Taiwan temple loans fund million-dollar toilets
TAIPEI, Taiwan: A Taoist temple in southern Taiwan has put profits from a successful foray into the banking business toward an unusual building project — a public bathroom shaped like a trio of bamboo shoots.
Last year, the Tzenan Temple in Nantou county lent 600 New Taiwan dollars ($18) to 450,000 people without registering a single default — apparently because borrowers feared offending the temple's deity.
It put the interest on the loans toward construction of an elaborate restroom complex to serve worshippers.
The NT$40 million ($1.2 million) complex — described by temple staff as "five-star" — is in the shape of three bamboo shoots, Nantou's most important agricultural product. Their golden hue emulates the color of mature bamboo when it's sold in local markets.
Abbot Chuang Chiu-an said the project was made possible by the reluctance of borrowers to offend the temple's deity — the spirit of an ancient Chinese governor who rewarded subjects in line with the fealty they demonstrated to traditional virtues.
"No one would dare make a default to the deity and risk bad fortune," Chuang said.
He did not comment on the wave of failures undermining larger financial institutions, but did regret that the size of his temple's loan packages was limited by the current economic slowdown.