It all began with one ritual performance by the temple near the Minxiong Haunted House in Chiayi. Attending the activity, John Lin, the game producer, recalled his own experience with the divine power and evil spirits as he grew up. An ancient haunted house, ritual performance, and the producer’s own experience are the three essential elements to Pagui. That was in 2017.

The struggle is straining in the darkness,
All for the obsession in the light.
Let go of the benevolence and bitterness,
Rest in peace and enlightenment.

The Three Haunted Houses
With several field trips to the most famous haunted houses in Taiwan, including Min Xiong Haunted House in Chiayi, Hsin Lin Hospital in Tainan, and Taiwan Metal Theater in New Taipei City, the PAGUI team restored and recreated the haunted houses in the game environment using 3D technology with immersive atmosphere, so that players can experience those infamous haunted houses in-game, and enjoy the PVP mode against one another one PVP mode is released.

PAGUI, the game, originates from Guan Chiang Shou, the Chief Generals of the Dead. In order to have a full understanding of its history, costumes, and usage of religious instruments, the production team has visited numerous temples many times and consulted countless experts of folk culture. The PAGUI team is proud to present the game in the most authentic way possible.
As everyone in the production team was born and raised in Taiwan, the whole team works with caution and conscience. In the future, we will add in the documentaries of Ba Chia Chiang, the eight police officer of the dead, Taoist Shaman and Taoist Priest.

Guan Chiang Shou
In 1946, Guan Chiang Shou first appeared in a celebration ritual in HsinChuang DiZang Temple, New Taipei City, Taiwan. The General Zeng and General Sun were played by Huang, Chiu-Shui and his son respectively. According to the legend, Guan Chiang Shou is a team of the guardians for Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, and they specialize in catching evil spirits and getting rid of vicious energy in the secular world. They are intimidating and implacable.

The PVP Combat Version
Following the story version, the team is releasing the PVP combat version in the beginning of 2020. The third-person online PVP combat mode, in which the player can take the role either as the Guan Chiang Shou, taking advantage of religious tactics and weapons to hunt down evil spirits, or as the wrath who is equipped with fiery black art, lingering in the living’s world. In this battle, the player fights with his/ her strategy, wisdom and bravery.

The shade is appearing,
And my trident is singing.
The fragrance of incense calls for divine being;
Now justice shall be served for the time being.

Author: Ling Zhao Ko
Translator: Yaling Chou
Editor: Corey Sanderson

When speaking of Din Tao troupes on the Internet, the nickname “8+9”—a pun on the Mandarin term “Ba Jia Jiang” —inevitably pops up. In fact, Din Tao includes not only Ba Jia Jiang, but also Guan Jiang Shou, a more official military form. Din Tao is the general name of these associated practices. Regardless of name, a stereotypical image of Din Tao performers persists: they dislike studying, have no expertise, and like to smoke, chew betel nut, and fight. Their poor childhoods and bad habits lead them to become performers. Despite these negative impressions, Din Tao culture is well-known in Taiwan.

In recent years, the world has begun to focus on local cultures; people have taken notice of Maori Haka War Dances, the Ainu language of Hokkaido, and a plethora of other culturally specific characteristics. If Taiwanese Din Tao culture, which has generally been looked down on by Taiwanese, can catch the eyes and attentions of Americans and Europeans, perhaps this is the mechanism by which Taiwanese culture can enter the wider international arena.

Recently, the Taiwanese indie game Pa Gui launched on the Steam gaming platform. The game was produced by Padendon, a gaming company founded in 2016 by John Lin, also known for the political comic Taiwan Punch X. Pai Gui is steeped in Din Tao culture. The game took more than two years to complete, mainly due to temple field research, in-depth study of Taoist spells and ritual implements, and tracking and recording Guan Jiang Shou troupe forms, by way of dynamic capture system, to create character models.

When asked why he would make a game centered around Din Tao, John answered, “I was buying lunch during my break time when I saw Din Tao being performed. It was nothing for me because I see it all the time. But that day, and I don’t know why, I also noticed Minxiong Ghost House opposite the Din Tao parade. I suddenly had an idea, ‘These Guan Jiang Shou could go into Minxiong Ghost House at nighttime to catch ghosts using their torture tools and ritual implements. At the same time, ghosts and demons would come out to fight.’ Wow! It’d be super cool!”

However, Lin probably did not expect that this idea would cost millions. Were it not for the good fortune of finding a sponsor at the end of 2018, Pa Gui may never have come to fruition.

The protagonist is real

Pa Gui’s story mode protagonist is Huo Wang Lin, a real-life character. The story is based on an orphan who did Ba Jia Jiang his entire life at Gushan Deyue Temple in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Lin heard about this old man while doing his field research, but was told that he had, unfortunately, passed away. According to temple staff, they announced the old man’s passing to fund his funeral. Unexpectedly, his mother showed up during the ceremonies. In her 90s, she had spent her life trying to locate her son, but when she finally found him, they reunited at a mourning hall.

After conducting a few related interviews, the production team decided to base Pa Gui’s story mode on the old man’s life. In the beginning, the story details were extremely difficult to obtain, with only bits and pieces to be found. Lin took his skills developed in scripting developed from writing Taiwan Punch X and filled in the gaps. With some modifications and additions, the old man’s story could be turned into a game. “I only modified about half the tale,” said Lin, “the other half is still a very true story.”

As for the old man’s entire life story, Lin is reluctant to reveal too much because the game has already been made. “I hope people can actually play it, and they might be touched even more by his tale.”

What’s the difference between Ba Jia Jiang and Guan Jiang Shou?

The “ba” in Ba Jia Jiang means “eight,” implying eight people, though there were originally ten (hence the original Shi Jia Jiang, with “shi” meaning “ten”). It is said that those who migrated to Taiwan during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties imitated the murals of Bailong Temple in Fuzhou, China. They painted their faces based on soldiers accompanying gods and played their roles during god patrol parades to assist in leading the way and execution missions. The ten members include the Great Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter Gods; the Civil and Military Judgers; and the four generals Gan Ye, Liu Ye, Xie Ye, and Fan Ye, who escorted prisoners. While the number of gods vary in a performance based on necessity, the most basic formation of eight consists of the four season gods and four generals. Other characteristics are pairing performers, changeable forms, and feminine movements.

The place of origin for Guan Jiang Shou is rumored to be Dizhang Temple in Xinzhuang District, Taipei. The temple’s resident deity Jizō Bodhisattva felt that the area’s evils were too great and ghosts far too active, so they could rely only on the abilities of Ba Jia Jiang. Therefore, two generals were promoted to Guan Jiang Shou: Qing-long Han and E-hu Xue, a civil general and military general respectively. The pair, upon discovering unscrupulous ghosts, they carry out the law swiftly.

Guan Jiang Shou usually requires only three people: The Middle, called Ghost King, and the other two aptly called The Left and The Right. Therefore, their dances project a strong sense of military discipline. They take two light and one strong step, pounding the ground with great strength on the third step. This is termed the “Three-Step Salute,” a more masculine form.

Din Tao Culture: An Inheritance Crisis

During research on Din Tao culture, Lin mainly visited three temples: Gushan Deyue Temple in Kaohsiung, Jiali Ji Ho Temple in Tainan, and Minxiong Zhen Long Temple in Chiayi. He found each had distinct characteristics.

“Jiali Ji Ho Temple is very special. Din Tao there has a higher academic background and members are all relatively young. Unlike our impressions of Ba Jia Jiang, this temple’s Din Tao is more akin to a college dancing club. Mr. Chen, an associate of the temple, has profound culture knowledge when it comes to Din Tao. The day I went to interview him, other media were there to do the same. He was very busy. On my turn, he found that I could name every torture tool and ritualistic implement, so he knew that I had done my research. He proceeded to show me each implement and demonstrated their uses to me.”

“As for Minxiong Zhen Long Temple, it was more like our general impression of Ba Jia Jiang, but their principle of taking on members is very special. The police chief will call the head of the Din Tao group, say a child is having disciplinary problems, and ask if they need more disciples…How strange is it that a child who dares to fight with their parents at home becomes well-behaved in front of the head of the group! When the head asks the child to practice or do a job, he/she does it! At that moment, I found it is necessary for this culture to exist!”

“Through research, we found that Din Tao culture faces a real crisis, where young people are not willing to learn and practitioners are getting old. So, we also hope that through our work, more can recognize Taiwanese Din Tao culture and pass it down.”

T.S.D Dance Crew’s Ba Jia Jiang Street Dance

While frequenting temples, Lin took time to visit T.S.D Dance Crew. The group’s head, Yi Zhang (A-King). His understanding of Din Tao culture was not great, instead exhibiting great interest in street dancing. When studying street dancing in Los Angeles and Chicago, he found that American street dance was deeply imbedded in American culture, giving it a unique, attractive quality.

A-King wondered, “If we combine the steps of Ba Jia Jiang with street dance, what could result?” In order to realize this idea, T.S.D Dance Crew headed south to Beigang, Yunlin, Taiwan to visit Rushing Zenshiuan Temple and learn Ba Jia Jiang forms. He even participated in a parade hosted by Chaotian Temple. This cultural journey took them half a year and gave birth to the popular video, Inheritance.

Regarding their video and reception, Taiwanese do not hate Din Tao culture, but rather the by-products of traditional Din Tao, such as gangsters, pugnacious or bad behaviors, etc. Taiwanese are increasingly holding Din Tao to a higher regard because of international performance standards alongside modernization, which gives people a refreshed feel to a cultural tradition. 

The best solution to solve Din Tao’s inheritance problem is perhaps to combine Din Tao with street dancing, the latter of which is more popular with the current generation.

3D Modeling Taiwan’s Three Haunted Houses

Minxiong Ghost House and Xinglin Hospital might vanish soon

For Pa Gui, Lin utilized 3D modeling technology to present Taiwan’s three major haunted houses: Minxiong Ghost House in Chiayi, Xinglin Hospital in Tainan, and Taijin Theatre in Ruifang.

“I hope that Pa Gui can achieve two things. First, I want to give players the chance to visit these haunted houses without going there and taking risks. Second, players can personally play the role of Guan Jiang Shou, which we know of but aren’t actually familiar with.”

Unfortunately, shortly after Lin framed the scenes for Pa Gui, the three haunted houses started to change. The descendants of the Minxiong Ghost House started to run a Haunted House Coffee Shop next to it. Many on the Internet noted that the haunted house became less creepy and more of a sightseeing spot. Xinglin Hospital in Tainan was also sold at the end of 2018 and is about to be rebuilt. If people would like to experience these three haunted structures in the future, there only hope will be Pa Gui.

Author: Ling Zhao Ko
Translator: Yaling Chou
Editor: Corey Sanderson