Becoming Gods or Ghosts? A Gender Analysis Comparing “Dongao Shipai Gong” and “Qijin Ladies’ Tomb”
Yu-Ling Ku(School of Humanities, Taipei National University of the Arts)
As the concrete representation of collective memory, monuments serve to communicate with the past. Both “Dongao Shipai Gong” and “Qijin Ladies’ Tomb” were set up to mourn those who died some decades ago in the course of their work, the former men who died building the road along the mountainous east coast of Taiwan, and the latter 25 factory girls who died in a 1973 ferry capsizing in Kaohsiung. After decades of social and cultural change, the former gradually became worshipped by vehicle drivers, even officially treated as local gods in the Worker Pioneer Temple after 1998; the latter were demonized as unmarried female ghosts seducing young men, and their cemetery was grim and dark until it was rebuilt as the Women Workers’ Memorial Park in 2008. The old monuments, newly rebuilt, redefine the collective memory of the past in the social frame of the present. This essay compares the deification of Dongao Shipai Gong with the demonization of Qijin Ladies’ Tomb from the ambivalent perspective of ghost worship in Taiwanese folk religion, exploring the gender differences in devotional practices which might reflect the value projections of different eras.
labor memorials, collective memories, gender division of labor, Shipai Gong, Twenty-five Ladies’ Tomb, ghosts worship