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Prayers can be heard without incense or offerings

Street vendors cried foul at Taipei's Xing Tian Temple (行天宮) on Aug. 26 after visitors were asked to simply put their hands together in prayer instead of burning incense or offering food. The vendors of incense sticks and offerings complained that they may soon be out of business since the temple decided to remove the censer and altar on such short notice. From now on, incense will be burned at the temple only during exorcism rituals, one of the services available there.

As an official from Xing Tian Temple puts it, it doesn't matter if you don't prepare flowers or fruits or if you don't buy incense whenever you visit the temple for worship. “A person with a good heart gives off a natural fragrance of morality, and Enzhugong (恩主公) likes that the best,” he was quoted as saying. And he is right. As long as a worshipper's prayers are said with sincerity, they are more likely to be heard in the heavens, and those who say their prayers will surely be blessed by Enzhugong. This name refers to any deity worshipped at the temple, but Xing Tian Temple is generally associated with Guan Gong, a 3rd-century heroic general-turned-deity and the main god of the temple, which opened in 1968.

The deified Han Dynasty general, who is considered the embodiment of loyalty, righteousness, bravery and benevolence (忠義勇仁) — depicted as the main character in the Chinese classic historical novel “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” — must surely approve of this brave decision to remove incense burners and offering tables. According to the temple's administrators, the decision was reached after winning the approval of the deities through the use of divination blocks last month, but what is clear is that we should also welcome this environmentally friendly initiative that is poised to curb air pollution and the wasting of food.

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