Taiwanese pray ‘just to be safe’ as Year of the Rabbit nears

Taipei, Taiwan – Preparing for the Lunar New Year is a busy time for people like Ms Lin, a 58-year-old who works near Taipei’s historic Longshan Temple. Many Taiwanese –

and people of Chinese descent throughout the world – get their hair cut, buy new clothes, clean out the house, prepare for a family feast or travel back home in the run-up to the

festival, which this year falls on Sunday. But many also find time to visit their local temple to pray to gods and ancestors and ward off anything untoward lurking in the year

ahead. This is where Al Jazeera found Ms Lin one weekday afternoon, queueing to light lamps to the Taoist god of money, and the tai sui, the rotating god of the year, lest

he brings her family misfortune. Ms Lin had completed a form with details including information like her age, birthday, and address – important identifiers in Taoism’s

“celestial bureaucracy” – to hand to temple office staff so the gods can identify each mortal. These days, lamps can be paid for with cash or a credit card. “It’s like

[Christians] have Christ that they can confess to. When they have some worries on their mind, they will seek help from God,” Ms Lin, who preferred not to share her full name, told

Al Jazeera. “So, we spend a bit of money and ask the [tai sui] god to read out our birthday and to keep us safe. It’s actually very similar.” Longshan Temple is open

year-round, but praying to the tai sui – a ritual known as “an tai sui” – is particularly important ahead of the Lunar New Year. In Taoist tradition, people born under the zodiac

sign of the upcoming year – such as 2023’s Year of the Rabbit – face 12 months of potential bad luck and struggle because they will clash with the year’s tai sui.