In Taiwan, it is common for some Taoist temples to hire scantily clad female dancers to sing and dance in front of the temple on brightly lit and vividly coloured stages known as Electric Flower Cars (which are converted from trucks).
Importantly, the performance is not intended for the audience, but for the temple’s deities or for the dead (especially during Ghost Month).
Prior to public nudity laws which were passed in the 80’s, it was not unusual to also see full stripping at some temple events, even including funerals, in Taiwan.
The practice has attracted much criticism from within Taiwan, many see the tradition as backwards and exploitative and not showing Taiwan in the best light to other countries.
However, AFP writes that the practice – which may date back more than 200 years – is simply “traditional folk culture lacking in the sharp separation of sex and religion often seen in other parts of the world” and anthropologist Marc Moskowitz (who has released documentary on the topic) adds “I think it’s a pity that Taiwan is not more proud of this”, although he does go on to say “I do understand the fear because people tend to condemn things outside the norm very quickly”.
When temple owners are confronted by local reporters hungry for a titillating story a typical response might be ‘its what the gods wanted’. And who can argue with that.
I chanced passed this small performance of singing and dancing in a temple between Tainan and Kaohsiung, with an audience numbering only slightly more than the performers on stage… That is to say, the audience I could see.
At one point, one of the singers left the stage to go and “bai bai” to the temple gods.
Camera: Leica M-E
Lenses: Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2, Leica 90mm Elmarit f/2.8