What can be called as “folk belief” is a concept opposed to institutionalized religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity or Islam. In the Western world (Hong Kong included), folk belief as a subject of research is termed as popular religion. In Taiwan, a popular religion does not hold a canon or formal liturgies of its own; when formal services are concerned, it often avails itself of orthodox Taoist rites, that of the Zhen Yi or Lu Shan sects. In the Taiwanese society, popular religion is the form of worship that most people follow in daily practice. The typology of Taiwanese folk religions is introduced by immigrants of Minnan or Cantonese origins. However, over up to four centuries of evolution in Taiwan as an environment characterized by the intermarriage of different ethnicities and cultures, the religions come to acquire a unique identity in terms of form and content.
Since 2016, the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica has been carrying out a project titled “Digital Platform of Taiwan Religions and Cultures” in order to unify the findings of Academia Sinica and the Institute and archive new documents relevant to the subject for the preservation of the multiplicity of Taiwanese folk religions. Based on this project and some reflection on the overall results, the Institute has decided to rename the project as “Taiwan Folk Religion Audiovisual Platform” in 2017 by underlining vivid documentaries of folk religion. Documentaries, video tapes, photographs and slides were assembled, documented and uploaded to feature websites illustrating what is special about the folk religions in Taiwan.
The focus for 2018 will be to integrate the audiovisual collections built over the past two years into the Open Museum that the guiding project of ASCDC has been constructing. The integration involves the Museum’s online curating program equipped with spatial-temporal visualization so that the cultural significance of Taiwanese folk religions can be charted out to better reveal its geographical coordination. Audiovisual recordings in a forthcoming website named “Prayers” are in line for the integration. Moreover, GodRoad, a mobile application developed by this project that locates latest religious processions in Taiwan, will be linked to another app, Tainan Historical Maps. In hopes of promoting the appreciation of Taiwanese folk religions, this is to regularly record significant worships and processions recognized by the state and the municipal government of Tainan in preparation for the making of a merger app: Tainan Historical & Cultural Maps.