2 - 3 minute read
Blockchain technology has found its way into the world of religion with the recent minting of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) by the Dajia Jenn Lann Temple in Taichung, Taiwan. The temple, which dates back to the Qing Dynasty in the 1700s, is dedicated to the worship of the Chinese sea goddess Mazu and organizes an annual nine-day pilgrimage that draws hundreds of thousands of followers. The pilgrimage and related festivals have come to be known as the “Mazu economy,” as they generate significant donations and spending on Mazu-themed merchandise and business opportunities.
In an effort to modernize and reach a younger audience, the temple has decided to mint and sell NFTs that act as priority passes for the pilgrimage, which usually takes place in the spring. The NFTs, called MazuDAO, went on sale in August through the temple’s e-commerce platform, MazuBuyBuy, and have so far sold more than 2,800 units. According to estimates, the nine-day pilgrimage generates over $163 million in spending, making the Mazu economy a significant contributor to the local economy.
While the use of NFTs may appeal to younger followers of the religion, some older believers are hesitant to embrace the technology. Mao-Hsien Lin, an associate professor at the National Taichung University of Education, noted that many elder followers prefer the “physical touch and direct contact with the statue of the deities” and may be hesitant to worship online, fearing that the deities may not be able to hear their prayers.
To address this concern, the NFT project team has also organized offline marketing campaigns in addition to online marketing efforts. Jerry Yan, the project lead of MazuDAO, explained that many older temple followers do not own smartphones and “very much live in a Web 0.0 world,” requiring the team to set up promotional booths at the temple and establish a landline customer service team to reach these followers.
Despite some reservations, the use of NFTs by the Dajia Jenn Lann Temple highlights the potential for blockchain technology to modernize traditional cultural practices and bring them into the digital age. As the market for NFTs continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how other religious institutions choose to incorporate this technology into their practices.