Ritual Burning in Taiwanese Religious Practices and Air Pollution

When traditional culture and environmental protection concerns clash

Lucy Gunn


The following essay discusses air pollution in Taiwan caused by ritual burnings, including the burning of incense and joss paper. It looks at the role of ritual burning in Taiwanese religious culture and discusses some research on pollution caused by ritual burnings, and their potential ill health effects. Although the government has been actively promoting policies to improve Taiwan’s air quality, it is hesitant to ban ritual burning. This essay explores the ways some Taiwanese temple organizations are undertaking steps to curb pollutants in and around temples in an effort to promote environmental protection and to safeguard the health of their visitors. 

Key words: Taiwan, religious practices, ritual burning, air pollution

For full text e-mail lucy.gunn1@gmail.com

Essay written for the course “Environmental Protection in Taiwan and Mainland China” at National Chengchi University, Taipei, in January 2015. Special thanks to NCCU Professor Tang Jing-Ping (湯京平教授) for his contribution to this term essay.

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