Photographs and Information about Taiwan's Culture, Nature and People by Rich Matheson

Ba Jia Jiang-Part 1 Origins 八家將的由來–白龍庵


Following, I will write several articles about different aspects of Bajiajiang, beginning here with their origins. I will also include a list of further reading for anyone who has an interest. My primary source is still this excellent online pdf.

I wrote about Bajiajiang for Xpat a few years ago. Like much of my writing, the article was pretty much a quick collection of internet information to accompany some photos that I wanted to publish. While not horribly erroneous, and in fairness I did begin with a caveat lector, the original article could do with some updating. Especially the origin section.

That article whet my appetite for bajiajiang and I have since become a bajiajiang fan. The Eight Generals are visually appealing and, for the most part, interesting characters in and out of role.

The earliest Bajiajiang in Taiwan were from Tainan, which were in turn imported from China’s Quanzhou(Fuzhou?) in Fujian, specifically the Bailong Temple (白龍庵, Katz colorfully translates this as Abbey of the White Dragon). The Bailong Temples’ principle deities are Wufudadi (五福大帝). Wufudadi are (Wang Yeh) or plague gods. In Chinese the five are:

Very loosely translated:  Green Zhang, Red Liu, White Zhao, Black Zhong and Yellow Shih.

It’s worth delving into the history of this important but now backstreet Tainan temple. I dug around a bit for info on this temple and found it has a very interesting history. It was once one of Tainan’s largest and most popular temples. The tradition of Northern Fujian’s popular Bailong An was brought across the straight by Qing Dynasty military and a temple was established next to Tainan’s military headquarters. This temple’s fame grew with it’s popular annual plague festival and it’s  Bajiajiang troupes.

The Bailong temple had a sister temple, The Xilai An. The Xilai An was on today’s Chingnian road and, being a branch temple, it’s principle deities were also WuLingGong (五靈公) which, for reasons we will see, became today’s Wufudadi. This is the very Xilai that gave the ‘Xilai Incident’ it’s name (also called Jiaobanian or Tapani Incident). During the Japanese era, the noise from the temple bothered the Japanese military that were housed in the old Qing military barracks and some rites were moved to Xilai An. It seems Xilai An surpassed the Bailong An in importance before it was destroyed by the Japanese for it’s significant role in both recruiting rebels for the uprising and their beliefs and even formations in battle.

Although Katz doesn’t actually say it in his exhaustive study of the Tapani Incident, I would be surprised if there were not some sort of bajiajiang troupes going into battle. Given that Song Jiang Battle Troupes and Boxers were known to be recruited (Katz, Paul R. 2005, 143) and the actual troops looked much like Song Jiang Battle Arrays, armed with spears, knives,  poles and carrying banners and beating drums (Katz, Paul R. 2005, 158), and further Bajiajiang were an important part of Xilai temple celebrations (Katz, Paul R. 2005, 96). It isn’t difficult to imagine fierce banner carrying bajiajiang troupes marching into battle against Japanese rifles and cannons, confident in their millenarian beliefs, sacred oaths, and protected by their amulets.

Presumably to draw attention away from the fact that Xilai An is a branch temple with similar practices, Wulinggong became Wufudadi.

Bailong An was never destroyed and bajiajiang troupes continued their traditions.

From Tainan they spread first south, to Kaohsiung and Pingtung, and north to Chiayi and Yunlin, then gradually spread around the rest of the island. With the gradual spread there were also transformations. Different areas developed local customs and clothing and face paint giving rise to Shenjiajiang (什家將), Guanjiangshou (官將首 whose origin is not really from Bajiajiang, but because of what Bajiajiang had become) etc. All may be called Jiajiangtuan (家將團).

Historically, troupes would be temple-goers participating for religious kudos and would only receive a towel or some such sundry as payment. Nowadays there are many professional troupes, therefore traditions and religious taboos are less strictly observed and creative professional performances are evolving Bajiajiang.

The Jiabanian Incident is interesting to me  because I drive through the main areas of the rebellion every week, namely; Shinhua, Jiashian, Yujin and Nanhua.

Sadly most of this info about Bailong An is from books. I have visited Bailong An several times, but haven’t found anyone to talk to. It is generally deserted and the old people pottering around who I would love to chat with don’t speak Chinese well enough to understand me. I’ll find someone one of these days.

my sources are: (I do realize this is silly for a blog, but…)

KATZ, Paul R.
2005 When Valleys Turned Blood Red: the Ta-pa-ni incident in colonial Taiwan. University of Hawai’i Press.

CHEN Yanzhong 陳彦仲 & HUANG Liru 黃麗如
2003 Taiwan de Yizhen (台灣的藝陣). Taiwan dili Baike #35 (台灣地理百科#35). Walkers Cultural Print in Taiwan.

LIN Yixian 林益賢 & CHIU Jianhao 邱建豪
2006 Bajiajiang (八家將). <;

YE Lunhui 葉倫會
2007 Taiwan Shenming de Gushi (台灣神明的故事). Literary Times.

Wufudadi (五福大帝) <;


7 responses

  1. Pingback: Weekly Links – February 4, 2010 « The Daily Bubble Tea

  2. Hi, Lief
    What a great series! When we posted the Qingshan King Festival,we fount out that there are very limited English resources available. I am so glad that you have the in-depth study of Taiwan’s deities . These are great resources in English. Indeed, I think this is one of the most interesting local culture in Taiwan.

    February 5, 2010 at 5:10 am

    • I enjoyed your Qingshan King Festival post, too. As well as all your other posts.

      February 8, 2010 at 2:20 pm

  3. Fascinating. I’ve been interested in bajiajiang since I first saw them, and yet so many local friends I’ve asked have been able to give me only cursory information on what they are and why they perform. I quite enjoyed this article – thank you for posting it!

    February 6, 2010 at 2:13 am

  4. Pingback: The Jiaobanian Incident 焦吧年事件 « Liefintaiwan’s Weblog

  5. Pingback: Faith in Tainan 台南的信仰 « Liefintaiwan

  6. Many thanks for the efforts and diligent research into making this posting. Theology , I am an extremely radical Calvinist charasmtic born-again worshipper speaking in tounges . However, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Zorastraiism, Judaism Taosim , Shikkkism and any of the world’s mainstream religions have not answered the entire life-time engnamatic circumstances and life struggles : why am I born-sick struggling with reneal kidney failure and not being able to achieve the things I want to do , my life and cultural asparations, hopes and dreams ? Why I am attracted to the chinese sword since I was a child, a highly power aggressive power maniac and love Chinese martail arts , militant , naval and shipping history, Tang dynasty history and Chinese lore and why I love shipping , Chinese food lore and heritage and chinese boat and fishing communities ? From my father overseas chinese migrration singaporean overseas chinese histroy , I am a Foochow just as my father’s forebears were but it was eroded and overtaken by my grandmother’s Halkka canotnese heritage so I am actually a cantonese hakka Foochow and have been strongly infleunced by Cantonese chinese religious lore and antiquities . How is all these factors suppose to hold together and make any personal sense to my life as to who I am and why I exist ? Is it because some where metaphycially speculatively speaking that in my history of my cultural roots that something is missing form my Foochow heritage that I am lacking and that I might have some affinity with some warror spirit and incarnated and banished into this mortal world with my present ailment which might perhaps been mandatory and supernaturally predestined by the higher powers and order of the universe ? All this was not answered was not until today. It happened when I read and came across the Singapore historical
    club street wood carvers of Foochow or hock chiew Lim ancestral clan veneration of the Royal lord or Wang yeh and the ba jia jiang deities . Its paraochal spread of its lore that I now know the answer of who I am and became enlightened and found myself at last ! So thank you for this very informative posting .

    March 16, 2015 at 1:49 pm

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