Dashu gong (大樹公) means the god of tree. Dashu gong’s names are various. There are Shu wang gong (樹王公), Shu Zai gong (樹仔公)or Wangu shenggong (萬古聖公) etc. Sometimes, it was named by the species of a tree. For example, if the tree is a kind of Urostigma, rong shu (榕樹) in Chinese, it is called Rongshu gong (榕樹公). The word gong is their common title. In Chinese, it means grandfather. In other words, Dashu gong is a result of worship to old tree. The idea of Dashu gong is people thought that if a tree is old, there must a spirit dwells in it. People should respect and worship the tree. If a tree is over hundred years old and its height is about tens meters. It will be a Dashu gong. In Taiwan, it is easy to locate Dashu gong. If a tree is rounded with a red cloth strip and a small shrine is by its side, it must be a Dashu gong. Occassionally, there are few Dashu gong becoming the main local temples. At that time, its title will be changed to wang (王), the king.
Dashu gong originated from the worship of plants. Ancient people believed that the plants are living like . There are spirits in them. That is the same reason why there was also the god of grain and the god of flower. They are two explaninations of the old trees having spirits. One is they are possessed by spirits. Another is they are long life.
Chinese believed that the old trees maybe possessed by spirits because of ancient custom. The custom was when a dead was buried, the living often plant a tree by ones grave. The tree is not only a mark of the grave but also an index of the dead’s situation. If the tree were withered, the dead was not well in another world. It supposes that this idea is extended as a spirit possessing a tree. Anoth idea about the tree being possessed is that a tree is a temporary dwelling place of spirit. Once the dwelling spirit of a tree left, the tree will be withered in five days and was totally finised in seven days.
It is easy that humen found a tree’s life is longer than them. Especially ancient people were more closed to natural world than us. By daily life, they could realize easily that the tree is fertile and durable. Then the trees became a symbol of long life and fertility. Worshiping to old tree was a result.
One more reson of worship to old tree is fear. When a tree is old enough, its branches sometimes is like a human hand or other part of body. People cut a tree’s branced or trunk will make it bled sap out. Those image and response will make human associate an old tree with human ourselves. Human was afraid of if a tree would take a revenge on their hurt and lose in case of hurting an old tree. Namely, worshiping to an old tree is a safe strategy.
Dashu gong is almost everywhere in Taiwan. Most of them are a small shrine or with a small tablet. Then they would not be recorded. Only few of them became the main local temples and be recorded. It is estimated that there are ten to thirteen Dashu gong’s temples recorded in 2003. Comparing to the investigation in the end of 1800s, when Japanese regind Taiwan. The number is ten. Aooarently, the number of temples dedictated to Dashu gong is not increasing too many. However, a custom in relation of Dashu gong is growing up. The custom is parents let their children and teenager under sixteen become Dashu gong’s foster son by ritual. The custom increasing maybe is the result of the nuclear family’s number is increasing and raising a child be not easy task in Taiwan. The hard parents want to get blessing and vitality from Dashu gong.
Keywords: Dashu gong (大樹公), shu wang gong, Shu Zai gong, angu shenggong, the god of tree