交陪_3_1

文───高俊宏
翻譯───黃暉峻

民間傳聞:假如陽廟是臺灣銀行,那陰廟就是地下錢莊,一語點破陰廟在人們心中的黑暗與暴力印象。本文僅就年來走訪之數十間陰廟作為基本經驗,期間常觸動心絮的是,陰廟令人畏懼的幽暗形象,對比於一刻不停的現代性火車,在日趨同一化的明亮城市發展軸線下,這種「地下錢莊」的特質為何?這似乎是一種「以答案來詰問題目」的相反過程,將已具歷史自明性的陰廟、厲鬼信仰,擲向現代性的問題中。但本文絕非僅止於勾勒一種「非現代」的民俗恐怖文化,寧可挾帶劇烈的自我語言批判,是為了藉此理解處於世界美學體系邊緣的我們怎麼說話?我們如何「能」?
陰廟立於雙重邊緣:神的邊緣及廟的邊緣。年來走訪這些空間,筆者經常感到難言的凝滯、落後感,因此本文首先圍繞著「滯後」(belatedness)一詞,為什麼調動洋文belatedness,將陰廟放在世界主義的時間軸線,實有拷問「我能」之用意。事實上,國內研究「厲鬼信仰」堪稱翹楚的林富士先生,即以「痛苦的鬼靈」、「沈魂滯魄」形容陰廟裡的厲鬼,[1 ] 但是「滯後」一詞也有著遲到及尚未之雙重義涵,推比於「現代性」是有意義的,若將目光轉往印度底層研究(subaltern studies)裡,「滯後」雖然被視為過去英國統治對印度人民的「餽贈」,但是今日重新觀看世界的美學體系,「滯後」仍然是一個有力的前導觀念。
國內陰廟研究者如仇德哉的《臺灣之寺廟與神明》系列、林富士的《孤魂與鬼雄的世界》,或如民間學者黃文博等,已有豐富之分析與記述,本文自然瞠乎其後。但是,當今美學關係的能動性已不僅處理「材料」的可視性,而更進一步挖掘材料背後所組構的「從—屬」關係(歷史的從屬、社會的從屬、美學的從屬……)。那麼,陰廟所供奉的「痛苦的鬼靈」、「低等靈」、「未完成神格化」,或其「不像廟宇的廟宇」的建築實體,首先便指出了相對於傳統佛、道教廟宇的「未完成」的潛能,或者一種偽裝過的黑暗美學。

神、廟的未完式

眾所周知,陰廟一般供奉著無名屍骨,其死亡模式多為橫死、凶死、冤死、戰死,人們對其「神格化」的封訂也存在著一定順序,例如公、媽、爺……等,最後演變為具有神格的城隍爺。仇德哉指出:

有應公又稱有英公、百姓公、金斗公、恩公、萬善同歸、無祀陰光、萬恩主、萬恩公、萬善諸公、萬應公、萬善爺、聖公諸稱。有應者,取其有求必應之意,鄉愚迷信,於人力無能為之情況下,動輒求諸鬼神,咸認有求必應。其構成者,亦無子無主之孤魂,屬厲之範疇。[2]

今日觀之,上述分類已略顯不足,例如有以老大公、義民爺,祭祀植物靈的大樹公,或如新北市石碇、樹林等地的「姑娘廟」、潭底「大墓公」供奉二戰後滯臺的日本兵亡靈 [3],皆顯示了陰廟內所供奉者之多樣化。而陰廟規模大小亦相距甚遠,筆者曾於宜蘭縣壯圍鄉大福村的海岸邊,發現一間小如公車亭的老大公廟,研判可能是當地的漁民、捕鰻人所立,供奉海岸撈獲的無名屍,此與基隆市遠負盛名的老大公廟規模上不可相比。另外,位於新北市三峽一帶山區有一間寫著「不談今古事、保護往來人」的冷僻姑娘廟,同樣與香火鼎盛的石碇魏姑娘廟規模迥異。
陰廟從草寮、簡易水泥構築(有的甚至僅為「三壁式」構造),朝向氣宇軒昂、雕龍畫鳳的大廟,從無名小廟演化神格化的城隍爺,其過程隱射了厲鬼朝向神明的「脫鬼化」歷程。縱然如此,無可諱言真正能邁向神格化的城隍爺或如臺南四草大眾廟般擁有廣大信眾的陰廟實屬稀少,多數遍布臺灣鄉野間的陰廟,無論名為有應公廟、大眾爺廟或萬善同歸等,幾乎都少人聞問,避而遠之,停滯於厲鬼的狀態。甚且,一些公墓旁邊所設立的大眾廟,收容流散於墳場,身分難以考據的屍骨,扮演著收容、安撫曝骨野鬼的功能,也不易發展成香火鼎盛的大廟。新城仔大塚(現宜蘭員山鄉第二公墓)有一個設立於清同治五年的「禁止踐踏塚地乞食祭餘及捐題碑」,便刻畫了早期埋葬於山邊的無嗣者屍骨,時不時被居民放牧的牛羊或野狗啃食的悲慘歷史。員山鄉第二公墓的大眾廟便扮演收容著這些屍骨的角色,有趣的是,這間陰廟建築體屋頂以下之構造與一般廟宇幾乎無異,但橘色的屋頂則僅鋪以素色琉璃瓦面,上、下兩者呈現了一種奇異的反差。這是多數大眾廟的建築形式,其建築上、下兩部分的反差,相信背後存在著複雜的理由(包含是否有充足的資金進行整體化的修綴工程),但也有著鬼尚未成為神之前,其「居住」的建築體應該「收斂」一點的階級意味。相對於一般廟宇,其外觀清楚顯示了建築體上的停滯、滯後。
這是第一個問題點,我們能說陰廟建築的未完成真的就是落後、落伍?從這裡須先繞道查卡拉巴提(Dipesh Chakrabarty)在討論「滯後」時,借用了德勒茲(Gilles Deleuze)對於「重複」概念的細推,分別了「共性」與「替代、偽裝」之不同。「重複」是新事物透過替代與偽裝而進入世界的方式。因此,底層研究視野下的庶民社會不能僅只理解為一種「尚未」(not yet)的時間,就像一位永遠停留於牛棚熱身的中繼投手。從陰廟自身強力的鬼靈主體來反駁滯後一說,具有很強的說服力,換言之,陰廟建築外觀的未完成感乃至於靈體本身未臻於神格化,只是一種在「共性」狀態中尚未趨於「一致」的現象,但是從「替代、偽裝」的角度而言,陰廟雖然「似乎想要」成為完整的神、廟,但其特殊的恐懼、恐怖力量並不會就此被神、廟系統所「共性化」,厲鬼仍是其存在主軸,而厲鬼也存在著難以言喻的「替代」。厲鬼信仰千奇百怪(如林富士指出中國厲鬼信仰有著「屍骸還會自己走飛」之說),但其一般特質是以「靈驗—報應」的結構來回應眾生的「社會底層欲望」。例如六合彩流行期間陰廟也成為熱門的「觀光景點」,或者變成社會恩怨的報復工具,如2014年選舉,桃園市大園里某落選者將對手的名字紙條貼在一間同善祠,藉以詛咒對手,這些通通反映了底層社會某種難以啟齒的欲望投射。進一步說,厲鬼信仰與諸多唐山過臺灣時期從大陸各地「帶來」的神祉更具在地性,陰廟幾乎都祭祀著臺灣歷史上所發生的多次內亂(如土城大墓供奉受林爽文事件牽連的數百位死者)、械鬥(如板橋的大眾廟祭祀泉漳械鬥死者),亦或者日治初期的抗日戰歿者(如樹林區的十三公廟),更有藉大眾廟外殼以供奉原住民骨骸的例子(如五結鄉季新村的馬良廟,或者綠島鄉供奉一千三百多年前原住民的萬善堂)。
礙於人力,筆者並未完整造訪臺灣各地陰廟,甚且不足百分之一,許多陰廟根本沒有登記在內政部寺廟組織管理名單中,以無政府的狀態錯落於鄉間小道旁。甚且,陰廟還因其怪力亂神的形象,在日治時期一度被列入「淫祠」,因此,謎團與恐懼無疑是陰廟給人最深刻的感受,例如宜蘭市大樹公供主祀「秋姑」即為一位清代時被地主凌虐致死的查某嫻。另外,五結鄉錦草村的萬善堂,根據筆者詢問住在隔壁的耆老及網路資料,都僅止於「蘭陽溪作大水,沖來了三個骨灰壇」的故事,人們並無意去考掘萬善堂供奉的三個骨灰罈裡裝的究竟是誰,但這些無名死者卻成為庇祐地方的鬼靈。或如王菁華在〈擺接義塚大墓公之研究〉裡記述了地方耆老所流傳「土虱好吃,也沒有死人頭多」之說,反映了林爽文事件牽連死者數量之多,屍體腐爛於埤塘水中,養肥了土虱的鄉野傳聞,土城大墓公也代表了清帝國時期三年一小亂、五年一大亂的社會景況。
這些無名死者的謎團以及看似遲未完成的建築,好像某種偏門而神祕的事件,代表了正統歷史書寫及臻具神格化的廟宇系統之外的「滯後敘事」。換言之,在據正統性的「相似」敘事之外,陰廟經由恐怖的鄉土謎團、傳說,甚且以「有求必應」、「誠心還願」的靈界規範,異於銀行體系組構出的等價債務社會觀(現代性之實質),或如查卡拉巴提指出,「替代」不是「等價交換」的邏輯,而更是某種替代。厲鬼信仰所代表的謎團,以關聯性的黑暗美學補正著現代律法永恆的缺失。

現代薩滿

筆者雖於步行壯圍海岸時發現了一間「三壁式」老大公廟,或於走山時意外遇見小小的橫溪姑娘廟,悽涼之餘,往往感到一陣毛骨悚然,但是整體來說,陰廟不但不可怕,甚至常常給人「家」的親切感。查訪過程中最令人驚奇的是發生在綠島機場旁公墓群裡的一間萬善祠,以及一段挖黃金卻挖到人骨的傳奇故事。筆者因受綠島人權園區之邀前往該地短駐,因緣際會採訪到參與挖寶的當事人之一,綠島統祥大飯店老闆娘林秀玉女士。那天下午適逢農曆初一,老闆娘帶我前往公墓祭拜萬善堂的「前輩」,沿路她不斷向我訴說幾年前挖「金」的靈異傳奇。
林秀玉說,幾年前兩位臺灣南投來的玄天上帝信徒,指證歷歷說新生訓導處監獄旁的燕子洞,埋有近兩千多公斤黃金,於是一伙人操來怪手,日以繼夜開挖。可是在深入地底三、四層樓的深度後,卻開始挖到一些人骨,從漢人的習俗而言,既然挖到這些「前輩」就必須好好安置,大家只好硬著頭皮挖下去,最後居然挖出一百多具骨骸,並集資蓋了一間萬善祠供奉。這下子一伙人的黃金夢霎時轉為噩夢,但這場噩夢卻為大家帶來意外的好運。老闆娘說,可能是這些因屠殺而橫死的「前輩」為了感謝她,讓她原本面臨倒閉的飯店事業蒸蒸日上,不知不覺間也買了一部遊覽車。其他各種靈異經驗,在植物學家陳玉峰所著《綠島黃金夢》有詳細記載。採訪過程中,我從老闆娘充滿感激的眼神,看到了人人所畏懼的陰廟與現實生活之間,有著綿密甚且不可思議的互惠關係。同樣地,在五結鄉八大庄大眾爺廟 [4],廟內的沿革刻著動人的描述:

嘉慶年間,先民來臺,或開墾,或經商,絡繹不絕於途,當時三歸快堡(今之利澤簡舊名)是少數由漢人結社的區域,也是重要港口……相傳大陸來臺先民,都會在船頭供奉大眾廟神像,朝夕參風順,每當入港時,海象乖張,更有求大眾爺公護航渡行。久之,大眾爺公的神威便不逕而走……在當時,實際上海象資訊不足的條件下,相傳每當颱風,有一盞紅色燈火,在河口與堤岸之間飄動跳躍以示警。有居民好奇循著火光查察,發現火光總在大眾廟傳出。因此之故,大眾爺公神威顯赫,恩澤黎民,以至香火鼎盛,早已傳為佳話。

遍布臺灣各地的陰廟,大抵反映出早期移民社會的前國家特質:江湖凶險,命懸一旦,然而正也因為這些小廟以紀念碑的形式將早期社會的征戰、械鬥,乃至於饑荒或自殺的死者凝固起來,反過來成為一種超越性的「滯後」。臺灣總像是一個遲緩嬰兒,但是從「滯後」所帶出的「替身、偽裝」觀點,也許恰能讓我們將陰廟這種強勢主體擴張為一種象徵主體,藉以切入西方社會強勢主導的思想體系。雖然「滯後」意味著not yet,但是其中依然存在著革命性的實質內容,例如被視為落後象徵的農業社會,有許多行為模式(如鄰里共同體、交工)在今日重新被討論,而陰廟更加複雜且強烈,這類以「未神格化」、「低等靈」所牽連出的別樣社會關係:報應、畏懼、不潔、互惠、互酬,以厲鬼信仰形式牽動(牽制)著現代社會所遺失的行為模式。
因此,如果有一種陰廟美學,我會說它是黑暗美學,但這不過是某種偽裝,重點在於「我會說」三個字隱含了一種潛能(potentiality),例如阿岡本(Giorgio Agamben)藉由詩人安娜.阿赫瑪托娃(Anna Akhmatova)在獄中被獄友問到「妳能藉此說點什麼嗎?」時所回答的「我能」之說。從臺灣民間各式各樣(有些甚為離譜)對陰廟的「再詮釋」,即充分展現了一種藉由滯後才可能出現的「我能」,例如「陰廟不能亂拜」(但筆者已拜了幾十間了是怎樣?)、「拜陰廟不能報上八字與地址」(怕被好兄弟跟回家)、「孕婦不拜陰廟」……。換言之,立於現代社會、神、廟的黑暗處,陰廟仍是個強勢的敘事與想像載體。事實上,不僅陰廟,也許在世界主義(藝術機構、機制之所追求者)光芒照射不到的黑暗處,如同那些座落於海濱、鄉野間被人們視為「不潔空間」的陰廟,或如可敬的亡靈、我曾經遇過的海邊發瘋者及其串起既離奇又可畏的世界觀,或是像埋骨千萬的臺灣郊山一樣,是吾人重新在透視法所主宰的「客觀」單點透視世界裡,重擲一種生存美學的強力所在。這就如身處「理性」的中研院,卻終身研究鬼靈的林富士為自己的奇怪行徑所說:「做一個現代薩滿」。
做一個落後於時間的現代薩滿,因此才「能」!


[ 註釋 ]
1 林富士著,〈集體建構的「厲鬼」世界〉,《孤魂與鬼雄的世界》,臺北縣:臺北縣文化中心,1995,頁198。
2 仇德哉編著,《臺灣之寺廟與神明(四)》,臺中:臺灣省文獻委員會,1983,頁390。轉自王志宇著,〈臺灣的無祀孤魂信仰新論──以竹山地區祠廟為中心的探討〉,《逢甲人文社會學報》,第6期(臺中市:2003.5),頁183–210。
3 潭底大墓公有如下描述:「日治結束前(1945年)有十幾位日本兵(有臺籍、日籍)在戰亂中來到樹林潭底……後來病死在會議所,無處可葬,附近民眾就將他們草葬於車田仔離水車不遠的田埂旁。」
4 此廟亦於2009年12月升格為城隍爺廟。


 

Belatedness:
If There Was An Aesthetics of Ghost Temples
───── Jun-honn Kao

Translated by Hui-jun Huang

People say: if a god’s temple is like a public bank, then a ghost’s temple is like an underground bank—a classic example of how people portray ghost’s temples as vicious, fierce places. In my recent experiences of visiting dozens of ghost temples, I have often compared the dreadful and dark images of ghost temples with the relentless modernity: what is the nature of this “underground bank” under such bright, linear developments of cities, which became homogenized day by day? This seems to be an inverted process of “using an answer to find a question,” which throws ghost temples and ghost worship that are steadily founded in the history at a question of this modern society. Yet, the goal of this article is definitely not to depict a horrified folk culture which is “not modern.” Instead, via a strong criticism of my own languages, it aims to further identify how should we speak our languages from this marginalized land of this world’s aesthetics: how “can” we?
Ghost temples stand on edges of two things: gods and temples. When visiting those temples in recent years, I have often felt something belated and obsolete. Therefore, in this article, I want to start from the word of “belatedness,” and when using this word, I put ghost temples on a chronological axis of cosmopolitanism to dig the concept of “I can” to a deeper level. In fact, Fu-shi Lin, a leading researcher of “vicious ghost worship” in Taiwan, also describes those ghosts in temples as “suffering spirits” or “remaining spirits.” [ 1 ]Meanwhile, “belatedness” has dual meanings of being late and not arriving, which are meaningful when compared with the concept of “modernity.” If we turn our sights to Subaltern Studies, although the “belatedness” is considered as a “gift” to Indian people from British rule, it is still a powerful preceding concept when we are reviewing the world’s aesthetic systems.
Researches of ghost temples like Temples and Gods in Taiwan series by De-zai Qiu, The World of Wandering Spirits and Ghosts by Fu-shi Lin, and works from folklorists like Wen-Bo Huang, have offered more than sufficient analyses and discussions, and this article is without doubt incomparable to those. Still, today’s aesthetics is able to cover more than visible “materials,” and tries to figure out “master/slave” relationships (of the history, of the society, of the aesthetics…) behind those materials. Following that, “suffering spirits,” “low-ranked spirits” and “unfinished apotheosis” worshiped in ghost temples, and their architectures being “temples that are unlike temples,” thus point out potential of “being unfinished” which is completely opposite to traditional Buddhism or Taoism temples, or a kind of dark aesthetics in disguise.

To Be Continued Stories of Gods and Temples

It is commonly known that in most ghost temples, the targets of worshiping are unidentified corpses, who often have been killed in accidents, murderswars or died in injustice. Their “apotheoses” also have hierarchies, like Gong, Ma, Ye, other ghosts, and finally the City Gods which are considered as deities have evolved. De-zai Qiu wrote:

You Ying Gong (men who fulfill wishes) are also known as You Ying Gong (heroic men), Bai Xing Gong (people’s men), Jin Dou Gong (gold urn men), En Gong (men of mercy), Wan Shan Tong Gui (ten thousands of goodness walking together), Wu Si Yin Guang (dark lights that no one worships), Wan En Zhu (masters of ten thousand mercy), Wan En Gong (men of ten thousand mercy), Wan Shan Zhu Gong (men of ten thousand goodness), Wan Ying Gong (men who fulfill ten thousand wishes), Wan Shan Ye (men of ten thousand goodness) or Sheng Gong (holy men). You Ying (being responsible/fulfilling wishes) is from the idea of fulfilling every wishes that people ask. In the countryside, people are superstitious. Those people tend to seek helps from ghosts and deities when problems are beyond their capability to solve, and think their wishes will eventually be responded. Such a belief consists of wandering spirits without any descendant or master, and those spirits are classified as vicious ghosts. [2]

Yet this definition is slightly insufficient today. We also have Lao Da Gong (old great men), Yi Min Ye (righteous people’s men), Da Shu Gong (big tree man) which is a spirit of a plant, “Gu Niang Miao” (maiden’s temples) in Shiding, Shulin, and other places in New Taipei City, and “Da Mu Gong” (big grave men), which are ghosts of dead Japanese soldiers who were forced to stay in Taiwan, in Tandi. [3 ]All these examples show that in ghost temples, worshiped targets have a wide variety of sources. Sizes of their architectures are also hugely different from each other. At the shore of Dafu Village of Zhuangwei Township, Yilan County, I have once discovered a temple of Lao Da Gong, which was as small as a bus stop. My speculation is that the temple has been founded by local fishers and eel catchers to worship unidentified corpses found on the shore. Compared with the famous Lao Da Gong temple in Keelung City, that temple is far smaller. Similarly, in mountains of Sanxia, New Taipei City, the size of another little-known Gu Niang Miao with written texts of “Do not talk about the past or the present,” and “Protect passersby,” is also unmatched with the widely known and popular Wei Gu Niang Miao in Shiding.
Ghost temples transformed from simple structures made of grass or cement (some temples only have three walls), to extremely magnificent and impressive with splendid decorations of carved dragons and painted phoenixes. From an insignificant temple to a holy City God, it suggests a “de-ghost” process of a wandering spirit becoming a deity. Yet, well accepted ghost temples with abundant worshipers like City God temples or Da Zhong Temple in Sicao, Tainan are still uncommon in Taiwan—most ghost temples, no matter You Ying Gong temples, Da Zhong temples or Wan Shan Ton Gui, in the countryside remain to be awed and avoided by people, and thus those ghosts stay in forms of vicious spirits. Sometimes, ghost temples near public cemeteries are built to place those bodies which are hard to be identified. These temples are made to soothe wandering ghosts, and have little potential to be developed into widely accepted ones. In Xinchangzi Dazhong (now known as The Second Public Cemetery of Yuanshan Township, Yilan County), a stone tablet of “Stepping on graves and begging for offerings are forbidden” set in fifth year of the Tongzhi reign in the Qing dynasty (1866 a.c.) shows a miserable history of those forsaken graves and corpses which were often eaten by livestock or wild dogs in early days. The temple of The Second Public Cemetery, therefore, has been built to place those dead bodies. One interesting thing is that the building of this ghost temple has almost the same designs with general temples except for its orange roof covered only with simple glazed tiles, and it shows a peculiar contrary between those two parts. This very trait can be seen on most ghost temples, and while it must have some complicated reasons behind such designs (including not having enough capital to implement a more consistent design), it expresses a concept of class consciousness: before a ghost becomes a god, it should “live” in a “humbler” place. Compared to general temples, the appearance of ghost temples demonstrates a “belatedness” in architectures.
Here comes the first question: can we really say these unfinished buildings of ghost temples being out-of-date? To answer this question, Dipesh Chakrabarty’s ideas can be useful. When Chakrabarty was discussing the concept of “belatedness,” he borrowed Gilles Deleuze’s explanations of “repetition,” and distinguish “similarity” from “replacement/disguise.” The “repetition” is the way for new things to enter this world via replacement or disguise. Bearing that in mind, in the field of Subaltern Studies, the understanding toward a civil society should be more than merely a status of being “not yet arrived,” like a middle relief pitcher stays in the bullpen forever. Using the powerful figure of spirits in ghost temples as a counter to the belatedness is highly persuasive. The unfinishedness of the buildings of ghost temples is made because ghosts are not gods yet: being a ghost means it stays in “similarity” but does not arrive at “equivalent” yet. From the aspect of “replacement/disguise,” a ghost temple “seems to turn itself into” a complete gods’ temple, but its particular awed and horrified power will not be able to be absorbed to the “similarity” of the god’s temple’s system. The essence of a ghost temple is still vicious ghosts, and they have traits of “replacements” which are hard to explain. The belief of vicious ghosts is highly unpredictable (for example, Fu-shi Lin pointed out that a legend in China describes “a dead body that can move and fly”), but generally speaking, it has a structure of “ effective/retribution” to fulfill people’s “desires of the lower society.” For example, when the lottery was popular in Taiwan, ghost temples were popular “touring sites.” Sometimes, they are taken as tools to take revenge, like in 2014, a candidate in Dayuan Village posted his competitor’s name in a ghost temple as a curse after losing the election. All these stories reflect desires of the lower society that cannot be spoken aloud. The belief of vicious ghosts is more grassroots than gods “brought” from China by Chinese ancestors. Almost all ghost temples are connected with civil wars in Taiwanese history (like Da Mu in Tucheng worships hundreds of people who were killed in Shuang-wen Lin Incident), fights (like Da Zhong temple in Banqiao worships people who were killed in fights between Quanzhou people and Zhangzhou people), dead warriors who fought against Japan government in early Japanese Period (like Shi Shan Gong Miao in Shulin District), or even corpses of aboriginals (like Liang Ma Miao in Jixin Village of Wujie Township or Wan Shan Tang which worships aboriginal people who lived in more than one thousand three hundred years ago in Ludao Township).
Due to limited resource, I have not visited all ghost temples in Taiwan—not even one hundredth of them. Many ghost temples are not registered on the temple list of Ministry of the Interior, and scattered over various corners beside small paths in the countryside without being controlled by government. In Japanese Period, due to their superstitious images, ghost temples once were considered as “illicit shrines” by the government. Therefore, it is safe to say that mystery and fear are the most common impressions of ghost temples. In Yilan City, “Qiu Gu” in Da Shu Gong temple is a woman died from a landlord’s torture in the Qing dynasty. A Wan Shan Tang in Jincao Village, Wujie Township has a limited background and I cannot find more than the story of “Lanyang River overflowed and three cinerary urns were washed up” from the internet or local elders lived beside the temple. People have no desire to figure out whose ashes are in those three urns, but are willing to accept those nameless dead as guardians of the area. From “A Research on Bai Jie Yi Zhong Da Mu Gong” by Jing-hua Wang, a local proverb of “The number of delicious catfishes are far less than that of skulls” told by elder residents of the area reflected a folk lore of too many people were killed in Shuang-wen Lin Incident and were left corrupted in ponds to be eaten by catfishes. The Da Mu Gong in Tucheng is also connected with the chaotic social status of constant incidents, which happened each three to five years in the Qing dynasty.
These mysterious nameless dead and buildings which are seem to be unfinished, like some unusual events, represent a “belated narrative,” which is out of reach of orthodox historical writings or temple systems with apotheosis traits. To put it another way, being outside of the orthodox narrative of “similarity,” ghost temples, via their horrified mysteries, legends, underground rules of “fulfilling every wish” and “people should return the favor sincerely to the god”—a debt solving system (which is their real characters in this modern society) that is different from banks’, offer alternative paths for people. As Chakrabarty argues, a “replacement” is not equal to the logic of “equivalent exchanging,” but another way to take over something. The mysteries in the belief of vicious ghosts are actually compensation for inevitable deficiencies of modern laws, through their relatively dark aesthetics.

A Modern Shaman

When I found the Lao Da Gong temple with only three walls on the shore in Zhuangwei or accidentally found a Henxi Gu Niang Miao in mountain district, I felt pity for them, but I was also afraid of those temples. Yet, generally speaking, a ghost temple is not scary at all, but often being a friendly place like a “home.” The most curious case is a Wang Shan Ci in the public cemetery beside Ludao Airport and a story of digging out bones instead of gold behind it. I was invited to stay in Ludao for a short time by Green Island Human Rights Cultural Park, and had this opportunity to interview Xiu-yu Lin, the owner of Tong Xiang Hotel and one of participants of the gold digging team. That day was the first day of a month in lunar calendar, and I was led by the female owner to worship those “seniors” in Wan Shan Tang in the public cemetery in the afternoon. On the road to the cemetery, she told me this mysterious legend of digging “gold” which had happened some years ago.
Lin told me that two years ago, two worshipers of Pak Tai from Nantou told them that near 2,000 kg of gold were hidden in the swallow cave beside Xinsheng Prison. So people formed a team and took an excavator to dig the cave. After they dug to the depth of three or four stories, they started to find human skeletons. Due to the Chinese tradition, they had to find a place for those “seniors” to rest in peace, so they continued digging and eventually found over one hundred skeletons and raised money to build a temple for those skeletons. Their gold dream seemed to be a nightmare, but this nightmare actually brought them extra good fortune. The female owner told me that maybe those “seniors” murdered in a massacre decided to thank her by helping the business of her hotel, which was nearly out of business, and she even was able to buy a bus. Other mysterious stories can be found in Gold Dreams in Ludao by botanist Yu-feng Chen with details. In the interview, via the appreciation in eyes of the female hotel owner, I could see a close, mysterious and win-win tie between awed ghost temples and real life. Similarly, in the Da Zhong Ye temple [4] of Bada Village, Wujie Township, an impressive history is written:

In the Jiaqing reign, our ancestors moved to Taiwan to farm or run business and kept traveling between Taiwan and China. In that time, San Gui Kuai Bao (now known as Lizejian) was one of few Chinese communities and an important seaport… It is believed that those ancestors would worship a statue of Da Zhong Ye to assure the weather being good. When they arrived at the port, and the weather was fierce, they would beg for Da Zhong Ye to protect them. Thus, the reputation of Da Zhong Ye was widely spread… In that time, with limited knowledge of the weather on the sea, people believed a legend that a red light would appear between the river mouth and riverbanks and wave itself to warn people when a typhoon was coming. It was said that some residents followed the red light out of curiosity, and found that the red light always appeared in front of the Da Zhong Ye temple. Therefore, Da Zhong Ye was known as a powerful and merciful god and has gathered numerous worshipers until today, and has become a well known legend for a long time.

Ghost temples, which are spread around Taiwan, largely reflect a pre-nation trait of early society full of immigrants: the world is dangerous and one may die suddenly at every moment. Because of these temples which have set tablets to hold those deaths from wars and fights, even people died from hunger and suicides in the early society, as a result a transcend “belatedness” is formed. Maybe Taiwan has always been like a belated infant, but the ideas of “replacement/disguise” from this “belatedness” may be the key for us to expand the powerful figure of ghost temples into a symbolic subject to enter the current dominate mainstream of Western philosophical systems. Although the “belatedness” has been considered as a status of being not yet arrived, but it still has revolutionary contents. For instance, the agricultural society has been thought as backward, but many activities and models of that (e.g. communities and operation) are re-discussed today. Ghost temples, however, are more complicated and intense. With their “unfinished apotheosis” and “low-ranked spirits,” they are connected with a series of alternative social relationships: karma, awe, uncleanness, mutual benefits, and mutual rewards. Through the belief of ghosts, lost models of modern social activities can be activated (and limited).
Therefore, if there was an aesthetics of ghost temples, I could, and I would call it as a dark aesthetics. Yet that is no more than a disguise. The point is, the words of “I can” suggest a potentiality. As what Giorgio Agamben discussed about the story of Anna Akhmatova, when she was in the prison, another prisoner once asked her: “Can you describe this?” and she answered: “Yes, I can.” With various “re-interpretations” toward ghost temples in Taiwanese society (some of them are really hard to believe), it shows us that the possibility of “I can” cannot make an appearance until gaining such the belatedness. For example, “do not worship ghost temples” (but I have worshiped so many, what do you say to that?), “one should not speak of his birthday and address in a ghost temple” (so that ghosts do not know how to follow you home), “pregnant women should not worship in ghosts temples”… So, standing in a dark area of modern society, gods and temples, the ghost temple remains to be a powerful narrative and carrier of ideas. In fact, besides the ghost temple, maybe a dark corner of cosmopolitanism (what art organizations and systems are chasing) is a promised land for us to re-build an aesthetics of surviving in such “objective” one-point perspective world which is completely ruled by perspective, just like those “impure places” of ghost temples on shores or in countryside, those noble spirits, that mad man I met on a shore and his bizarre and awe-inspiring world view, or those mountains buried with thousands of skeletons in Taiwan. So, it just like what Fu-shi Lin, who was in “a place of reason” of Academia Sinica but still research on ghosts for his entire life, commented about his own strange behaviors as “being a modern shaman.”
Being a modern shaman fallen behind the current of the time, therefore we “can”!


[ NOTE ]
1 Fu-shi Lin, A Collaboratively Structured World of “Vicious Ghosts,” The World of Wandering Spirits and Ghosts, Taipei County: Cultural Center of Taipei County, 1995, p. 198.
2 De-zai Qiu, Temples and Gods in Taiwan IV, Taichung: Taiwan Historica, 1983, p. 390. From Zhi-yu Wang, “A New Theory of the Belief of Forsaken Wandering Spirits in Taiwan: A Case Study on Temples in Zhushan,” Feng Chia Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 6 (Taichung: 2003.5), pp. 183–210.
3 Da Mu Gong Temple in Tangdi has this description: “Before the end of Japanese Period (1945), more than ten Japanese soldiers (including Taiwanese and Japanese soldiers) retreated to Tangdi, Shulin because of the war… They died from illness in the conference building and had nowhere to be buried, so local people hastily buried them beside a farmland which was near a water wheel.”
4 This temple was upgraded and became a City God temple in December, 2009.

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