The Longing of the Soul in Taipei

By   •   October 23, 2008

This is the spiritual environment in which Franklin Graham will conduct his final Festival of 2008 from Thursday, October 30, to Sunday, November 2.

It is his first Festival in Taipei. Franklin’s previous events in Asia were held in Manila, Philippines, and Okinawa, Japan, in 2006 and Busan, South Korea, and Hong Kong, China, in 2007.

A quick scan of statistics about the country of Taiwan reveals a country that is outwardly spiritual, but perhaps inwardly hungry. According to the CIA, there are about 93 percent of people identifying themselves as Buddhists, Taoists, or practitioners of Chinese folk religion.

However, identification with these faiths does not mean actual affiliation. Many persons simply adopt their parents’ affiliation out of respect.

It is common for people to practice a blend of the three religions. Some people practice Buddhism exclusively, but most blend Taoist religious practices with elements from Buddhism and folk traditions. It is not uncommon to find a Buddhist temple adjacent to a Taoist temple, or even under the same roof. One example of this is Longshan Temple in Taipei City. Religious diversity has never been a significant source of conflict in Taiwan.

Though many Taiwanese visit temples regularly, religion for the Taiwanese at large should not be considered a precisely ‘spiritual’ activity. Most temples have built reputations on claims of being able to provide good fortune and do not emphasize a particular morality.

In fact there are ‘good gods’ and ‘bad gods’ under the same temple. The main purpose of visiting the temples is to pray for fortune. This has been considered to be the cause of a ‘moral vacuum’ in Taiwan.

A Glimpse of Taipei

Taipei is a sprawling city located near the top of Taiwan. In Mandarin, the official language of Taiwan, Taipei literally means “North Taiwan.” Depending upon the dialect, it is pronounced “Tie-Bay” or “Tie-Pay.” Located in a large basin on the Danshui River, Taiwan is slightly smaller than the combined size of Maryland and Delaware, with a tropical climate. The eastern two-thirds of Taiwan are mostly rugged mountains, with flat and rolling plains in the west.

Taiwan’s status as a part of China continues to be a controversial topic, with some believing that Taiwan will eventually fully unify with China and others advocating complete independence. According to the CIA, public opinion polls consistently show a substantial majority of Taiwanese support maintaining the status quo for the foreseeable future.

Taiwan’s government began to liberalize in 1987, the year that marked the end of martial law and the beginning of the presidency of Taiwan’s first Taiwanese-born president, Lee Teng-hui. Today, Taiwan is a multi-party democracy, and in 2000, Taiwan underwent its first peaceful transfer of power from the Nationalist to the Democratic Progressive Party.

Fun Facts

Billy Graham held one Crusade in Taipei and it was his only outreach in Taiwan during the course of his ministry. It took place October 29 through November 2, 1975, with 250,000 in attendance and 11,607 inquirers.

Taipei is home to Taipei 101, currently the tallest skyscraper in the world, standing 1,671 feet high, with 101 stories. Taipei 101’s elevators have set records for ascending floor speed.

A thoroughly modern city, Taipei has a well-established metro transit system, and the highest wireless penetration in the world, with Internet being accessible through a citywide Wi-Fi network consisting of 20,000 access points.

Taipei has nearly 25,900 people per square mile, and the island’s population density is second-highest in the world among countries with a population of more than 10 million.

Taipei has a fair claim to be called the “scooter capital of the world,” as statistics indicate that nearly every resident has one. There are 20.3 million scooters in Taiwan, which has a population of roughly 23 million, and some 700,000 new scooters are bought every year.

Be sure to come back later this week to follow the Festival blog, watch videos, and learn of God’s work in the hearts of those in Taiwan.