History & Culture

The controversy over the Guanyin statue of Daan Park

The Guanyin statue of Daan Park (祈安觀音) was the center of a religious dispute that sparked a years long controversy. The statue was mired in controversy since its inception.

The history behind the statue

Daan Forest Park was a project more than 60 years in the making. The Japanese set aside 17 locations in Taipei to serve as future urban parkland, and Daan Forest Park was called “Park No.7.”

However, when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) relocated to Taiwan, they used most of these open areas for military purposes, and Park No.7 was used to house two military dependent villages, various military facilities, and the International House of Taipei.

Daan Park looked very different 30 years ago. Source : 黃大洲《一座公園的誕生》

In 1979, the founder of Da Hsiung Monastery (大雄精舍) received a message in a dream to build a Buddhist temple near the International House of Taipei.

The government was resistant to grant the land, as plans to clear all the existing structures to restore the area to its original purpose was already in the making.

Nonetheless, the Buddhist community managed to secure enough political support to build a statue for worship, instead of an entire temple. The Guanyin statue was completed in 1985.

Over time, the statue and surrounding bamboo forest attracted many worshippers.

In 1989, the city decided to officially launch the project of turning the area into a forest park. This was the beginning of many years of struggle of relocating the residents of the area, as well as many debates regarding the fate of the statue.

The residents (majoritarily Christians) generally supported the removal of the statue as they found it unfair that it was allowed to remain while they had lost everything with the construction of the park.

The government went back and fourth for years, but the Buddhist community ultimately prevailed, and at the opening of Daan Park on 29 March 1994, the Guanyin statue was there and standing.

The Final Solution

The government’s final offer to satisfy everyone was to keep the statue as public art, asking believers to refrain from using it for any religious activities. Both sides accepted, drawing a close to the debacle.

Today you can find a sign nearby the statue. Its content roughly translates to “This statue is a public art. Please refrain from performing religious acts such as burning incense and worshiping.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s