Taiwanese folk religions reflect an ancient history of many diverse Han peoples coexisting over a period of thousands of years. The meanings, organization, and ritual ceremonies of Taiwanese folk religions have been integrated into the secular social life of the people. Thus, Taiwanese religious beliefs and ritual behavior are manifested in various aspects of daily life. They include worship of ancestors, belief in spiritual gods, seasonal ritual ceremonies, customs followed over the course of one’s life, concepts of time and space, magic incantations, divination by bagua, and fortune-telling.
Han people say that they “respect nature and worship ancestors.” Respecting nature means being awed by nature and following nature’s principles. Worshiping ancestors means being mindful of one’s origins, showing respect at funerals, and remembering one’s ancestors.
Gods and goddesses are believed to protect Taiwan and its people. Such benevolence and kindness morally entails a debt of gratitude, and people express their gratitude and appreciation by holding grand festivals to greet the gods and goddesses on their birthdays.
Taiwanese folk religions have no religious beliefs or sacred manuscripts in common, though ancient Confucian ethics provide moral principles, and Zhung-Xiao-Jie-Yi (traditional moral standards) have been handed down from generation to generation. The proverb “God is three feet above you” reflects the Daoist belief in the omnipresence of nature. Good deeds are valued, for they are believed to bring a reward; conversely, performing a bad deed will bring retribution.
Nevertheless, according to a Taiwanese saying: “There are unknown storms in nature; good or bad luck can happen to people at any time.” To ward off bad luck, people worship gods, goddesses, and the Buddha, and they venerate objects installed in villages, temples, and houses that are believed to ensure safety and protect from evil. When people are confronted by difficulties, they turn to fortune-telling and divination by bagua in order to avoid evil and have good luck.
Thus, the complex, and sometimes enigmatic, rituals practiced by the Taiwanese people reflect their respect for nature, their worship of ancestors, and their hopes of being protected from danger and rewarded in this life for good behavior.