Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Buddhism in Jilong: The Proselytizing Centers

Leaders of the Buddhist sects moved to Taiwan not simply to provide sacred space for their adherents, but went there to actively find more members among the Japanese settlers and the native community. Monks representing the Sōdō, Pure Land, and Shinshū sects all quickly established proselytizing centers (fukyōsho) in Jilong, with branches across the hinterland, and sought converts with a missionary zeal comparable to that of the thousands of North American and European missionaries then active across East Asia. (These towns are marked on the map on the Sacred Geography and the Everyday page.) In the first four months of 1902, the Sōdō monks held ten public sessions of religious training at its mission stations in and near Jilong; the Shinshū missionaries held sixty-nine sessions for Japanese settlers and sixteen for the Taiwanese; and those from the Pure Land held about a dozen sessions, focusing primarily on the Taiwanese who worked in the gold and coal mines near Jiufen and Jinguashi, east of Jilong. According to a report on these activities filed with the Government General, the Japanese Buddhists sought to “break down the old customs of the islanders” in order to ensure that they “receive the corrective influence bestowed by Buddhist doctrines.”(Wen Guoliang, Taiwan zongdufu, 227-28) As with the reconsecration of existing temples, these proselytizing centers aimed at a spiritual reterritorialization of Taiwan. However, they achieved an uneven rate of success. The first major survey of religion in Taiwan, led by the scholar and bureaucrat Marui Keijirō and published in 1919, noted around four thousand members of these sects among the Japanese settlers, or close to seventy percent of all Japanese in Jilong, but less than fifteen hundred Taiwanese, or under eight percent of the total.

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