Cross-Straits Taoists worship ancestors in Wudang Mountain
Published: Apr 27, 2023 10:17 PM

Photo: Zhang Ni/GT

"I would like to extend our warm welcome to the disciples of Xuandi from Taiwan, whom we haven't seen for a long time," said Li Guangfu, president of Chinese Taoist Association.

From April 22 to 23, the cultural seminar themed on "shared love and world harmony" was held in the Wudang Mountain in Shiyan, Central China's Hubei Province, during which the Taoist figures from the Chinese mainland and Taiwan paid respects to ancestors and Xuandi, or the God of the Northern Sky.

More than 200 representatives from over 30 Taoist temples and organizations from Taiwan, and local Taoist associations throughout the Chinese mainland attended the seminar.

"I am really glad to return to the Wudang Mountain for the first time after the pandemic and celebrate Xuandi's birthday together with the mainland Taoists. I am home now!" Wang Shuang Hsiu, vice president of the General Association of Chinese Taoism, told the Global Times. "Our visit is aimed to renew the kinship, friendship and nostalgia across the Taiwan Straits. We hope to bring these feelings back to Taiwan."

Blood ties across Straits never to be broken

The third day of the third lunar month, which fell on April 22, 2023, marks the birthday of the Xuandi. All representatives attended the ceremony of paying respects to Xuandi and praying for blessings in the Wudang Mountain, feeling that blood is thicker than water. At the following seminar, they called for establishing an institutional platform for exchanges and holding regular Taoist activities.

Photo: Zhang Ni/GT

Photo: Zhang Ni/GT

According to Li Guangfu, Xuandi is the main deity of the Wudang Mountain. Taking an important position in Taoism, the culture of Xuandi represents an essential part of the traditional Chinese culture. For over 1,300 years, his beliefs of saving the nation and the people, relieving misery, as well as promoting kindness and punishing evil have been spread from the mountain to other parts of China. At present, Taoist temples worshiping Xuandi have been built in the island of Taiwan and all over the world. According to statistics, there are 600 registered temples of such kind in Taiwan island, and additional 4,700 dedicated to the god's statue.

Lin Ming Hua, vice president of the Taiwan Taoism Association, said that no matter what obstacles there are, the same blood ties will never be broken. The core belief of Taoism is heaven and earth as well as ancestors, so it is very important to teach and inspire believers about this. In order to promote the recognition of the same cultural origin, everyone should work together to promote the traditional Chinese culture.

Zhang Gaocheng, vice president of the Chinese Taoist Association, told the Global Times that this activity has played a prominent role in enhancing cultural exchanges and kinship between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits. "The frequent communications between religious bodies can expand the scope of belief and scale of believers. It may be a simple religious activity in the beginning, but it will gradually become a cultural event."

Frequent contacts bring both sides closer

Over the years, the across-Straits Taoist circles have conducted many friendly exchanges. A few years ago, nearly 200,000 believers in Taiwan came to the Wudang Mountain to worship ancestor around Xuandi's birthday. And the Xuandi's statue from the Wudang Mountain had also been sent to Taiwan for three times, receiving warm welcome by believers.

Liu Chung Yu, executive vice chairman of the Chinese Cross Straits Interchange Association and representative of Kaohsiung Tao-Te-Yuan Temple, still had a fresh memory of the grand ceremony. He said, "It also proves that not only the compatriots but also the gods across the Straits should conduct integrated development, which is true cultural integration." In 2016 and 2018, his temple invited guests from around the world to conduct Taoist exchanges. In 2024, it will invite 1,000 guests to promote the integrated development of Taoism and peaceful development across the Taiwan Straits, he added.

According to Wang, there are 16 million Taoist believers from 70 percent of the total households in Taiwan. Before the pandemic, about 10,000 believers came to worship gods in Taoist temples every year.

Striving for world harmony

As time goes by, Taoism is also faced with a new challenge for its development across the Taiwan Straits and the world at large. "How to have more young people believe in Taoism and carry forward the religion of our Chinese nation requires our joint efforts. We should let them understand the spiritual significance of Taoist gods," said Lo Chien Chih, chairperson of Chiayi Zhen An Gong in Taiwan.

"The Taoist ideas and methods of practice are perfect for the more and more stressful modern society," Karine Martin, chairman of the French Taoist Association, told the Global Times. "Taoism teaches us how to relax and helps us rectify our thoughts. For example, Tao Te Ching, a classic of Taoism, advocates the principles of letting nature take its course and that the supreme good is like water."

Liu Zhongyu said that the Taoist culture not only contributes to the believers' wellbeing, but also to social harmony.