local cults" to represent the religion he researches, which excludes organised religions like Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam. This also excludes systematicised religions such as sectarianism and Confucianism. Similarly, Sangren (1988) uses the term "local religion" to mean the institutions of local territorial-cult ritual. In short, the terminological choices directly reflect the various viewpoints on this religion (cf. Bell 1989:41).

However, I try not to use the term "local cults" or "local religion" because even though the specifics of ritual and particular spirits chosen as objects of worship or propitiation may vary widely from locality to locality within the Chinese world, people share, at least, some general religious ideas. For example, A.P. Wolf's description of the tripartite division of the supernatural into gods, ghosts, and ancestors seems nearly universally applicable (cf. Sangren 1984:6). Generally speaking, people believe that three types of beings inhabit the supernatural world. Deities are those in a supernatural bureaucracy headed by the Jade Emperor. Ancestors are the spirits of each household's own agnatic forbears and their wives. Ghosts are those who died by violence or without descendants and without virtuous deeds to their credit (Wolf 1974). Human beings burn incense and present offerings and spirit money: to beseech deities for help and protection, sustain their ancestors in the next existence, and propitiate potentially malicious ghosts (Harrell 1977:56).

In this thesis, I shall use the term "popular religion" to indicate the religion on which I did my field research.(note.17) It is a religion in which both local leaders and common people participate, no matter whether they believe the deities or not. Local leaders (difang touren) are traditional upper middle class such as politicians, entrepreneurs, and others. They usually act as temple building initiators, organisers, or founders. In this thesis, they play important roles in soliciting to sponsor deities' festivals, in narrating temple history, and in promulgating the Almanac etc.

Local leaders are usually well educated by Chinese ruling ideologies associated with Confucianism. Therefore, they are more rationalised and secularised, if not agnostical and sceptical (Creel 1935; Watson 1985; Meyer 1987:49).(note.18) However, common people need local leaders to sponsor and manage temple affairs such as birthday festival, temple construction, or pilgrimage. These leaders are zealous to spend money and time on these affairs as a way of gaining status. Therefore, they serve as channels to let the ruling ideologies reach downward and let common people's culture penetrate upward (cf. Bell 1989:49-50).

Common people are those who often have a limited notion about whom they are worshipping (cf. Jordan 1985:103). However, they come to offer incense and clean the environment of the temple regularly. They also donate money to the temple, even though in small amount. Common people partly accept the authority of local leaders, but have their own authorities to follow. We will see these authorities in the following chapters.(note.19)

The Constitution of the People's Republic of China permits the practice of "religions" such as Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, while the Chinese popular religion is regarded as "feudal" and as "superstition." Therefore, until the 1980s, when there was some limited relaxation of government suppression, it was not practised publicly, and most of the local temples were converted into public buildings such as government offices, museums, or schools. Thus, the present-tense descriptions of the popular religion in this thesis refer to China Mainland before 1949 and also to some extent since the 1980s, and to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the overseas areas up to present times and, thus, I will use the field data collected from other Chinese areas by other scholars for reference of the studies of the divine stones and trees in Taiwan.

Popular Temples:

In Taiwan, a deity may be housed and worshipped at a family altar. However, there is often an impetus for the construction of a temple to house the deity both for the convenience of the public and as an indication that the deity truly belongs to the community and not to some private family (Baity 1975:284f). A temple is a deity's "home" and "office" and therefore is often called a "palace" ("gong" or "miao"); it can range in size from a tiny roadside shrine to an enormous complex of buildings covering several acres. When the temple develops, several deities will be housed together and these are freely accessible to the general public for worship, prayer, festival, and requesting favours of the gods (Wu Lien-chin 1987:122).

In almost every part of Taiwan, local temples stand out from their drab surroundings in bursts of polychromatic splendour. In villages, the largest and most impressive buildings are often temples (Wu Lien-chin 1987:121). If a community has no public temple, outsiders might think it is because the community is too poor or there was no person of sufficient intelligence in the village to take the initial steps (cf. Smith (1899) 1969:137). But a temple is more than a home for a deity. It is often the centre of community affairs both sacred and secular where people meet and rest while their children play in the courtyard. The courtyard, flat and spacious, is used to dry rice during the harvest season. The temple is also a repository of the community's values: the elaborate decor in the temple is used to teach proper moral and social values to the young. Consequently, a temple is a symbol of its community. It is the centre of community activity and its symbol of unity (Cohen 1987:292); and it is a demonstration of common beliefs and common interests (Yang 1961:96; Diamond 1969:84; Wu Lien-chin 1987:132).

However, most of the temples for the divine stones and trees are too humble to be community centres. Some of them are even difficult for people to find. No matter how humble the physical structure of the shrine is, it nevertheless serves as a place where common people talking and doing something religious will not be explained as superstitious. For this reason, all the divine stones and trees that I selected for field research are those that are located in shrines or temples.(note.20)



I am grateful to my supervisor Dr. Stewart McFarlane for advising me to do so.


For much of the Mandarin Chinese terminology, the author has chosen to use the Pinyin romanization system, because it is clearest and most convenient for me and is becoming more and more widely used by scholars. However, I have kept the Yale or Wade- Giles systems in the quotations cited from other scholars' works.

For romanizing Hollo words and names I follow the system outlined in Nicholas C. Bodman, Spoken Amoy Hokkien (Kuala Lumpur: 1955).


Ling Shun-sheng is the founder of the Institute of Ethnology of Academia Sinica and a late professor of National Taiwan University. In August, 1955, when Academia Sinica set up a preparatory office for the initiation of the Institute of Ethnology, he was appointed as its head to oversee advancement of research. In April, 1965, the Institute of Ethnology was formally founded, with Ling Shun-sheng as its first director. In the same year, he was appointed by the National Council on Science Development as National Research Professor. In July, 1978, Ling passed away. In August, 1985, when the Institute relocated to its new building on the campus of Academia Sinica, it was named "The Ling Shun-sheng Hall" in memory of the founder who was a pioneer Chinese ethnologist.


The five monographs were written in Chinese with English abridgement. Therefore, most quotations cited in the following chapters are translated by me.


I shall develop the argument in the following chapters.


There is a stone, according to my field interview, which is currently worshipped by Han-Chinese as the Stone God (e.g. #S50, see Chapter Five for details) is originally venerated by Taiwan Aboriginals. However, it was not worshipped as "She".


For example, an upright stone of about 50 cm in height (see figure 107) is worshipped on a family altar beside the Tree God of Lam- huin Ward (#T37) and regarded as the Stone God. Since the worship is not open to the public, I exclude the stone from the current field research.


Different languages as used here means that they are mutually unintelligible.


However, although Mandarin speaking Chinese have accents from their provincial dialects, many of their Taiwan-born offspring have been localised and speak Hollo Language.


Hollo is a language spoken in Southern Fujian Province, China.


Here, we should note that at the moment Taiwan's early history has become a political issue. Both R.O.C. (Republic of China) and P.R.C. (People's Republic of China) governments claiming to represent China today maintain that the first settlers came from China and therefore see the island as an inalienable part of Chinese sovereign territory (Long 1991:2f), and disagree with Taiwan independence from China.


In the early seventeenth century the Spanish also settled in Tamsui at the extreme northern tip of the island. While the Europeans appeared to get along peacefully enough with the Chinese settlers, they did not get on well with each other. In 1642 the Dutch succeeded in driving the Spanish from their northern stronghold and began to strengthen their grip on the entire island through the Dutch East India Company (Proksch 1984:15).


In contrast, the tribes that inhabited Taiwan's mountain fastnesses remained beyond central government control until pacified by the Japanese in the early twentieth century (Shepherd 1984:2).


Because most of them still think they will go back to Mainland China and are unwilling to put down new roots in Taiwan, in this thesis I shall call them Mainlanders.


Taoism, owing to its esoteric nature, is identified only with its priests (Wu Lien-chin 1987:107).


This is to say, to a great extent the basic ideas coincide with beliefs and values that pervade Chinese culture as a whole (Cohen 1987:289).


I am aware that my using of the term "popular religion", in this thesis seems to divide Chinese culture neatly into great/little or elite/popular traditions (cf. Sangren 1988:674). However, there is less consensus on what new term ought to replace it. Besides, as we shall see in the following chapters, the religious concern and interpretation of the worshippers of the stone and tree deities can be distinguished from officials and elites. Therefore, I shall apply the term to emphasise this difference.


The report of Stephan Feuchtwang (1992:85) from his field site gives us a good example of local learders' religious attitude. Feuchtwang describes that one of pharmacists on Mountainstreet (i.e. the pseudonym of his field site in Taiwan) told Feuchtwang that he did not make offerings on the day of the greatest of all procession festivals in Mountainstreet, the one which is organised every five years for the visit of a figure of Mazu from one of the Mazu pilgrimage. The festival was a commemoration of the first visit when an image of her was brought to a nearby hamlet to rid its crops off pestilence. The pharmacist said that it was nonsense to believe the goddess could keep the land clear of pestilence. But he organised a feast on the festival, as did every other household because otherwise people would think he was strange or miserly (Feuchtwang 1992:85).


The term "popular religion" is also to distinguish the religion from the "official religion" which was the system of officially sanctioned sacrifices administered by the imperial government. This "official religion" relates complexly to Confucian philosophy, sharing some underlying premises and values with it, but is more theistic in content and practice than "popular religion" (cf. Sangren 1988:674).


The Grandfather of the Ancient Temple of An-lam District (#S40; see figure 42) is an exception. It is located in a family altar instead of a shrine or temple. However, because the worship is open to the public, I did not rule it out from my field research.