When science meets religion: ancient Hualien Temple gets scientifically studied

Yen Ping Wang Temple (延平王廟) is seen on Jan. 20, 2020. (CNA)
Yen Ping Wang Temple (延平王廟) is seen on Jan. 20, 2020. (CNA)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Built approximately 170 years ago, Yen Ping Wang Temple (延平王廟) is getting its very first scientific examination this year.

As a cultural center of Hualien, the temple has borne witness to decades of ebb and flow of the Pacific Ocean and local communities.

This year, after receiving a NT$980,000 subsidy from the Ministry of Culture’s Bureau of Cultural Heritage (文化資產局), the highest-level government agency in charge of cultural heritage, the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Hualien County launched a pioneering project to find out more about the history of the temple.

A team of academics and scientists will try to uncover the exact years in which fifteen of the renowned god sculptures at the temple were made, including the most famous Yen Ping god.

Folklore has it that the Yen Ping god sculpture was brought to Taiwan in 1851 by Huang A-feng (黃阿鳳).

A god sculpture is on display in Hualien on Jan. 20, 2020. (CNA)
A god sculpture is on display in Hualien on Jan. 20, 2020. (CNA)

The scientific team is led by historian Chuang Yan-yu (莊研育), professor at the Graduate Institute of History and Artefact at Feng Chia University (逢甲大學), Lee Chian-wei (李建緯), and Wu Ching-tai (吳慶泰), researcher at the National Science and Technology Museum.

The result of the examinations will be published by the end of this year, according to Chiang Yao-chen (江躍辰), chief of the Hualien County Cultural Affairs Bureau.

Chiang told reporters that the project will not only find out about the age of the god sculptures but also document the history of more than 200 items in the temple.

This is the first temple in Hualien County to be examined with scientific tools and methods, Chiang said.

According to Lee Chien-shin (李建興), chairman of the Yen Ping Wang Temple, most of the history of the temple and its items has been passed down via orally.

Visitors and even long-time worshippers have no idea which sculpture is the most ancient, Lee said.

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