05 February 2018 by Suyen Hu
In Taiwan, you’ll see Land Gods’ temples everywhere, nearly every corner! We have a saying Three Steps a Small Temple and Five Steps a Big Temple to show temples are so much in Taiwanese daily life even in this age.
However, life in Heaven is not as easy as we imagined. All the gods and deities have to work hard to gain respect from humans so they can keep their temples busy, not to be deserted. It is more or less like English churches, if a church is not rich and doesn’t have many people to come, the church would have to be abandoned, though it is sad. But different from English churches that are mostly maintained through public funding and are highly reliant on the incomes from tourists, gods or deities in Taiwanese temples have to work hard to protect and look after local people to make people come back happily to make huge donations. So the most responsive gods or deities will be the richest whose temples are always looked after well by their believers and the rest of the money will be used to help poor or vulnerable people or to help local business grow.
In Taiwan, Land Gods are always the most friendly and closest gods with the people. Land Gods are like heads of villages that not only have to deal with every tiny problem from people’s daily lives, but also have to keep their villages safe and happy. For example, some people ask the gods to bless their cat when it’s giving birth or to bless their dog to recover soon from its illness. Can you imagine how busy a god could be in a small village?
In Nian Tou County of southern Taiwan, a temple called Zi-Nan (meaning Purple-South) Temple is the busiest Land God’s Temple I’ve ever seen in my life.
Surprisingly, unlike other popular temples that are expanding bigger and wider, the temple has stayed at its original size for years from the Qing Dynasty without any plan for extension. Everything around the temple is much bigger than the temple itself, such as the offering table, toilets and the ‘Bank of Land God’ because they said the Land God cares about people’s needs more than his own so he only wants a humble place to stay. Okay, we can understand how important toilets are when a place is too crowded and busy.
The offering table is always full of paper money and offerings
The famous five star toilet at Zi-Nan Temple
But, a bank owned by a Land God? Yes, it’s right. The Land God is extremely rich! He pays for all the tuitions, textbooks and lunches for all primary school children, high school students and even university students around his area. He also helps local farmers to put bags of rice in the temple called ‘Ping-An Rice’ meaning Safety Rice. When you eat the rice you’ll be blessed; the suggested donation for a bag of rice is even cheaper than those in a supermarket because it’s from farmers directly.
Now you may want to ask what is the bank about? Do they lend money to their believers? How does it work? Yes, everyone can borrow some cash from the Land God IF he agrees. Before we go to the cashier to ask for a loan, we need to go to the temple to ask the Land God if he agrees to lend us some lucky cash. We use a pair of kidney blocks to communicate with the Land God. One up and one down mean YES; two ups mean he is laughing because your question is not clear enough; two downs mean NO.
The Bank of Land God
The biggest sum is from 600NTD that is about 15GBP, and then 500NTD, 400NTD, 300NTD, 200NTD and 100NTD. If the Land God doesn’t agree for the first one, you have to keep asking till you got a ‘YES’ from him, or if you got six ‘NO’ then it means the Land God doesn’t agree to lend you any cash.
I went to the temple to ask the Land God if he is happy to lend me some lucky money for Snowflake Books; the first time when I asked for 600NTD, the answer was NO. I was a bit disappointed and asked again if 500NTD is ok and then I got a YES. So I went to the bank to fill in the form and took the form to the cashier. They asked for my ID and address, and then gave me a red envelope with 500NTD inside. Everything is computerized and can be chased up when the loan is due. They didn’t tell me how much I should return, but only said I have to return the loan in a year. I can choose how much I would like to return according to how I feel about the success of Snowflake Books in the year. I heard some business men borrowed the money in the morning and got a big contract in the afternoon and brought 200,000NTD to the bank to return the loan with huge interests because they love to pay for the Land God’s bank. I wish I would have that great success in a year and would be able to pay back so much!!!
Now you know how rich and popular the Land God is in Zi-Nan Temple. The bank not only has lucky cash for people to borrow, but the bank also issues golden and silver coins each animal year! They don’t sell the special animal year coins, BUT it’s very hard to get one because you will have to queue 7 miles with your newborn baby’s ID to see if you are able to get one on the New Year's Day! So it means not everyone can get one even if you have a baby born that year!
However, we were very lucky in the Year of the Monkey. The committee of the Zi-Nan Temple knew we were from the UK and would like to know more stories about the Land God, so they prepared some golden and silver coins for us to give away for blessings to our best friends or fans in the UK. Because these coins are so precious and we can’t get more now as we are not local, we only can share the lucky coins with special friends in the UK.
Are you a loyal friend of Snowflake Books? You may have a great chance to get one lucky coin! Anyone who spends more than £100 on Snowflake books or prints by 28 February 2018 will have a chance to get a beautiful red envelope with one coin inside, limited to the first 10 applicants. Those who spend £50 will have a chance to get a beautiful red envelope with a special handmade blessing card with a charm of blessing inside; only 5 are available.
The lucky coin issued by the Bank of Land God in the Year of the Monkey
The handmade gift tag with a charm of blessing