Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Exhibit to Showcase Religious Diversity and Tolerance in Taiwan

A Science and Technology exhibition is going to highlight religious diversity and tolerance here on the Beautiful Isle:

The National Science Council (國科會) yesterday introduced a religion component of the upcoming 2006 Science and Technology Expo, which will highlight the diversity of faith and religious tolerance in Taiwan.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, as of June 2001, there were 23,146 temples and churches in Taiwan. Some of the popular faiths practiced in Taiwan include Buddhism, Taosim, folk religion, Christianity, Islam, I-Kuan Dao, and most recently, Falun Gong.

"The fact that these religions can co-exist in Taiwan peacefully is an indication that the Taiwanese people have a high tolerance for different faiths," said Lin Mei-rong, a researcher at Academia Sinica's (中央研究院) Institute of Ethnology.

She noted that Taiwan has a history of religious openness and has always maintained a high acceptance and regard for individuals' freedom of worship, a constitutional right under the country's laws.

"It is typical in Taiwan to find that in family of six, members observe four different religions," Lin said. "Many families in Taiwan are like mini United Nations of religious beliefs."

On any given day, one can find some sort of religious festival or celebration in Taiwan, she added.

Paul Katz, a modern Chinese historian also from Academia Sinica, explained that unlike the West, the Chinese have not had many conflicts among the various religious sects because they historically separated religion from state affairs.

That last statement doesn't make any sense to me. The reason Chinese don't have religious conflict is that none of their major religions is exclusivist -- none believes that it is the sole and only true religion, and none seeks to stamp all others out. I think the way it is written it is not clear: perhaps he means that historically in China State political decisions have not been religiously-driven. Whatever the case, the fun starts at the end of July:

The display on the various religion in Taiwan is one of the many sections that will be featured at the two-month event entitled "Biodiversity in Taiwan: Unity Through Differences," at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall starting July 28.

Visitors to the exhibition can also expect other multi-media presentations on topics such as the various languages spoken in the country, Taiwan's flora, fauna, and marine life, the unique geographical attributes of the island.

Taiwan's tolerance -- or indifference, take your pick -- is one of the great things about living on the Beautiful Island.


Wulingren said...

I'm glad you caught this; I had written the story today at work, but it didn't get included in the newscast.

I would be surprised if Katz really said Chinese religions didn't get involved in state affairs; I would argue that there was little distinction throughout Chinese history, especially the earlier back you go. I mean the emperor was viewed as the Son of Heaven and his role in society had both what we would call religious and political manifestations. Chinese religion was, and still is, infused with political metaphors and Chinese politics tended to harness religious symbols for purposes of legitimation.

That said, there was a fluidity for the average person in Taiwan and throughout the Chinese universe (or multiverses), between different religious denominations, represented by various divinities. This was not necessarily the case for the elite, including officials, Buddhist monks, and Daoist priests.

Michael Turton said...

Yeah, that was my first thought: the Emperor as preserver of the Order through his carrying out of the divine rites and sacrifices. State and religion were inextricably intertwined. So I think he has simply been misinterpreted here.


Wulingren said...


Karl said...

Cue for Maoman to show up and argue that all this religious tolerance and diversity in Taiwan stems from a lack of religious eduction.

So let's all study religion more, and start hatin'.

V said...

Besides exercising your mind and finding friendship among fellow bloggers, do you feel that your blog performs a public service? If so, who is the public and how are you serving them? Just curious. Thx

Fred said...


First, I want to apologize for not leaving lauds to you a long time ago. I read your blog daily..Haha, even when you don't write something new. When you wrote the column on children without helmets, I immediately began teaching about it in my English classes. I also mentioned your blog to my students. I don't know you personally but I do admire you and hope that if I meet you on the streets that I will be one foreigner who says "Hello" and smiles. I do this often but like you..well, we know what happens. Anyway, enough rambling..Could you please tell us where the exhibit will be...By the way, you daughter's blog is great also. I have posted a comment there.

God bless Taiwan, God bless America, God bless us all..whatever god that may be..

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, Fred! The article says the exhibition is at CKS Memorial Hall in Taipei.


That's an interesting question. I'll have to think more on it.


Badhummus said...

Well, in response to V’s comment, this frequent visitor can immediately think of three benefits The View from Taiwan provides.

1. I’ve learned a lot from your thoughtful and frequent commentary on current events in Taiwan.

2. I used Tuesday’s DuanBeiS(h)an joke to break the ice with an attractive young lady last night. If that ain’t public service, I don’t know what is.

3. The following sentence had me giggling all day: “The way things are at the moment, Ma could rape a sheep at rush hour on the steps of the Presidential Palace, and emerge unscathed: the largely pro-Blue media would blame the sheep for walking around without any clothes on, and Chiu Yi would accuse it of being involved in an illegal deal for shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Corporation.”

Your blog is more than valuable—it’s essential!

v said...

So for bad hummus, this blog is basically entertainment. Political commentary blogs in the US are entertainment, too, to people who find politics stimulating/funny. Others hope that political commentary blogs can have a more concrete purpose- influencing the electorate/organizing to get candidates elected, etc. In Taiwan, the English blogs can't do this. When I lived in Taiwan, I worked in the Taiwan EPA as an yingwen mishu and found out that KMT-owned companies were the biggest polluters on the island. That inspired me to work with like-minded foreigners and Taiwanese to form an environmental group that put out a bilingual pamphlet on environmental issues specific to Taiwan. I believe we did 2 issues before the expat founder of the group kicked out the foreigners since we were doing most of the work and she wanted more local control. I ultimately decided that since I had an American passport and an easy ticket out of Taiwan, that I should only be active on Taiwan's behalf by working on the American end of the problem. I am very involved politically in local politics in my town/county, but I have become removed from the political scene in Taiwan. It seems to me that it is a waste to be interested in politics only for mental stimulation/laughs. If foreigners can't be activist on behalf of Taiwan, they should play some active role in the politics of their passport countries beyond just voting. Do expats in Taiwan write their representatives back in their home countries about Taiwan issues? How about writing reviews of Taiwan/China themed books on so you could reach a wider audience?

Red A said...

'That last statement doesn't make any sense to me. The reason Chinese don't have religious conflict is that none of their major religions is exclusivist -- none believes that it is the sole and only true religion, and none seeks to stamp all others out.'

May I point out that the Taiping rebellion was a syncretic religious movement and the Boxer rebellion included the killing of Christian missionaries?

Not so tolerant as we think perhaps. and especially if you include the communist revolution in there.