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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
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London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Double Face: Images of Matsu under the Kominka period during World War Two

Presented by Ms Ting-Yu Shih (Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University)

Presented at the conference 'Cultural Heritage: tradition in dialogue with modernity'

Venue: Room AGWR (the Graham Wallas Room), Old Building,  London School of Economics (LSE)

Date: Thursday 11 July 2013, 1.30pm-2.30pm

Discussant: Stuart Thompson (Taiwan Research Programme, LSE)


Matsu is a famous female deity in the tradition of religious faith. However, during the period of colonial rule over Taiwan (1895–1945), the Japanese Empire’s conception of modernity meant that the concept of Mazu came under severe attack. Meanwhile, the Chinese Neo-Cultural Movement, from its beginnings in 1919, marginalized the image of Matsu as a religious icon in traditional Taiwan culture.

   However, although Matsu’s image was disrespected by Taiwanese media, a different perspective was encouraged during the war by the Japanese writer Nishikawa Mitsu. In his writing, Matsu was taken out of her original mythological context; this severed a connection between religion and Taiwan’s traditional culture, but created a new image of Matsu in relation to religious faith. 

   In contrast, Chang Wen-Huan, who was famous for his writings on Taiwan’s unique customs, sought a way for the concept of Matsu to survive in relation to traditional religious faith during the period of religious suppression by the Japanese colonial government. Chang took cultural signifiers of Matsu, but used them to recodify her meaning. However, although his writing invented a new cultural meaning for her image, he also reconnected the older sense of what she means with Taiwan’s culture.

About the Speaker

Ms Ting-Yu Shih is a postgraduate student in the Department of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University.