How to prepare for worship? How to choose the three sacrificial animals? Have you any idea how to worship this year?
Worship is an important folk activity of Taiwan, and the act of worship includes two aspects—tangible vessels and intangible rituals. To the younger generation, they might be intimidated by worshipping activities at home or at work due to cumbersome preparation of vessels and offerings, and unfamiliarity with the procedure and terminology. Is worship really that difficult?
Taiwan Design Research Institute (TDRI) has two large-scale annual group worships, and during the process, we also wonder whether there are other possibilities? Are there more approachable ways for people to understand worshipping rituals? Is there any chance to create more connections between folk culture and our everyday life?
These are the reasons why we have initiated this project of select products, in an attempt to set our imagination free when it comes to choices of worship vessels and offerings. TDRI has specially invited product selectors from different domains for co-creation and discussion, including design observer Wu Tung-lung, food writer Lu Yi-an, design media Janet Fang, and Pili Wu, who represents ordinary people’s aesthetic view; also, TDRI has invited advisor Hung Ying-fa to serve as the professional instructor on worshipping culture.
Through this interdisciplinary cooperation, TDRI has conducted selection of ritual vessels on two themes: “Worshipping Gods on the First Business Day of Chinese New Year” and “Hungry Ghost Festival.”
▲ TDRI’s special project “Gods Also Want Something Special?”
There Are No Standard Answers to Worship Vessels and Offerings
“We never thought that we would be enjoying and looking forward to preparing the worship table,” Lu Yi-an and Wu Tung-lung shares how they felt in the process of this selection. Considering that “Hungry Ghost Festival” takes place in the hot, humid days of August, they have chosen the visually cooling glass vessels. Glass vessels do not just look calming and refreshing, consumers can also explore in nearby hardware shops or grocery stores to find vessels reflecting own style and taste at affordable prices. Advisor Hung also mentions that, as long as consumers adhere to the principle of avoiding white vessels, there are actually many alternative options for worships.
▲ Understanding the basic principles, worships can be diverse too (sample select products for Hungry Ghost Festival)
On the other hand, Janet Fang and Pili Wu have selected four sets of vessels from different daily commodities distributors (Shoba, IKEA – Xindian, MUJI, and HOLA) targeting the theme of “Worshipping Gods on the First Business Day of Chinese New Year,” so that consumers can simply visit one of these stores to get all the things they need, making preparation more convenient. Janet Fang and Pili Wu mention that “there is a chance for lifestyle to be introduced into traditional culture;” when the act of worship connects with daily life, it seems that preparation is much easier.
There are no standard answers for ritual vessels; as long as you know the basic principles, the worship table can immediately turn into the extension of you daily lifestyle. Lu Yi-an and Wu Tung-lung share that, “it turns out, when you put your favorite vessels and foods on the worship table and prepare with reverence, it becomes an interesting thing to do.” The advisor also brought up that preparation for worship is flexible; not just vessels, offerings can also be diverse—just offer whatever you like to eat, because sincerity is the most important thing of worship.
▲ Glassware adds a refreshing touch to Hungry Ghost Festival during hot summer days
▲ Sample select products from Shoba: selecting vessels from daily commodities distribution channels allows lifestyles to be introduced to folk culture.
Gods Also Want Something Different
Regardless of first business day worship or Hungry Ghost Festival, three sacrificial animals, fruits, and liquor, are essential offerings. Based on your subject of worship, quantity of offerings will differ for deities, ancestors, and ghosts—there is the rule of “odd numbers for gods and even numbers for spirits” (multiples of odd number 3 or even numbers), and the number of cups for liquor is primarily 3 or multiples of 3. With this knowledge, there can be wide ranges of choices and combinations of offerings.
“I also want to share with gods foods I crave myself.” Based on this idea, Lu Yi-an and Wu Tung-lung replace the traditional whole chicken (Heaven), pork with skin (Earth), and fish with scales (Water), with egg waffle, three-layered cake, and taiyaki (fish-shaped cake), and put them on glass vessels. The advisor smiles and says that perhaps gods and ghosts also want to try something different, and encourages everyone to use different foods.
▲ Offering seasonal fruits with creative three sacrificial animals; perhaps gods want to try something different
Master Worshipping on First Try, Concretization of Intangible Rituals
Janet Fang and Pili Wu also proposed during discussion that, in addition to selecting products, it would perhaps make worships much more fun if there were a beginner’s guide! Therefore, they have produced the “Guide to Worshipping Gods on First Business Day of Chinese New Year” and incorporated the concept of information design to comb through the complicated information and organized the information contextually. Originally, people found worship rituals distant and unfamiliar; but through pictorialized translation, users can easily learn and understand the details of worshipping gods on first business day; also, to lower the barrier of information access, the concept of “open source” for knowledge sharing has been adopted to launch the “open-source tablecloth”! As long as users have access to the Internet, they can directly print the file without any prerequisites and place the vessels and offerings on the marked spots, making worshipping a very easy thing to do! (Download: https://reurl.cc/jGMxV2)
When conceptualizing this project, Janet and Pili coincidentally mentioned ritual design of worship: “Hopefully, through this open-source tablecloth, we help the tangible knowledge of rituals the younger generations are having a hard time grasping to attach to a ‘physical object,” concretizing the abstract rituals and making the tablecloth prettier and become a practical ritual guide.” Users can just relax and follow the steps, and soon, they will enjoy doing it!
▲ Items needed for the preparation of Worshipping Gods on the First Business Day are presented in both text and pictures
▲ The open-source tablecloth makes table-setting hassle free
▲ The tablecloth is offered in three different sizes to meet all kinds of user needs
It’s Your Turn!
This select products project is not a re-design project; instead, it shortens our distance with the worship culture. HOLA and IKEA – Xindian have also responded to the project, and set up showcases to present different worshipping scenarios, setting people’s imaginations for worships free. TDRI hopes that this is just the beginning and inspiration, encouraging everyone to develop own versions! Show your attitude and set up your lifestyle. Are you ready?
▲ Sample HOLA select products: elegant polygonal vessels in rose add to the solemnness of rituals
▲ Sample IKEA select products: using vessels of different heights for table-setting to create layers
[ Participating Stores Information ]
IKEA – Xindian (4F, No. 159, Zhongyang Road, Xindian District, New Taipei City)
Period: 2022/07/29 – 2022/08/26
- HOLA Petite – Global Mall (B2F Counter, No. 122, Section 3, Zhongshan Road, Zhonghe District, New Taipei City)
- HOLA Petite – Honhui Plaza (1F, No. 3, Section 4, New Taipei Boulevard, Xinzhuang District, New Taipei City)
Period: 2022/07/29 – 2022/08/24
[ Participating Teams ]
- Organizer: Industrial Development Bureau, MOEA
- Executive Organizer: Taiwan Design Research Institute
- Advisor: Postdoctoral Research Hung Ying-fa, Center for the Study of Chinese Religions, National Chengchi University
- Hungry Ghost Festival Team: Wu Tung-Lung, Lu Yi-An
- Worshipping Gods on the First Business Day of Chinese New Year Team: Janet Fang, Pili Wu
- Photography: Lu Yi-An, Huang Chi-Teng
- Venue: Honestea, HOUTH
- Cooperating Agencies: Shoba, IKEA – Xindian, HOLA