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National Museum of Natural Science, Taiwan*
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The Hunt of the Celestial Court
Ritual of Wang ye Worship in Donggang
The 2nd Special Exhibition Gallery, Human Cultures Hall
March 16 - June 10, 2012

Little Island, Great Tradition.

Wang Ye Is Coming to the Museum
Wang Ye Is Coming to the Museum
Wang Ye (literally 'Royal Lord') worship, tracing back over 1,000 years to the Song Dynasty, is a primarily Taiwanese folk religion. The customary belief is that Wang Ye are divine emissaries patrolling the world on behalf of the celestial realm, expelling disease and evil from those who worship them. A temple that houses a Wang Ye is called 'daitian fu' meaning palace representing heaven, and the Wang Ye's visit is known as 'daitian xunshou' meaning hunting tour on behalf of heaven. The object of the "hunting" is disease and bad luck. Such hunting tours take place on a regular cycle of a set number of years, usually three years.

Wang Ye worship was brought to Taiwan during the 17th and 18th centuries by immigrants from southern China. The first shrines were established on Penghu and Kinmen, the faith later spread to Tainan, and then to the rest of Taiwan, and reached its heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially in southern Taiwan.

Donggang, a port town in west-central Pingtung County, located on Taiwan's western coastline. This town is not only famous for its fresh and abundant seafood, but also its triennial ritual of Wang Ye worship, which has been performed for one hundred years. Donglong Temple in Donggang, founded in 1706, is the center of this regular religious activity, and its worship ceremony has been identified as one of the 10 intangible cultural heritages by the Headquarters Administration of Cultural Heritage (HACH) in 2010.

The National Museum of Natural Science presents The Hunt of the Celestial Court exhibition in cooperation with Donglong Temple from March 16 through June 10 at the 2nd special exhibition gallery.

"Taiwan folk beliefs have their roots in polytheism and various seasonal customs and festivals, through which our people are able to add enjoyment to their daily lives, maintain cultural identity with friends and relatives, and remove doubts or ease difficulties," said Dr. Sun Wei-xing, Director of the National Museum of Natural Science at the Wang Ye welcome ceremony. "Folk beliefs in Taiwan are a positive reflection of the people's wish for harmonious interaction, coexistence, and co-prosperity among heaven, earth, and mankind," continued he. "Succeed to the special exhibitions of God of Earth in 2009 and Matzu Pilgrimages in 2011, the Museum presents The Hunt of the Celestial Court exhibition in hope of recording these very important folk beliefs from the viewpoint of human culture, because they reflect Taiwan's reverence for the basic social virtues of loyalty, piety, fidelity, and justice" added Sun.

Small-scaled Wang Ye Boat
"Donggang is noted as 'the Hometown of Wang Ye Boat'," said Dr. Chou Wun-hao, the Museum Deputy Director, also the curator of this exhibition. "Donglong Temple began its festival about 100 years ago. Donglong Temple's festival is a curious mix of tradition, all old, all genuine, and the result is something as unique as it is spectacular," added Chou.

In addition to finely wrought camphor-wood carvings of the folk performances, and representations of the rituals, The Hunt of the Celestial Court exhibition is highlighted with a small-scaled Wang Ye boat, which was built by the Donglong Temple in 1994, and a rebuilt 'daitian fu'.

Come and gain a comprehensive understanding of the content and importance of our intangible cultural heritage!

  • Guided tours: 11am & 2pm
  • Admission is free.

The Hunt of the Celestial Court is organized by the National Museum of Natural Science,
Taichung in cooperation with Donglong Temple, Donggang.