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NSYSU teachers and students presented original translation results of temple culture: Go on an adventure with the Eighteen Lords


The Department of Chinese Literature at National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) offered the “Collections and Record of Southern Min Folk Tale and Literature” course, having students observe how people interact with Lords and ghosts and learn how to preserve the community memories, as well as how city developments are affected by folklore beliefs. The students not only learned related knowledge in class but also visited the temples in Kaohsiung to conduct field research and obtain in-depth cultural experiences. Twenty-four students were divided into seven groups to work on research projects or translational practices to transform religious and spiritual elements into substantialized design pieces.

Ching-Wen Luo, the lecturer of this class and the Chair of the Department of Chinese Literature at NSYSU, emphasized that it was not an easy task to implement translational practice. Students presented their handcraft skills and unconstrained creativity to derive the elements of Sheng Gong Ma Temple and Linxing Hall Eighteen Lords Temple. He stated that translation is a methodology that represents abundant possibilities. Through translation and recreation practice, stories, events, themes, or old memories can be transformed as the foundation of ideas and creativity. Literature context, histories, and local culture will turn into sensible and searchable results through these derivative works. It is indeed a meaningful process of cultural elements activation.

In the project presentation, the group “Sheng Gong Ma Temple Fun Foldable Card and Sticker” designed red envelopes for Lunar New Year. The illustration design was inspired by how the temple staff called their lords Sheng Gong Ma. The lords were presented as smiling grandpa and grandma. They also created interactive foldable cards and stickers that defied the common perception of the temple. The group “Linxing Hall Surprise Box” categorized the elements of Linxing Hall into three groups: Worship Materials, Architecture Elements, and Scenery around the Temple. Using paper clay, wood, and other materials, they incorporate elements of the above three categories to make eighteen miniature pieces representing eighteen Lords. The students also designed a game of fun lucky draw that enabled players to obtain knowledge about Linxing Hall Eighteen Lords. Inspired by the custom in which Sheng Gong Ma Temple always keeps the door open, the group “Sheng Gong Ma Temple 24HR Vending Machine” translated the always-open element into their design pieces. Moreover, the group developed many kinds of Sheng Gong Ma design products, such as cushions, mugs, notebooks, talismans, and drawstring bags, for believers and visitors to purchase and feel the blessing from Sheng Gong Ma.

The group “Dissipating Resentment Board Game” wanted to lead the players into an atmosphere full of suspension by producing an intriguing trailer film. By playing this game, trying to solve puzzles, and tracking down criminals, players will become more knowledgeable about Sheng Gong Ma Temple and its worship culture. The pieces created by the group “The People Blessing and Response Box” were inspired by the ideas of the offertory box and inside the temple. The nested box incorporated architecture and religious elements, such as fortune cookies, card stickers with tile patterns, coasters, and talismans. Those made the gift box fun and usable. The group “Lord’s Push Puzzle Game” designed the teaching aids to convey the definition and differences between Yin and Yang Temples. The game enabled players to learn knowledge of religious culture in finishing the puzzle process. The group “Lords’ Adventure” used the stories of the Eighteen Lords and the architecture of the temple as design elements to create an interactive board game. Players had to collect as many anecdotes as possible to win and obtain in-depth knowledge about the Eighteen Lords Temple during the game.

Many students mentioned that due to the practice process, this class was very unique. Their passion for handmade crafts was also ignited through abundant discussion, interactions, and brainstorming. Moreover, the students who were previously reluctant to do the group project became more delighted in the discussion process. Student Tung Wang stated that each group presented their pieces with high completeness and creativity. It was interesting to learn that the temple elements in Taiwan can be presented in varied original and accessible ways. Another student, Wei-Chi Lin, also emphasized how meaningful the project presentation was to practicing a great combination of folklore beliefs and creative designs.
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