Lin Meirong Bio
In olden times, people would hang a burner for the Heavenly Lord (天公爐) on the light beam and burn incense for him in the morning and evening, making him the first object of worship. When people entered temples to worship, most would first worship at the place for the Heavenly Lord. The place of respect in the hearts of the people for the Heavenly Lord was clear. If people had important things to report to the Heavenly Lord, there were also “ling yuzhi (領玉旨)” and “zhi tiantai (置天臺)” rites.
The Jade Emperor’s birthday is purported to be the ninth day of the first month of the lunar year, popularly known as “Birthday of the Heavenly Lord (天公生).” On this day, early in the morning, many households would set up an altar table (頂下桌) with a top and two lower levels. The top level was covered with six vegetables (六齋), noodles, fruits, cakes, rice balls (圓仔), vegetable bowls (菜碗) and unriped fruit of Piper Linn (荖花) as a sacrifice and decorated with paper lanterns to suit the importance of the Heavenly Lord, and the lower level had offerings of five sacrifices and wine (五牲酒醴) to honor the captain of the army of gods who attends the Heavenly Lord. The whole family in line by age kneeled three times and kowtowed nine times (an ancient rite of utmost respect also expected when meeting the emperor) to honor the Heavenly Lord and wish him long life.
There are private Heavenly Lord associations (天公會, Tiangong hui ) that gather members to set up incense burners for the Heavenly Lord, and the most famous are the Deity worship associations (神明會, Shengming hui) in Changhua’s Lugang (彰化鹿港) township on Jinhexing street (金和興街) and Jinchangxing street (金長興街). The Heavenly Lord is incorporeal and without an image, and at Changhua Fenyuan (芬園) Jiujiaotou (九角頭) on the 9th day of the first lunar month, at the time of “inviting the Heavenly Lord (迎天公),” there is no image of him. He is represented by a shrine (神龕), a situation rarely seen across Taiwan.
Taiwan’s important temples for the Heavenly Lord include Tainan’s Tiantan Tiangong Temple (臺南首廟天壇), Tainan’s Kaiji Jade Emperor Temple (開基玉皇宮), Changhua’s Yuqing Guan (彰化玉清觀), Kaohsiung’s Fengshan Tiangong Temple (高雄鳳山天公廟), Yilan’s Dali Qingyun Temple (宜蘭大里慶雲宮), Yilan’s Caohu Yuzun Temple (草湖玉尊宮), etc. Compared with temples honoring other gods, the Heavenly Lord has fewer, primarily because most typical temples are local public temples. Because the Heavenly Lord is above all other gods, in ancient times sacrificing to him was the special privilege of the emperor, and this practice has affected the people’s willingness to build new temples for the Heavenly Lord. The most important reason is that people’s method for honoring the Heavenly Lord is to “worship at the doorway,” with a same-day sacrifice, and so this has reduced the need for temples for the Heavenly Lord.
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