Cianjin's Saint of Culture Temple and the Migrants from Penghu County／前金區的文聖殿與澎湖社仔
Cianjin's Saint of Culture Temple and the Migrants from Penghu County
◎English translation: Hou Ya-ting
◎Photos by Jhou Shu-jheng
The modest Saint of Culture Temple, dedicated to the deity Guan Gong (Lord Guan), is situated just a few doors away from Hanshin Department Store, amid the hustle and bustle of Chenggong Road. From generation to generation, the faithful have passed down stories about the temple protecting those who journeyed across the Taiwan Strait, in particular those who arrived from Penghu County, an archipelago approximately 140km northwest of central Kaohsiung.
Saint of Culture Temple derives its orthodoxy from Beiji Temple, in Penghu County's Shanshuei Village, thanks to the efforts of a father and his son, Chen Jhen-sing and Chen Jhong-he, during the period of Japanese colonial rule. Today's Saint of Culture Temple was completed in 1947; since then it has stood as a witness to Kaohsiung's rapid development. Because of its humble appearance, many locals who regularly shop in the neighborhood are unaware of it. Yet, if one does a Google search, a surprising amount of information about this quiet house of worship soon emerges.
For migrants from Penghu who settled in Kaohsiung, Saint of Culture Temple has a profound meaning beyond religion. A third-generation descendant of migrants from Penghu who studied at the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Culture, National University of Tainan, Tsai Jia-yun wrote her master's thesis about "The migrants from Penghu who settled in Kaohsiung." She analyzed historical perspectives since the Japanese colonial era, elaborated how those migrants put down roots in Kaohsiung, and recorded their interactions with locals.
According to Ms. Tsai's thesis, most Kaohsiung residents who trace their ancestry to Penghu originated from the villages of Shanshuei, Wude and Tiesian in Penghu County's Magong City. Many of them purchased property in Kaohsiung's Yancheng District before relocating. As a result, Yancheng had an especially high density of families originally from Penghu. In one part of the district, just two or three households out of two hundred were not Penghu natives. Because most of the vendors were from Penghu, the local market at Gangming Street in Yancheng District was commonly known as "Penghu Market."
Heading toward "Penghu Market," we encounter two residents who mostly grew up in the neighborhood, and are second- and third-generation Penghu-Kaohsiung folk. Respectively known as Uncle Chen and Uncle Yeh, they happily share neighborhood stories, and clear away some of the obscurity surrounding this intriguing topic.
Uncle Yeh's ancestral home is in Penghu County's Wang-an Township. His family moved to Yancheng because his father found work at a nearby wharf. At age 14, Uncle Yeh's father passed away in a work accident. After that, Uncle Yeh moved to Gangming Street.
The two men explain that Penghu migrants who grow up in Kaohsiung display outstanding language skills. When speaking Holo (the language also called Taiwanese or Minnanhua), they can easily switch from the distinctive Penghu accent to a Kaohsiung accent. Uncle Chen and Uncle Yeh have witnessed how the commercial center of Yancheng has shifted. The withering of the neighborhood's economy has inevitably spelled doom for "Penghu Market."
Uncle Yeh laments: "This used to be a prosperous area. In its heyday, all kinds of vendors sprawled along the streets. It was difficult to walk through." Uncle Chen listens quietly, occasionally filling in details which Uncle Yeh leaves out.
Uncle Yeh says that after his father passed away, he relocated to this area. Uncle Yeh remembers how Saint of Culture Temple took good care of him, and helped him fit in. At that time, the chairman of Saint of Culture Temple would offer members of the younger generation opportunities to join folk-religion festivals and parades. The neighborhood grocery shop even extended credit to these cash-strapped young men. Uncle Yeh says he therefore has a deep reverence for the shop's proprietor. Uncle Yeh's memories show how, besides being a religious center, the temple helped Penghu natives settle down in Kaohsiung, cultivated social norms, and ingrained strong emotional ties.
The strong ties between Saint of Culture Temple and its followers with ancestral ties to Penghu County will not fade away, despite the passage of time.