On Tuesdays, I am scheduled to teach a 2-hour advanced class with 7 registered students. However, every week I have fewer and fewer people, and I had only one woman to teach tonight. Fortunately, she was fine to just chat for most of the session and based on the material we covered in the book, I was able to get answers to some questions that have plagued me since I arrived.
In a recent post, I asked my sister for some answers about Buddhist ceremonies and services, but she didn’t have much information. I asked Gan and she wasn’t entirely sure how to explain what I witnessed at the gym. Her first guess was a funeral, but I saw no portraits. Her second suggestion was a birthday celebration for the Buddha, or some specific incarnation’s celebration, but when I told her about the banner, she downgraded the likeliness.
These questions led to her describing the scheduled observances of traditional Taiwanese religion. Now, coming from a Western religion that has a history of weekly, daily, and hourly observances in public groups, I am deeply confused by other religions that don’t have these kinds of frequent and formulaic ceremonies. The only thing I’d seen in my time in Taiwan was tables of offerings and the burning of ritual money on seemingly random days (and the occasional parade, which is easier to understand). After nearly a year and a half, I now know that these take place on the first and fifteenth of each lunar month! The gods worshipped on these days can be any or all of the wide selection of gods, ancestors, and deities, including Buddha. However, the following days (the 2nd and 16th) are for businesses to honor the god of fortune, 財神爺. I am so happy to have answers.
As for the title of the post, among our topics of discussion were American geography and the (un-)importance of state capitals, Taiwanese politics and history, two-party systems, and Taipei’s progress in the last ten years. We also touched on language and language education, especially in Taiwan. Gan called languages other than Mandarin 鄉土語, which is something I’d like to address later. A strange education indeed!