Living at the Edge
“Living at the Edge: Religion, Capitalism, and the End of the Nation-State in Taiwan” by Robert P. Weller is an article talking about life in Taiwan. As the author states, Taiwan lies at the boundaries of the world and its economy has flourished. Taiwan does not have brand images that are highly recognized outside the country. The country made a late entrance into capitalism and grew as a number of several networks of small firms and contractors. Taiwan has spent the last four hundred years as a frontier of the Dutch, Japanese, and Chinese empires. The article shows religious ways of the people of Taiwan and the manner in which religion influences their lives and their experiences in different ways (Weller, 2000).
The author states that religious practices in Taiwan differ significantly in terms of social organization, claims to universalizing morals, and the relationship between society and an individual (Weller, 2000). Fee-for-service religion is one of the religious organizations that accommodate asocial individuals; it does not focus much on and has unclear deities.
Also, there are temples that are dedicated to community gods. These temples have been at the core of Taiwanese religion and have developed in both number and scale. Old temples have been reconstructed in addition to new ones that have been developed. They handle individuals as embedded members of social links, despite the fact that their orientation is primarily local. They display aspects of old and new lines of trade and migration. Another religious institution in Taiwan is pietistic Buddhist movements that advocate for new social values and encourage the establishment of new types of communities that encompass globalization, structuring, and modernity. All of the religious institutions in Taiwan restructure and transform social and cultural values that have been existent in Taiwan for centuries (Weller, 2000).
Taiwan, an island that connects Japan, China, and Southeast Asia, has well-structured political history. Before the seventeenth century, most of its inhabitants were Austronesian speakers, and the island was occasionally used as a base for pirates, with Japanese and Chinese traders often visiting it island often. The Dutch took control of Taiwan in the seventeenth century, but it was ousted in 1661 by the Qing government. The island reverted to Chinese control after the Second World War, but was still seen as a backwater.
The claim to be at the edge had a weak point for Taiwan, and the major blow came when the US withdrew its diplomatic recognition of Taiwan in 1979. It was also removed from the UN, meaning that it does not have a say in international issues. The martial law was lifted in 1987, enabling locals to speak of being Taiwanese as opposed to Chinese, as they had been for the previous four decades and colonial Japanese that they had been for five decades before being Chinese (Weller, 2000).
Taiwan’s economy has been stable compared to its political history. The locals practiced agriculture, which made the country market-oriented. It was a major exporter of tea to the US. It also exported rice and sugarcane to mainland China. Nationalist officials were responsible for the tough political rule and enlightened economic leadership (Weller, 2000).
As the author states, previously obscure temples, such as the Eighteen Lords, became widespread in Taiwan during the mid-1980s as gambling grew (Weller, 2000). Soldiers on coastal sentry would worship at the temple for many years. Ghosts symbolized improper deaths of people and signified the spirits of people who died young or violently and had no people to worship them. It is believed that unlike gods, ghosts would grant any kind of request because the absence of descendants worshiping them meant that they starved. The Eighteen Lords differed from other shadowy Taiwanese religion because they suddenly became open to the world. By the end of the 1980s, it was the most popular temple on the island. It emphasized departure from community and conventional morality. The common ground between illegal lottery and fee-for-service temples was the prospect of unearned wealth (Weller, 2000).
The ghost temples were famous partly because they rivaled community god temples. In many respects, the worship of community gods was contrary to the conceptions of religion in the West. For instance, the term religion lacked a clear translation in the Chinese before the twentieth century. China borrowed the translation from Japan that had borrowed it from the Western philosophy. The difference between the worlds of commerce and religion was not applicable in Taiwan. God temples have thrived in Taiwan over the past few decades, but not as much as ghost temples (Weller, 2000).
Sects have also grown in Taiwan. They are related to early Chinese traditions. The sects are millenarian and claim to be moral revivals in an era of moral crisis. They are built behind clear leaders and clear set of ideas. They do not oppose the market economy or Taiwan’s modernist state.
The study of religious institutions in Taiwan raises several important questions. What is the link between religion and capitalism? How do they reflect the end to the nation-state in Taiwan? Are religious institutions tied to economic activities of Taiwan?
As the author indicates, religious institutions in Taiwan have participated in acts of charity and compassion engaging in charity events (Weller, 2000). The start of gambling also saw the flourishing of certain religious institutions, such as the Eighteen Lords temple. Moreover, the compassionate relief shows an aspect of change because it downplays traditional aspects of Buddhism in Taiwan and is not an anti-market movement (Weller, 2000).
The growth of religious institutions in Taiwan has indicated a reaction to millennial capitalism and a change from a nation-state to a modernist state. Religions are integral parts of Taiwan’s recent political and economic transformations. The ease of movement created by communication in the media and transportation has allowed religious institutions to act on a larger scale than before.
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