How a rabbit god became an icon for Taiwan’s gay community

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03/06/2023

During a quiet mid-week afternoon on the eighth floor of an office building, A-wei is meditatively separating flower petals to make an offering to Tu’er Shen the rabbit god, a spiritual guardian of LGBTQI people. The small Taoist temple where 24-year-old A-wei sits is a humble room with views across New Taipei city, made cosy by the smell of incense and the mews of two noisy cats. At one end of the room is the main altar, with three cushions for prayer and gold prints of deities on the wall. To the left is the secondary, but more famous, “side altar”, devoted to Tu’er Shen. A pink banner welcomes worshippers to the “LGBTQI patron saint” with a cartoon picture of the Taoist master wearing rabbit ears and holding a rainbow paintbrush. The bench top is crowded with offerings to the rabbit god, but rather than the typical fruit, cigarettes and liquor, there are bottles of Jo Malone perfume and other cosmetics.

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