efe-epaBy Francisco Luis Perez Taipei

Modernity in technologically-advanced Taiwan coexists with ancestral traditions and religious beliefs, especially among politicians, who constantly seek divine clues about their future.

One of the most recent such examples came to the fore when Foxconn billionaire founder Terry Gou boarded his private plane to fly to the United States, embracing a statue of goddess Mazu, known also on the island as queen of heaven and the goddess of the sea.

Gou has announced that he would contest 2020 presidential election following a divine guidance after the deity appeared in his dreams and asked him to do so.

Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen and all other presidential probables last month attended the island’s largest annual pilgrimage which involves a nine-day-long foot journey by thousands of devotees escorting a statue of the patron deity.

Even politician Zhang Anle, a supporter of the reunification with China, went on the pilgrimage carrying the palanquin that carried the statue of the goddess, causing a riot in which five people were wounded.

But not all Taiwanese enjoy delusions of grandeur or dreams of deities.

Lesser mortals flock to temples and fortune-tellers to receive heavenly guidance.

In Taipei, the center of divination lies in the temple of Longshan – one of the 12,000 folk religious temples on the island – where Buddhas coexist with Taoist gods.

"I have come on matters of love. I need to clarify my relationship with a girl,” Jerry Lu, 20, told EFE.

While young people visit temples during exam time or to seek counsel on sentimental issues, elders do so for business or health reasons.

However, Jenny Lu, who runs a shop near Longshan, said marriage accounts for most of the consultations, ranging from compatibility of couples to deciding about the auspicious day for their wedding.

Hence queues of thousands of people in temples, in search of soul mates or success in future endeavors, is not surprising.

However, the most widespread query mode is the "bwa bwei" (moon blocks). Those seeking answers to their questions toss the moon-shaped wooden divination blocks on the ground in front of the statues.

The positions in which the two blocks fall help them determine their answers from a book of numbered oracles.

"As it is free, it is the most helpful when you need to make a decision. But in the end, if the answer from the book is not clear, you often go to the temple experts to explain it. Then they are given a donation," Lu Wen-an, a parishioner, told EFE.

"Well I'm not marrying," shouted Jerry Lu after consulting the oracle, revealing his secret question.

Those who need help but do not like the "bwa bwei" have an avenue full of fortune tellers in front of Longshan to choose from.

There, Carol Wu practices divination with birds.

"They want to know about the future, about the career, love relationship...Sometimes they fear what will happen next year or in 10 years. They want advice to control the future," Wu told EFE.

The Chinese tradition offers different types of divination, such as reading palmistry or the ancient technique of the I Ching, the book of mutations, but Wu prefers birds.

"It gives answer for six months... it is good at giving advises," she said, adding that the details are also more accurate than other methods such as face reading which now tends to get affected by cosmetics.

When a client presents his query, the fortune teller opens the cage to let the bird out which then picks out from a multitude of cards in front of it with its beak.

In this case, the bird picked out one with rains and a boat crossing a river, one of Goddess Mazu with another deity and another of a group of people.

"You will face trouble, but there are people who will help you. However, in family matters it is important that you speak softly, that you cooperate," the teacher interprets.

It is not surprising then that all that surrounds Taiwanese religiosity tries to respond to what most interests the islanders: how to manage the natural forces to achieve greater success in work and love and to seek a long life.

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