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Temple and Community in "The Economy of Spiritual Power": the Chu-Shan Zinangong Temple of Zhushan, Taiwan

Wei-hua CHEN (National University of Tainan)
Ying-chang CHUANG (Academia Sinica)
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The transformation of some popular religious temples into tourist sites is an aspect of contemporary popular religion that has attracted much attention. It raises many questions. How do such temples transform from traditional into new forms? What kinds of continuity and transformation are involved in this transition from traditional to modem? How does the relationship between temple and community change as a result of this process? This article uses the theoretical perspective of "economy of spiritual power" and the Zi Nan Gong as a case study to discuss these questions. In the Qing dynasty, on the basis of its location at a transportation hub, the Zi Nan Gong garnered great social capital from its social network. The subsequent loss of this special location initiated a decline in the temple's fortunes. But beginning in the 1980s, the Zi Nan Gong actively recreated its old traditions, benefitting from state support as well as modem marketing acumen to transcend its traditional reliance on "social capital" and develop new forms of "cultural capital". This led to a further transformation from a spontaneous to a constructivist economy of spiritual power. Zi Nan Gong became a tourist temple. Moreover, relying on the prosperity of temple operations and large donations, it was able to rebuild the Qing- era ritual community(<em>jisi quan</em>) that had disintegrated by the end of the Japanese colonial period.

Journal of History and Anthropology