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July 23, 2017

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Popular Taipei temple curbs incense burning in green bid

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Xing Tian Temple (行天宮), one of the most popular temples in Taiwan, yesterday announced that from Aug. 26 it will remove its incense burners and offering tables from the temple for environmental protection purposes.

For years the Taoist temple located in downtown Taipei had banned the traditional ritual of burning paper money as an offering to the deities and the spirits of the deceased. The temple yesterday released a press statement, saying that it has been encouraging believers to worship the deities with nothing but their sincere hearts. Xing Tian Temple always supports the execution of environmental protection and resource conservation, the statement said.

After discussing the feasibility of the plan for two years, the decision was made in line with rapid changes in the environment and the escalating global warming issue, the temple said, noting that the decision is a reminder for the public to make better use of resources and to treat all beings with kindness and compassion. Starting from Aug. 26, believers only need to put their palms together and pray with sincerity, the temple said.

However, experts who carry out shoujing (收驚), a traditional ritual, will still hold sticks of incense while practicing the ritual. Shoujing, literally "recovering one's frightened spirits," is a Chinese ritual that is believed to be able to restore a person's spiritual integrity after he or she goes through disturbing experiences. Nowadays the practice is often seen as folk psychotherapy.

The new policy is also applicable to Xing Tian Temple's two other branches in Sanxia of New Taipei City and Beitou of Taipei City.

The temple worships Guan Yu — a deified Han Dynasty general and a main character in the Chinese classic historical novel "Romance of the Three Kingdoms." Guan is also worshiped as the patron of businessmen.

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