Temple of Guang Gong

Among many dissimilarities of Chinese is its religions, or the lack of an original one. The closest to a “native” religion is a form of multi-theist one.

Chinese generally believe all intensive and unique beings that ever existed live forever — a magnificent mountain range, a specular river, a hero who won many battles, a villain who slayed many innocent people, a daughter who sacrificed to save her father, etc. As a matter of fact, anything can be inducted into god-hood by someone erecting a shrine and offering few incenses. Becoming a god, or a spirit, is the easiest thing.

After the induction, the god needs to earn its followers. Typically, a follower offers few incenses and a prayer. If the god responded to the prayer, he or she will “return the favor” — a girl may offer a dance, a merchant may refurbish the temple, a bottle of wine will do, so will bowing three times for gratitude — whatever commensurate.

In Taiwan, two of them have amassed millions of followers. 媽祖 (Ma Zu) is the most popular one. Guano Gong (關公), whom I blogged about as the “red face,” is the other. He is a famous general that died in 219AD. He was known to be brave, loyal, wise, well-read, and good at managing money. If you pay attention, you can find a statuette of Guano in almost all Chinese restaurants.

When you visit Taipei next time, stop by 行天宮 (XingTianGong: Guano Gong's Temple) and feel the power of belief. I saw people kneel walking from the entrance all the way to pray. The are about 30 clergymen doing nothing but interpreting what General Guan's messages. How?

First, introduce yourself and describe the problem to General Guano, with few incenses raised above your head few times. After that, you throw two pieces of wood instruments, provided by the temple freely, to the ground. (See picture. If you can't read the instructions, it is not likely that you will perform this ritual by yourself. Right?) If they show the right combination, he has agreed to answer. You may now fetch a bamboo stick from a bunch. Each stick has a small inscribed number at the end. There is a shelf near-by that has stashes of pre-printed paper for each number.

With the paper clutched in your hand, you come back and do the wood ritual again. If General Guano confirms, the message is the right one. Otherwise, repeat the process.

The confirmed paper answers your question, but the language is usually archaic and vague. You are usually not wise enough to understand. No matter. Go wait in the line for one of the clergy. The interpretation is free.

Just remember to return to thank General Guano later. Thousands do.

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