Travelling Welshman
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Asia,  Guides,  Taiwan

How to Pray in a Taiwanese Temple

There are a few countries as in touch with their spirituality as Taiwan. The crucible of Taiwanese culture has brought together elements from some of the world’s oldest religions and ancient superstitions. This unique blend has resulted in some very unique practices in Taiwan, including a way to pray directly to the gods.

Temples have become a conduit through which worshippers are able to ask questions to the spirits above and receive an all-important answer. Want to try it for yourself? Of course, you do! So let’s find out how you can ask your own question to the spirits above!

How Can You Ask a Question To the Gods?

Rather than clasping your hands together and wishing to a star above, Taiwanese temples have a unique method that not only allows you to ask a question to the gods, but also to receive an instant answer!

This is done by using Jiaǒ Bei (筊杯) which are red crescent-shaped pieces of wood that have one flat side and one curved side. It’s through these blocks that the gods express their answer to a worshippers’ questions.

pray taiwan
These are Jiaǒ Bei found throughout Taiwan and can be used to pray

For a more detailed guide, here’s everything you need to know about temples in Taiwan!

Learn about each intricate detail and the incredible amount of symbolism found within!

Click here!

How Do You Pray?

In almost every temple around Taiwan, you’ll be able to find Jiaǒ Bei which can be used to pray. Whether they’re pilled up in a bucket or placed along a shrine, it’s not difficult to come across a pair.

First, you need to take a pair of Jiaǒ Bei in your hands and stand before the shrine you wish to pray to. Next, you have to state your name, your age and your exact address. Now share your deepest wishes with the Gods before asking them a simple yes/no question. Lastly, drop the blocks to the floor and observe how they landed; their position reveals your answer.

If both curved sides face up, then it’s a no (Yin Jiaǒ, 陰筊), and you should repeat the process.

If both curved sides face the bottom, causing the blocks to rock side to side, this is also a no (Siaò Jiaǒ, 笑筊). Some people believe this is the gods laughing at your question as they find it irrelevant. You should repeat the process and alter your question.

If there’s one curved side facing up and the other curved side facing down, then this is a yes (Shèng Jiaǒ, 聖筊) and you should proceed to the next step.

Yes
pray taiwan
No
hahaha no.

Getting Your Fortune

Once you get a positive answer to your question, your next task is to head over to a nearby basket full of long flat bamboo sticks and pick one at random. Look at the stick carefully and find a number, usually between 1-100. Once you find it, you then need to repeat the process of dropping the Jiaǒ Bei to see whether or not this is the number you should have. If the gods say yes, head to the next step. If the gods say no (either way), then pick another number and repeat the process until you get a yes!

pray taiwan
A basket of fortune sticks for you to pick at random

Once the gods say that you’ve got the right number, now it’s time to find your fortune! These are usually kept in a large cabinet with a multitude of numbered drawers. Find your number and take out a piece of paper that has your fortune on it!

How Do You Read Your Fortune?

If you’re lucky, there might be an English translation on the paper! If not, then there might be a nearby book with a more detailed explanation, however, this isn’t very common. If all else fails, many temples have helpful staff that are able to interpret these fortunes for you! They’re either general temple workers or can even be actual monks who will help you understand the fortune based on the question you asked!

Thank you so much for reading How to Pray in a Taiwanese Temple! Check out these other helpful articles!

TravellingWelshman

A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.

2 Comments

  • Ben Zabulis

    A very poignant article at this time of year – happy New Year of the Tiger to you and, hopefully, fortune will come your way ! Love the lead photo of the Chin Shan Gong Temple at night – very classy !

    • TravellingWelshman

      It was the perfect time of year to write about it! It’s such a wonderful practice too! That was a beautiful little temple in the heart of Taipei too. I hope you all the happiness too sir!

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