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

The Dianji Temple: Renovation

Whereas both the Qing'an and Chenghuang Temples had Xu Zisang as their manager, a series of members of a local Lin family led the Dianji. They passed the role of temple manager from father (Rongqin) to sons (Guanshi and Dexin). (Xu became a representative on the Dianji's management committee, so he had influence here as well.) In 1921, Lin Guanshi launched the first major renovation of the temple's structures since its establishment. Leaders completed some minor repairs in 1897, but after almost 50 years of operation, the Dianji had fallen into disrepair. After an economic cycle of wartime boom, post-war decline, and subsequent recovery swept Japan's empire during the latter half of the 1910s, the moment arrived to restore the temple. By the time Lin and others finished this project, they had completely transformed the temple , with new front and back buildings and a second floor in the main structure, at the cost of some 40,000 yen. A list of prominent donors—Xu Zisang and the mining magnate Yan Guonian, most notably—highlighted the temple's local importance, and the inscription on the stone tablet erected to mark the finished renovation in 1923 emphasized its attachment to local society:

Calamities cannot invade a place with a bright spirit, and animals will not experience disease. That being the case, the temple’s appearance must be dignified. How can it be only for the sake of admiring it that it is built?

The Dianji Temple was not, however, purely a local institution. Lin Benyuan, a prominent commercial elite of northern Taiwan and a leader of the well-known Lin family of Banqiao, southwest of Taipei, provided the temple with lands that served as its financial foundation. Therefore, the Dianji had material links to other parts of Taiwan, as well as spiritual roots across the Taiwan Strait.

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