August 25, 2008

Temple not responsible for lost idol

Translated from Liberty Times article.

By Wu Shicong, Yang Guotang, Zhuo Yingli

When Mr. Chen of of Liujiao Township, Jiayi County returned to Feng Tian Temple in Xingang Township to retrieve the idols of Guanyin and Guan Yu that he had placed in the care of the temple, he found that the Guan Yu idol was missing. He sued the temple in a civil suit, which resulted in Feng Tian Temple being ordered to pay over $120,000 in reparations. The temple authorities appealed and the decision was reversed. The judge ruled that Feng Tian Temple was not responsible for the safekeeping of the idols, and rejected Mr. Chen's petition. Feng Tian temple won the appeal and were judged exempt from reparations.

The ruling stated that in May 2006, Mr. Chen of Liujiao Township, Jiayi county brought the Guanyin and Guan Yu idols from his home where they had long been enshrined and entrusted them to the care of the Feng Tian Temple of Xingang Township.

Chen said that he gave an offering of $2000 and the temple authorities promised to take care of the idols for one year. But when he returned to the temple in May of the following year, he found that the Guan Yu idol was missing. He believes that Feng Tian Temple wrote him a receipt so they should be responsible for compensating him for the loss.

He asked for compensation, including the cost of the idol and the cost of the dedication ceremony, totaling over $200,000, but the district court of JiaYi ruled that Feng Tian Temple should pay $125,000. Unsatisfied with the verdict, Feng Tian Temple appealed.

Mr. Chen quoted the original settlement and requested the Feng Tian Temple give him an additional $80,000. Feng Tian Temple claimed that the idol's owner entrusted the statue to them in order to receive the the offerings of burnt joss sticks [literally, to soak up the burnt incense], and so a contract was not established entrusting the idol to them, and they are not responsible for its safekeeping. As for the offering, they consider it a normal donation.

The judge found that Feng Temple does not accept a fee for taking care of the idols and they cannot refuse. They did not promise safekeeping, so there is no basis for Mr. Chen's demands. The judge threw out the original verdict, and stated that he could not make an appeal. Feng Tian temple won the suit.

As for the ruling, Feng Tian Temple expressed that they would have no statement until they received the written ruling. Mr. Chen's wife said that Feng Tian Temple gave them a receipt, so they should be responsible for safekeeping. She couldn't accept the verdict.

[Note: The receipt notes that Chen gave the temple two idols as well as an offering of $2000.]

A caretaker at the temple presents the idols with tea (or water).

Feng Tian Temple for many years has performed the service of accepting believers' idols. There are three main reasons believers entrust them with their idols. The first is when their homes are being renovated, when the noise and dust caused by construction would be disrespectful. The next reason is when believers move or temporarily live somewhere else and so are not able to worship the gods. The last reason is when believers have a funeral, which according to folk customs makes them unclean and unable to worship.

According to Feng Tian Temple's owner's committee, the time is limited to one month. If the idol is not retrieved within a month, you give up your rights to it, and the temple authorities are fully authorized to handle it as they may, which is not open to dispute. If the idol is adorned with valuables, the owner should keep them. The temple is not responsible for damage or missing items.

Temple authorities said that believers bring idols to the temple for dedication ceremony, for worship, and for safekeeping. They do not charge for safekeeping, but believers can give an offering as they wish.


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