In 1895 (year 21 of Kuang-hsu reign), the Treaty of Shimoroseki was signed and Taiwan was ceded to Japan. As Tang Ching-sung fled back to Amoy, Japanese troops attacked, captured, and brought chaos to Taipei. The explosion at Yuanshan arsenal affected Baoan Temple. In 1898 (year 24 of Kuang-hsu reign), Baoan was taken over by the Japanese, who established the third affiliated class of the National Language School, as well as a catering trade association. Later on, the school was renamed Dalongdong Public School. Years after the take-over, Baoan Temple was so poorly maintained that the structure and the paint were coming apart. Leaders in the three townships therefore initiated the fund-raising for reconstruction.
Years 1917-1919 (years 6-8 of Taisho reign) saw one major reconstruction of Baoan Temple. Fund-raising leaders included: Shen Chu, Chen Pei-ken, Lin Ming-te, Li Sheng-yuan, Cheng Ken-mu, Chen Chun-hui, Huang Tsan-chun, Lin Ching-tun, and Tsai Shou-san. The project lasted two years. To celebrate the successful completion of the biggest renovation to date, temple management planned five-day-long festivities, which started on January 18 (28th day of the 11th moon in year 8 of Taisho reign), 1920 (year 9 of Taisho reign).
Service altars were set up as follows: The Jade Emperor altar was in the front of Baoan Temple, Master Chang’s altar in the front hall of Baoan, North Pole temple at Koo Hsien-jung’s villa, Five Grains altar in the front of the new Matsu Temple at Dadaocheng, and Dragon King altar at the new store to the east front of Baoan. There were four smaller altars: Outer City God altar was at Taiping Street, Fu-de altar was inside Daojiang market, Guanyin altar was on the side of City God temple, and Kitchen God altar was inside Fu-de Shrine at Niu moche village. Elsewhere, other individuals also volunteered other altars.The expenses for the five-day festivities totaled about half a million dollars. The fact that Baoan Temple was able to raise such a large amount within a month or two and invite so many political and local notables shows how resourceful and influential Baoan was at the time.
Based on Temple Account Books of the Taisho period, the three most important worshipping activities in a year were: The Yulanpen Ghost Festival on the15th day of the seventh moon, Baosheng Emperor’s birthday ritual on the 15th day of the third moon, and Baosheng Emperor’s date of ascension on the 2nd day of the fifth moon. In addition, according to Taiwan Daily New Paper, the once-interrupted birthday ritual for Five-grain King re-emerged in the middle years of the Japanese Colonization Period and then became a major event for Baoan Temple.
1. Yulanpen Ghost Festival
Baoan Temple’s Ghost Festival was held during the 10th, 11th and 12th days of the seventh moon. Three townships presided over the festival in turn. The two most popular activities in the three-day festival were: water lantern and hog sacrifice. Fierce competition among townships helped to attract many local folks year after year. However, these major local events had died down after the Japanese Kominka Movement.
2. Baosheng Emperor’s Birthday Activities
Baosheng Emperor’s birthday falls on the 15th day of the third moon. On the eve of the birthday, there was a big touring parade, kicked off by a formal ritual that included three worshipping services. On the birthday, there were contests and grand-scale, folk theater-opera shows. All temple VIPs were required to “dress up” and attend in earnest. In that evening, Baoan Temple would observe another custom called “Fire Lion,” which was donated by believers to thank god for answering their prayers. Fire lion is a paper lion with bamboo skeleton and multi-colored fireworks tied to its body. Once ignited, the paper lion would display crackling and sparkly fireworks.
3. Five-grain Emperor’s Birthday Rite
Five-grain Emperor is the same as the pre-historic, legendary Sir Shengnong himself, also known as Shengnong Emperor. Because he had passed the farming techniques on to the world, Chinese people revered him as the god of agriculture. In its rear hall, Baoan Temple enshrines the Five-grain Emperor. During the Ching dynasty, Shengnong would come out for a touring parade every three years. Within the first years of the Japanese Colonization Period, this routine was discontinued because of social disorders. It was not until 1923 (year 12 of Taisho reign) that Dadaocheng rice merchants and Dalongdong locals proposed to reactivate the touring parade activity while commemorating Five-grain Emperor’s birthday on the 26th day of the fourth moon.
Although Baoan Temple has a priest as its head, the real power is in the hands of the temple’s management. In early Taisho years, manager Wang Ching-chung’s poor job performance caused widespread dissatisfaction. Chen Wan-yi and twenty other Temple members initiated a meeting at Dadaocheng’s Tzu-sheng Temple and decided to dismiss Manager Wang. They then elected two managers out of each of the three townships, plus 30 other board members and a number of advisors. The term of the manager was six years. Managers’ names were: Chen Pei-ken and Shen Chu from Township One, Lin Chi-hui and Lin Ming-te from Township Two, Huang Yu-chieh and Cheng Wan-yi from Township Three.
Baoan Temple’s management had accomplished quite many things during the period between the reconstruction and the Kominka Movement. One thing was the Confucius memorial ceremony. Before the Taipei Confucius Temple was built, and in as early as 1926 (year 15 of Taisho reign), the ceremony was held by the “Taipei Chung-sheng Society” at Baoan Temple. On September 22, 1927 (year 2 of Showa reign), Chung-sheng again held the same ceremony at Baoan.The other thing was praying for rains. During a drought in year 35 of Meiji reign, local people gathered at Baoan Temple to pray for the rain. It was then discontinued for many years before it was held again in year 18 of Showa reign. The sponsor of this ritual was one landowner representative by the name of Chen His-ching. The ritual was held on May 16. At first, a Taoist priest was asked to present a petition. After the ceremony, Mr. Chen led dozens of peasants to formally pay a courtesy call at the Taiwan Shrine.