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Taiwan activists incensed over burnt incense pollution

Mazu temple president says it is hard to change worshippers' practices, despite their best efforts

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

Updated: December 13, 2017 06:08 AM GMT
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Taiwan activists incensed over burnt incense pollution

Incense burning and firecracker lighting at Mazu Temple in Taichung, Taiwan has been blamed for causing air pollution. However, Environmental Protection Administration staistics show it contributes less than 2 percent (Photo ucanews.com)

An ancient Chinese temple is it at the center of a controversy in Taiwan over whether incense and joss paper burning there is contributing to air pollution.

Local politician Yen Kuan-heng on his Facebook page called for a rally Dec. 17 to urge the government to take action against air pollution around Taichung on the island's western coast.

But his call sparked an immediate response from netizens who blamed incense and joss burning at Mazu, or Jenn Lann, temple in Daija district, as a major contributor to the problem.

The temple is dedicated to the sea goddess Mazu and is a major tourist and pilgrim attraction. During one major pilgrimage, incense and joss paper burning lasts for nine days and eight nights.

Yen Ching-piao, president of the temple, said incense and joss paper burning was a Chinese religious practice that was hard to change.

"The temple has been promoting less incense burning, and asking people to offer only one stick of incense in an incense burner," he said.

"We have also asked them to burn joss paper in a special incinerator instead of the temple and urged them to use ‘electric firecrackers’ instead of lighting real ones, but it has taken quiet a long time to change people’s habits," he said.

Yen Kuan-heng, in a TV interview, quoted statistics from the Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration which showed incense and joss paper burning contributed less than 2% to air pollution in the area, with the majority coming from vehicles and factories.

In July, more than 10,000 people marched in the capital Taipei against government attempts to limit the burning of incense and paper money during religious ceremonies to curb air pollution.

The protesters told the government that as followers of the Taoist religion, the practices are a crucial element of their religious rituals.

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