Major Taipei City temple bans incense burning
Aug 27, 2014

Hsing Tian Kong in Taipei City is set to ban incense burning while not providing tables for offerings from Aug. 26 so as to better protect the environment.

Improving air quality is the main reason for the ban. “If each visitor uses just two sticks, you can imagine how many are burned each year,” temple staffer Lee Chu-hwa said. “Most of the incense is imported and has chemical additives, adding to the problem.”

Attracting 6 million visits per year, the temple is instead encouraging worshipers to use their hands and hearts to show their devotion.

Lee cited the case of a female worshipper in her 70s who would spend about four hours per day at the temple and developed lung cancer. Although there is no proof that the incense smoke caused the illness, the woman had to wear a face mask during subsequent visits. Many staff and worshippers also complained that prolonged exposure was making them feel uncomfortable.

Taipei City Government’s Department of Civil Affairs Commissioner Huang Lu Ching-ju praised temple efforts to modernize methods of worship in line with heightened environmental sensitivities. “When we banned the burning of ghost money, there was resistance at first but no falloff in the number of visitors. People have gradually accepted this way of thinking.”

The removal of the votive tables was likewise primarily motivated by health concerns. In times past devotees would buy rice cakes to leave on the tables, which would then be handed out to the needy. But in recent years recipients had begun to refuse the gifts, as they feared they contained preservatives detrimental to their health.

According to Lee, the number of cakes thrown away ranged from 100 on a typical day to 1,000 on the first and 15th days of each lunar month. “We had to throw so many away that our wrists got sore,” he said.

A Taoist temple devoted to Three Kingdoms-period (220-280) military hero Guan Yu, Hsing Tian Kong was founded in 1967. (SSC-SDH)

Write to Taiwan Today at

SOURCE Taiwan Today