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

The Temple Regulation Movement: Consolidation in Jilong

The process of temple restructuring did not move quickly, but in the summer and fall of 1940, all of Jilong's temple managers and other local leaders finally held a series of meetings to discuss their course of action. The sources do not indicate why this happened now, or why it took so long to occur, but we can assume that pressure from colonial officials had mounted to a level that could not be ignored. Their decision echoed the plan proposed by the Customs Assimilation Association back in 1920: they folded their separate institutions into one of their number, the Qing'an Temple, and pooled their resources into a foundation under the management of the city's Japanese mayor. If this was a capitulation to the pressure of the colonial state and Japanese settlers, it was a peculiar one that can be interpreted as a defensive act, one designed to protect some Taiwanese spiritual terrain. Much as they had done with the Joint Deity-Welcoming Festival, Taiwanese social elites closed ranks within their most important religious institution. So long as it continued to exist, and to house all of the main deities enshrined in Jilong's Taiwanese temples, the territorial cults would be preserved. And as it happened, the strategy of superficial submission worked just long enough for external events to ease the pressure: in 1941, with Japan's resources increasingly strained by the expanding war and the American-led embargo, the Government-General halted the Temple Regulation Movement. Not a single temple in Jilong formally closed, and it is unclear if the planned amalgamation ever really took place.

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