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Taikang Culture Festival

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Annan District of Tainan City was called Taikang in the past. Its origin can be traced back to the start of Taiwan’s recorded history. Annan District borders with Anding District and Tainan Science Park in the east. In the north, the Zengwun River flows past and across the river are the Cigu and Sigang Districts. In the south, there is the Yanshui River, along with the Yongkang, North, and Anping Districts. In the west, there is the Taiwan Strait. Inside Annan District, there are important sites including Taikang National Park, Tainan Science Park, and National Museum of Taiwan History. Annan has a population of nearly 190,000 people. Its area is approx. 107 km2, accounting for two-thirds of Tainan City’s area before the city was enlarged in 2010. The traffic of Annan is very convenient, with Taikang Boulevard and Freeway No. 8 connecting to Anding, Shanhua, Sigang and Xinshi Interchanges. Thus, Annan District is regarded as the center of culture, ecology, transportation, and technology in northern Tainan.

The history of Taikang is a story of twisted fate. In 1823, the course of Zengwun River was diverted from Jianliao. Taikang Inner Sea thus became a tidal land. Those who had lived on the north side of the river (usually relatives in the same village) began to move south for the second time. These settlers built shacks that served as public schools to promote education as they worked hard to maintain their lives. Gradually, more and more villages were developed. Nowadays, there are a total of 27 villages in the Taikang area, 12 of which worship Dadaogong (a.k.a. Pao Sheng Emperor). Thus, we can say that Dadaogong is the patron deity of Taikang settlers.

In 2010, the Dadaogong pilgrimage in the third month of the lunar calendar coincidentally took place at the same time when the Pao Sheng Emperor from the Cih Ji Temple at Syuejia went south on a tour of inspection. Hence, local temples in the 27 villages of Taikang worked together with Tainan Community University, Chao Huang Temple at Haiwei, Taikang Culture Promotion Society, and local elementary and junior high schools to organize the “Dadaogong Taikang Culture Festival,” which proved to be a huge success.

In 2011, the theme of the Taikang Culture Festival was “Culture Foundation, Cultural Taikang.” In order to promote traditional culture and to innovate local culture at the same time, local schools from high schools to kindergartens all joined in to hold a series of fun activities, including deity-welcoming walking tours, Taikang New Generation Concert, etc. These activities not only resonated with Tainan City’s vision of making itself the cultural capital of Taiwan, but also promoted the idea of community learning in local temples. It was estimated that nearly 100,000 residents of the Haiwei area took part in the 2011 Taikang Culture Festival and the public all gave very positive reviews.

In 2012, a lot of important religious rituals (held every three to four years) took place, including the birthday festival of Dadaogong, Taikang Deity Welcoming Festival at Matzu Temple, Tucheng Matzu pilgrimage, the birthday festival of Taikang’s Duke Jinshuei, riverside worshipping rituals, etc. Thus, the theme of the 2012 Taikang Culture Festival was “Culture Pilgrimage in Green Taikang” with the purpose of expounding Dadaogong’s teachings – people should try their best to protect the environment and their culture. With this in mind, artistic events such as “Taikang’s Dream” Concert and Taikang Children’s Concert were held and local temple troupes (usually walking before the sacred palanquin in a pilgrimage) were invited to share the stage too. Local temples also organized activities to promote local learning. Also, organizers worked with the Shanhaizun (which means “mountain, sea, and canal”) Green Trail Movement and started to plan two trail routes in Haiwei and Sidingliao. People walked through these trails in the events of “Taikang Dadaogong Walking Tour” and “Taikang ‘Community Museum’ Walking Tour.” By doing this, the organizers helped create the cultural atmosphere of local Taikang.

In 2013, to promote the importance of public amenities in Taikang, the Taikang Culture Festival put great emphasis on local culture. To make Taikang a place where artists can freely create and train/educate younger generations, the festival organizers held concerts and children’s plays themed on local culture and civic participation, which were truly an artistic innovation. At the same time, in order to advocate art in villages and to innovate Taikang’s temple culture, the communities were regarded as a museum and local stories were reported, allowing residents to remember how early settlers took part in public affairs and worked with one another in deity pilgrimages and in the process of community development. Activities such as cultural night market at the temple and the “Community Museum” Development Movement were held/initiated; also, local senior citizens, youth, and students were invited to learn about how the Taikang villages were developed. The stories of how the Taikang villages interacted with one another are truly awe-inspiring. By presenting these stories, the 2013 Taikang Culture Festival successfully made Taikang temples the local culture salons.

In 2014, the Taikang Culture Festival continued the development of public amenities by promoting art creation and artistic education. As local advocates tried to make Taikang temples the local “culture salons,” they also nurtured local talents and facilitated interactions among communities. The Festival, along with the Shanhaizun Green Trail Movement and the promotion of lifelong learning in local temples, presented to participants the best of Taikang – marvelous religious rituals (during the birthdays of the deities Dadaogong and Duke Jinshuei, for example), local people and their culture, and Taikang’s natural environment and ecology. Through the organizers’ efforts, Taikang was able to show its rich culture and green ecology.

In 2015, the Taikang Culture Festival placed the emphasis on river protection and culture preservation. Reflecting on the experience from the past years, the organizers decided that the Festival should keep promoting public participation in the realm of art and culture by including local communities and temples, so that when Taikang Cultural Center is inaugurated (schedule in 2018), there will be enough artistic population to support its events. To extend the four goals of Taikang Culture Festival – innovate Taikang, promote local religious culture, develop communities, and bring art to villages – the organizers held events like “Taikang’s Dream” Concert, local community concerts, community tours, Dadaogong’s birthday tour, the activity of “Passing Down Local Art” in local temples, etc. By collaborating with the Taikang Campus of Tainan Community University and Chao Huang Temple at Haiwei, lectures and concerts were held in local temples, recreating the scene where local residents used to gather at the temple (the community center) to conduct public affairs. Now these temples, once again, are the center of local culture, learning, and public participation.

In the next year, on February 6th, 2016, a devastating earthquake struck the Annan District of Tainan and some Taikang communities faced the issue of soil liquefaction. It left local residents thinking – for more than a century, the early settlers in Taikang had been the victim of flooding, and now with the river/air pollution and the soil liquefaction issue, it is important to figure out how to protect the environment and how to make Taikang more resilient. Thus, the Dadaogong pilgrimage in the third month of the lunar calendar set its theme as “blessing the earthquake victims,” and the 2016 Taikang Culture Festival “Hear Our Land” also urged people to protect and rebuild their beloved home Taikang. With the power of art and culture, the organizers hoped to pacify the deceased and pass down the lessons taught by natural disasters to the next generation. The Festival certainly calmed the residents and helped them rise from the ashes as the new invincible Taikang people.

In 2017, year of the Rooster, two important Taoist rituals were held in Haiwei (held every six years) and Sinliao (held every twelve years). At the same time, in Sidingliao the ritual of “sending away fire” was also held. Hence, this year can be seen as the rebirth of Taikang after the devastating earthquake. In 2016, Chao Huang Temple at Haiwei, the Taikang Campus of Tainan Community University, and other local organizations met for discussion in the Taikang Culture Conference and proposed many ideas to promote the renaissance of local culture, advocate reading, and re-establish the trend of local education in temples. Thus, the 2017 Taikang Culture Festival was called “Culture Foundation, Artistic and Cultural Troupes in Action.” Before Taikang Cultural Center opens in 2018, the Taikang Culture Festival has already united local temples and other cultural groups to form the model of culture governance.

Before Taikang Cultural Center is inaugurated, Taikang Culture Festival has been organized annually for many years, serving as the pioneering example of PPP (public-private partnership). The Festival not only helps citizens understand Taikang’s local culture more deeply, but also makes Taikang a much more energetic place to visit. Taikang Culture Festival has been held for eight consecutive years. This annual art fest in Annan District invites local troupes to perform every April. Besides allowing local artists to grow, the Festival also nurtures the artistic population in Taikang. With Taikang Cultural Center opening up soon, art lovers will surely have access to more spectacular events in the future!

*photos provided by Cultural Affairs Bureau, Tainan City Government