The Social Dimension and Cultural Meaning of the Matsu beliefs of Yongjhen Temple in Toufen
This study examines the meaning of the Matsu religious beliefs of Yongjhen Temple located on the border between the different language speaking communities, Hakka and Holo.. Through the field work including: participation in the Matsu pilgrimage towards Beigang, Matsu’s holy birthday celebration and ritual parade, this study explores the social interactions within the community during regular religious events and attempts to find the social and cultural significance from these different vernacular speaking communities’ formation, integration and division. Fujian and Guangdong immigrants had a common place to worship the Goddess Matsu, Cihyu Temple located at Jhonggang, Jhunan Township. Later, due to the battle between Fujian and Guangdong communities, Yongjhen Temple was built at Tianliao Village in Toufen Township in 1853 AD under government proposal. Hereafter, Yongjhen Temple became the focal point for Guangdong immigrants to worship the Goddess Matsu. Through years of historical changes, the spiritual scope of Yongjhen Temple covers 31 villages of Toufen Township. Among the 31 villages, only Lujhunan and Tuniou Villages are Fujian Villages, while the rest are Hakka villages. Hence, this study observed the intentional features of Lujhunan and Tuniou villagers’ participation in the religious events of Yongjhen Temple, in order to investigate the community formation. Field research results indicated that Yongjhen Temple promoted cohesion, a group spirit within all residents through its cultural and religious events, but the community formation remains differentiated. Residents of both Lujhunan and Tuniou Villages participated in the ritual parade for Matsu held on April 8th in Toufen Township. However, these two groups of residents have different intentions regarding Yongjhen Temple’s Matsu holy birthday celebration and Beikang pilgrimage; Lujhunan residents do not participate in these two events, while Tuniou Village residents rarely participated in these two events even though Tuniou Village has a ritual head (lu-jhu) at the Beikang pilgrimage to take charge of raising funds. With people’s subjective division, Yongjhen Temple, whose birth was so closely associated with historical facts, is always bound with the impression of Guangdong immigrants. However, the ritual parade held in the name of Matsu breaks community boundaries. Matsu-related events prompt the interaction between different communities, through which they blur boundaries, enhance the integration of communities, and form a sense of belonging, with a collective intention.
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