Temple Style and Immigrant Identity: Yinshan Temple in Early 19th-century Tamsui
Mon, November 5, 2012 • 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM • DFA 2.204
Yinshan Temple, Tamsui, Taiwan
Dr. Fang-Mei Chen
Professor of the Graduate Institute of Art History
National Taiwan University
Temples in Taiwan have, in recent years, become a research focus for scholars, especially those in the social anthropology and architectural history fields. The ancient people in Taiwan used such natural resources as wood, stone, and earth and transformed them through ingenious techniques and special placement into works of art and, more importantly, into sacred spaces for the gods they worshiped. These temples tell a story between art and religion, the economy, and society—with all sides exerting influence on one another. This lecture addresses this aspect by examining the Yinshan Temple in Tamsui, which is related to the Dingguang faith, a small religion among the Hakka that immigrated to Taiwan from Tingzhou, China during the 18th and 19th centuries.
These immigrants were from the lower rungs of society striving to leave the difficulties which besieged their homeland. These ethnic Chinese people had to face the dangers of sea, including simple ships, dangerous routes, and typhoons. In coming to Taiwan were they able to locate the Utopia or new homeland they were looking for? As the Chinese immigrants gained control of Taiwan, were temples like this one the material testament for Chinese culture in the development of towns and cities in Taiwan? Did the Yinshan Temple reflect the material cultural in the immigrants’ old homeland as they created sacred space in a new place? Or did it represent their response to the new environ, as they made Taiwan their new home?
This lecture will discuss visual and material vestige still preserved in the Yinshan temple and explain its hidden cultural meanings that can be seen through the lens of social art history. The lecture argues that immigrant groups in Taiwan during the 18th and 19th century created art to represent historic memories and values important to them as they became successful in economic matters. Such works can be found in temples scattered throughout Taiwan and are a main source in which Taiwanese art is displayed. In addition, historical sites such as the Yinshan Temple form a tight link between various groups of immigrants to Taiwan and their historic origins which is still maintained through religious and cultural activities.