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Wanfu Temple's Wang Ye Boat Festival Extravaganza

Wanfu Temple's Wang Ye Boat Festival Extravaganza

◎Text (English & Chinese) by Hou Ya-ting

 

 

 Wang Ye boat festivals, which originated in southeastern China, are the most significant religious tradition along Taiwan's coast. Brought over by Chinese immigrants, Wang Ye (sometimes called “royal lords”) rituals are today practiced in Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam, as well as in Taiwan.

 Taiwan has preserved some complete Wang Ye ceremonies with notable local features. One such tradition is connected to Wanfu Temple in Baishalun, part of Kaohsiung's Cieding District. This January, Wanfu Temple held its Sending Off Wang Ye rite, when the temple's Wang Ye deities undertook a ritual patrol on behalf of the Jade Emperor. This was followed by the spectacular burning of a purpose-built Wang Ye “King Boat..

 It had been 18 years ago since Wanfu Temple's previous Wang Ye Boat Festival, so many of those attending felt privileged to witness such a grand religious ceremony reflecting deeply-embedded local culture.

 Built in 1877, Wanfu Temple's main deities are five Wang Ye lords, together known as the Wufuqiansui. Each lord has a different family name. Mr. Chen Jia-chuan, chairperson of the temple's management committee, said that holding the festival was a decision made by the Wang Ye lords themselves. In 2019, a worshiper at the temple was casting kidney-shaped divination blocks, and the blocks landed upright, which so rarely happens. It was interpreted as a miracle.

 This event prompted the management committee to themselves cast divination blocks. By doing so, they received confirmation that the lords insisted on a Wang Ye Boat Festival.

 The festival's welcoming of gods who ritually patrol their realms while vanquishing evil on behalf of the Jade Emperor is seen as a metaphor for the authority of inspectors or imperial envoys who long ago patrolled real-world realms on behalf of the emperor.

 Every aspect of a Wang Ye Boat Festival is determined by casting divination blocks to consult the lords. Wanfu Temple then appointed Mr. Guo Yan-shan, a local resident with more than 40 years of shipbuilding experience, to construct the King Boat. It was the third-largest such ritual vessel in Taiwan, being 18.6m long, 4.5m wide, and 5.2m high. Mr. Chen Ming-ci, a widely recognized artisan, was asked to paint the boat.

 The King Boat was presented to the public on the occasion of the eye-dotting ceremony on December 20, 2020. The eye-dotting was performed by Kaohsiung Mayor Mr. Chen Chi-mai and other distinguished guests.

 Afterward, the pilgrimage got underway, accompanied by Wanfu Temple's festival parade troupes, including battle arrays and music or dance performers. Mr. Chen Jia-chuan pointed out that the area of Baishalun is a modest 2.06km², yet such was local residents' devotion that they formed more than 30 festival parade troupes. The festival is an important element in local cultural identity and enhances social cohesion.

 The sending off of the Wang Ye and the burning of the King Boat on January 17 marked the climax of the Wang Ye Boat Festival. That day, at six o'clock in the morning, male worshippers began dragging the boat from the courtyard of Wanfu Temple toward Cieding's beach. A fire truck sprayed water in front of the vessel, symbolically clearing the waterway for the Wang Ye lords.

 When the King Boat arrived at the beach, temple staff began piling daily necessities beneath it. The ritual burning of the boat that followed signified the Wang Ye lords conveying of residents' wishes and prayers to the Jade Emperor's palace, while at the same time expelling diseases and malevolence.

 

 

 

茄萣區萬福宮舉辦王船醮祭典

◎文/侯雅婷

◎照片提供/萬福宮

 

  王船醮祭典是臺灣濱海地區重要的宗教習俗,源於中國東南沿海的信仰,隨著移民遷徙,至今馬來西亞、新加坡、越南等沿海地區都保有送王船的習俗,台灣保有儀式完整的王船醮祭儀,其中高雄茄萣區王船醮祭典發展出在地特色,今(2021)年1月,當地白砂崙萬福宮舉辦的王船醮祭典之中,最受矚目的「送王」意即迎送代天巡狩王爺(燒王船)儀式,距離上次舉辦時隔18年之久,今年得以躬逢其盛,一窺萬福宮豐富的王船醮祭典。

  建於1877年的萬福宮主祀「五府千歲」王爺,萬福宮管理委員會主任委員陳嘉川先生表示,舉辦王船醮由神明(王爺)指示。」前(2019)年,信徒擲筊時罕見的立筊,被視為是神蹟,廟方管理委員擲筊請示王爺,確認舉辦王船醮。

  王船醮祭典迎請神明「代天巡狩」的民間信仰儀式,是借古代巡按、欽差等大臣代帝王巡視領土制度,轉為神明奉玉皇大帝旨意,走訪地方稽查並清掃邪崇。

  王船醮的每個流程都須擲筊請示王爺公,所使用的王船由在地造船經驗逾40年的郭岩山先生打造,並聘請知名彩繪匠師陳明啟先生為王船彩繪,全長61.3台尺、寬14.8台尺、高17台尺,這是全臺第三大的王船。萬福宮的王船在去年12月20日風光出廠,由陳其邁市長等貴賓為王船開光點睛後,展開遶境。王嘉川主委指出,面積2.06平方公里的白砂崙居民自組逾30團陣頭參與繞境,顯見王船醮祭典形成當地居民的文化認同,也凝聚地方向心力。

  王船醮祭典尾聲「送王」於1月17日早上6點舉行,壯丁們從廟埕廣場拖拉王船展開陸上行舟往茄萣海邊移動,消防車在王船的前方灑水,象徵為王爺開水路,王船抵達海邊,廟方人員忙著堆疊為王爺準備的各項生活所需物品,最後透過燒王船儀式代表王爺帶著民眾的祈願返回天庭,傳達地方除瘟祈福的心願。