TAIPEI (The China Post) – The most commonly seen deity in Taiwan is surely Tudigong, also known as “Lord of the Soil and the Ground,” which, according to a local saying, is present “from one end of the paddy field to the other.” The scope of Tudigong’s authority may vary from region to region though, like at Taipei Shende Temple, where the tutelary deity is considered the guardian of local aviation personnel too.
Located by the runway of Songshan Airport, the temple is over 200 years old. It became part of the restricted area during the construction of Taipei Flight Field (now the Songshan Airport) in 1936 amid the Japanese Occupation. The Tudigong statue and incense burner have remained there ever since, except for a short period of time after they were both stolen. The precious artifacts were later found near the Beishi Lake by a security guard, Chen You-kuan, who was told by the elderly that they were the Tudigong statue and incense burner from the small temple; so, he took them home for worship.
In 1949, the head of the village and some local followers then made donations to build Shende Temple. That was the beginning of an annual worship ceremony attended by residents from 12 neighborhoods in the area. After numerous renovations, the temple now has an endless stream of followers.
We were lucky that day to meet with Shende Temple Manager Liang Hsiu-yu who told BobeeNow how the temple name was coined from the Chinese terms: “shen,” like in “Shennong Dadi” (Lord of the Five Grains), and “de,” like in “Fudezhengshen” (God of prosperity in Chinese mythology).
In the past, the area was completely made of farmland and the farmers prayed to these Gods for a bountiful harvest. This is the reason the temple was named Shende Temple.
Liang added that Shende Temple’s proximity to Songshan Airport has made many aviation workers consider the local Tudigong as their guardian deity. On the first and the 15th days or the 2nd and 16th days of each month in the lunar calendar, staff from the aviation industry stop at Shende Temple to ask Tudigong for protection and safety on their jobs.
Liang further expanded on the history of the temple to BobeeNow. She remarked that Shende Temple did face expropriation from the Civil Aeronautics Administration at one point. Back then, worshippers of Shende Temple from the 12 neighborhoods and other surroundings appealed to the government and other public representatives. The temple’s management also found aerial photos from a few decades ago to prove the historic value of Shende Temple.
Finally, various airlines signed a petition which is the reason Shende Temple was eventually preserved. Liang’s tone turned nostalgic when she said: “One side of my century-old family home was demolished, and the other side was half-demolished in that expropriation plan.” Many people, including Liang, have always wondered whether there was a better way to solve these problems?
This Tudigong has served the residents and worshippers for centuries and because of its unique geographical location, even airplanes in the sky seems to be part of his divine scope. Currently, the stone-made Tudigong statue and incense burner are more than 200 years old so there is little wonder that the temple management takes special care of them. Thanks to Liang, BobeeNow was able to get a close look at these historic artifacts.
By Huang Yen-Sheng | 黃彥昇