I think the religious culture is one of the most fascinating aspects of Taiwan. I remember when I first came to Taiwan, not even an hour after I landed, I already stood in amazement in front of a temple. For Westerners, temples are the epitome of Asian culture and when I was back in Germany, I still remember how everyone looked at my photos of the temples and said, „Wow, they are really beautiful!“.
Temples in Taiwan are the religious centers of the faithful and the place of the saints. I still cannot exactly assign what belongs to Buddhism, Daoism traditional folk beliefs, etc., because everything is present in Taiwan. Moreover, it seems that there is also a mix of different faiths in many places, so that each temple has its special characteristics. I think temples are a lot better than churches in Germany. In churches in Germany, I always have a very „cold“ feeling, likely because it is really quite cold there all the time 🙂 Since my childhood, I also remember the church to be a very, very quiet place at all times except the singing of songs and the service, otherwise it is always as quiet as the cicadas in the winter, what strikes me as somehow less inviting.
On the other hand, I think that temples in Taiwan are much more inviting. The ornaments and decorations look much better in comparison to a church, the activities of the people are much livelier and the atmosphere is much more relaxed. I have long wondered why I have such a completely different picture of Taiwan’s temples compared to Germany’s churches and I think I now understand the reason to some extent: In Taiwan, religion is still a thing of everyday life. Of course, most Taiwanese also don’t go to the temple every day to pray, but faith, especially the traditional folk belief is found everywhere. For me, traditional folk beliefs include ancestor veneration, worshipping of gods, numerology, Traditional Chinese Medicine, talismans etc. and even food itself sometimes has to do with traditional folk beliefs (e.g. Tangyuan, Zongzi, Mooncake).
And then there is the „superstition“ about spirits. I personally do not believe in the existence of ghosts, but in Taiwan, I have learned to respect the beliefs of other people. When I came to Taiwan, I always laughed about the kind of „superstition“ of many Taiwanese such as not to go swimming during the ghost month. But with time, and a slowly adjusting understanding of Taiwan’s mentality, I then realized that I absolutely do not have the right to make fun about the faith of others, because I neither can prove the existence nor prove the non-existence of ghosts. Meanwhile, at Ghost Festival, I also go to pray with my colleagues in the company, because it is simply a common thing in Taiwan. In addition, the traditional popular belief has anyway no small impact on my life, since for example my wedding day was determined by the Chinese lunar calendar, the date of moving as well, and in ghost month, I really don’t go to the beach (… because my wife does not want it, haha) and at the Winter Solstice and the Lantern Festival, even I now want to eat Tangyuan and therefore do my best to preserve tradition;)
For me, religion in Taiwan is in many ways fascinating, interesting, exciting and a bit strange. I do not know if I ever will be able to fully understand the different faiths of the Taiwanese people, but I know that in addition to the belief that I have experienced as a child (Christianity), there are many other faiths in the world. Regarding religion in Taiwan, I am convinced that a mixture of religious faiths presents no danger to the particularities of a culture (which, however, was and still is the cause of many wars), but rather can enrich a culture and broaden people’s views.