This is Life in Shantou - Struggling to Rebuild Taoist Charity

A special series of articles about ordinary people living in Swatow, written by students from Shantou University (STU) Cheung Kong School of Journalism

by Zhuang Huanzi (庄欢子)


76-year-old Dechang Deng has been trying to carry out a wish for nearly three decades. He wanted to rebuild a Taoist charity in Shantou.

Deng used to be a businessman running a paper factory. He quit his career when he was 57 years old, determined to reconstruct Yanshou Charity, a prominent Taoist temple that was burnt into ruins during the Cultural Revolution.

Yan Shou, meaning Advancing Longevity, was established about a century ago as the most well-known Taoist charity in Shantou. Dating back to Qing dynasty, Yanshou Charity had made remarkable contributions to the local community. Because of that the street it located was named as Yan Shou.

When the Cultural Revolution was over and other historical charities in Shantou had been rebuilt, Deng felt that he couldn’t let Yanshou Charity be a history.

In 1989, Deng called on seven Taoist believers in the city to firm a council and rebuild Yanshou Charity. However, with a series of challenges following, four of them left the council. Two people passed away, and another one was badly ill. Only Deng was left to carry on the work.

With two decades of efforts, Yanshou Charity has been almost reconstructed at a new address at the road of Yi’an.And Deng has bought around 12 bronze statues of Taoist immortals to place in the charity. But the area of charity is less than 200 square meters, and there have not been enough funds to repair the side hall ceiling of the new building.

Deng wanted to let more people believe in Taoist, but Taoism seeks inaction. As a Taoist, he insists on the rules of Taoism, so he could only do his own duty rather than propagate the charity.

“The values of people are changing now and they don’t care much about the belief of Taoism. Now only some older generations would like to come to Yanshou Charity and donate money ,” said Deng.

However, with a big red character “Goodness”on the wall of Yanshou Charity, Deng still collected the money from the believers of the Taoist in order to buy rice, instant noodle and down carpets to present to all neighborhood committees such as Jinping District and let the committee give to the people in need.

Just during the National Holiday, Deng had bought 2,400 bags of rice, 2,400 boxes of instant noodles and 600 pieces of down carpets and given to the poor about 2,000 pieces of “luck envelope”, which totally cost about 50,000 yuan.


A volunteer called Lin Yang ,who has believed in Taoist since young, came to help the development of Yanshou Charity. He said that Deng was a faithful Taoist, who was strict with his behaviors and words.

Though there are about 20 volunteers in the charity, they all have their own jobs so they could only come to work for the charity when they are needed. And Deng is the one who would come every day.

“I have three goals; The first one is to work for the whole world; the second one is to continue to promote the Yanshou Charity; the third one is to help the poor and the needed mentally and physically,”said Deng.

Though he is almost 80 years old, he still continues his work in charity and even requires himself to spend double effort to continue the reconstruction of Yanshou Charity.

“I hope more people could come to support the reconstruction of the charity so he could help more people,” said Deng .


Article reproduced by kind permission of Shantou University (STU) Cheung Kong School of Journalism.


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