Beigang Wude Temple goes beyond cultural IP

Reporter Dennis Tseng Global Views-Commonwealth Publishing Group / Editor Dimitri Bruyas TVBS World Taiwan
Release time:2024/02/26 18:33
Last update time:2024/02/26 18:33
  • S

  • M

  • L

Beigang Wude Temple goes beyond cultural IP (Courtesy of Global Views) Beigang Wude Temple goes beyond cultural IP
Beigang Wude Temple goes beyond cultural IP (Courtesy of Global Views)

In a move that heralds the fusion of tradition with cutting-edge technology, the Beigang Wude Temple in Yunlin has become a beacon of digital transformation within the realm of traditional temples. The temple has broken new ground by integrating CRM (Customer Relationship Management) for customer management and embracing the latest in AI innovations. With more than 8 million annual visitors, it exemplifies how sacred spaces can offer continuous spiritual engagement through online prayers and lamp lighting, accessible around the clock.

Perusing the Tourism Bureau's data reveals an unexpected leader in visitor numbers for January to November 2023: Beigang Wude Temple, outpacing both picturesque landscapes and historic buildings in popularity. This finding underscores the temple's unique allure, drawing visitors not just for its spiritual significance but as a cultural phenomenon in its own right.


In the realm of attendance and financial performance, Beigang Wude Temple has not only welcomed over 8 million visitors annually but has also achieved remarkable double-digit growth in revenue for the last ten years. Were it considered in financial terms, investment advisors might well recommend Beigang Wude Temple as a compelling investment opportunity, marking it with a "strong buy" for its consistent growth and potential.

Lin An-le, the temple's chairman, is the architect of these impressive results. With a robust background in economics and finance from prestigious institutions, Lin's transition from the financial markets to leading Beigang Wude Temple in 2011 marked a significant shift. Despite initial gaps in his knowledge of religious texts and rituals, Lin swiftly found his stride, adeptly applying his strategic acumen to the management and operation of the temple, demonstrating a unique blend of traditional stewardship and modern business savvy.

Under Lin's 14-year leadership at Wude Temple, he has created a management case worthy of inclusion in textbooks.

From a business perspective, the customers of Wude Temple consist of devotees in search of guidance and protection. The offerings, thus, extend beyond tangible goods to the intangible comfort and solace that motivate devotees to undertake pilgrimages from great distances, seeking solace and spiritual fulfillment. Reducing friction in the consumption process and enhancing the user experience is key to attracting customers and increasing satisfaction.

Chan Wen-nan, the co-founder and dean of the National Chengchi University’s School of Digital Transformation Institute, offers a nuanced view of the customer journey. He points out that discovery and interest in services or products precede any decision to engage. Thus, reducing barriers throughout this process and enhancing the likelihood of conversion are fundamental. Crucially, the emphasis shifts towards fostering enduring relationships post-engagement, highlighting a strategic approach to customer retention and loyalty.
(Courtesy of Global Views)

Creating an Official Website for Beigang Wude Temple

Upon assuming the chairmanship, Lin prioritized establishing an online presence for Beigang Wude Temple through the official website setup. He recognized the digital era's demands and aimed to extend the temple's reach and accessibility to a global audience.

"The type of individuals you draw is intrinsically linked to how you present yourself," Lin explains. In a landscape crowded with temples, the battle for the attention of potential devotees increasingly plays out online. Recognizing this, Lin meticulously crafted an extensive introduction for Beigang Wude Temple’s official website, pouring over 70,000 to 80,000 words into content per month, underscoring the temple's unique appeal and rich heritage.

Users will consider placing an order after getting to know the business. For devotees, lighting lamps for blessings is an important routine request. However, with limited public transport options from the Chiayi High-Speed Rail Station to Wude Temple and taxi rides taking over 20 minutes, "it's actually not very convenient for people to make the trip." Therefore, Wude Temple set up an official website and provided services such as online lamp lighting and financial offerings to reduce the barrier of physical distance.

Lin’s commitment to improving the devotee experience led to the streamlining of worship and financial transactions. By digitizing the data entry process, immediate efficiencies were realized — transforming a potentially lengthy process into a swift 30-second transaction and laying the groundwork for the "Wude Devotee System." This database, embodying the principles of CRM, promised to revolutionize how Beigang Wude Temple interacted with its community, offering a strategic approach to nurturing and understanding its devotee relationships over the long term.

Lin extended the CRM methodology of RFM (Recency, Frequency, Money) into the spiritual domain, assigning tangible value to both monetary donations and the invaluable contributions of time and service by devotees. This innovative approach allowed the temple to quantify engagement through a points system, offering insights into the depth of each devotee's connection with Beigang Wude Temple. Such data-driven strategies enable the temple to personalize its outreach, whether for exclusive merchandise offerings or special event invitations, creating a more meaningful and tailored experience for its community.

(Courtesy of Global Views)

Developing Cultural IP and Launching NFTs

In an innovative blend of tradition and modernity, Lin has successfully transformed Beigang Wude Temple into a beacon of cultural and creative IP, a sector that eagerly engages with such content. By leveraging the iconic figure of the "Black Tiger General" (黑虎將軍) from the temple's pantheon, Lin has developed a range of products that are not only imbued with spiritual significance but are also of practical use, including themed coin purses, dolls, and incense bags. 

Furthermore, Lin's creation of the San Xue She, a guesthouse offering luxury akin to that of star-rated hotels, and Le Cafe (樂咖啡), a café that narrates the temple's lore while infusing its setting with religious symbols, exemplifies a sophisticated marriage of faith and hospitality, drawing visitors and devotees alike.

Beigang Wude Temple's initiatives consistently captivate the audience, showcasing an adept fusion of heritage with technological innovation. To address staffing limitations, it pioneered the use of the Pepper robot for guided tours. The temple also led the way in integrating digital assets into religious practice by offering NFTs, a move that not only modernizes donations but also simplifies the process for devotees, ensuring them a decade's worth of blessings. Furthermore, the engagement of "Music Monk" Kanho Yakushiji (藥師寺寬邦) for a New Year's Eve concert has significantly amplified the temple's presence in the digital sphere, merging spiritual tradition with contemporary entertainment.

(Courtesy of Global Views)

Enhancing Accuracy with AI Integration

At the end of 2023, Beigang Wude Temple invested millions in acquiring AI mainframes, placing itself at the forefront of innovation. In the realm of traditional faith, it adopted the most advanced technologies. Lin explained that new technology could solve old problems, "These tools are intended to complement our human resources."

Beigang Wude Temple has deployed three AI mainframes, responsible for tasks ranging from monitoring visitor flow to recognizing Luan script and aiding in temple management. Focused on providing the Tourism Bureau with precise visitor statistics, Lin opted for technology from global brands, only to face a system crash due to unprecedented visitor numbers on the Lunar New Year's first day. In response, Lee Ming-da (李明達), a devoted follower and the entrepreneur behind Lida Software Technology (立達軟體科技), stepped in with a solution that surpassed those of international competitors, effectively managing the temple's busiest season.

Thus, Lin assigned Lee Ming-da the task of deciphering the Luan script, a form of writing produced during spirit consultations, integral to the temple's foundational practices. Aiming to secure national recognition for Planchette writing as an intangible cultural heritage, Lin collaborated with the NCCU Center for the Study of Chinese Religions, embarking on an academic venture that included establishing a comprehensive database of Luan scripts.

The necessity for AI arose once more when traditional optical character recognition technologies proved inadequate for deciphering the rapid, spirit-driven Luan script. Lee Ming-da crafted a bespoke algorithm designed to learn from an extensive collection of documented Luan texts. This system, through cycles of algorithmic analysis and human verification, progressively enhanced its ability to accurately interpret previously unreadable scripts.

For assisting with temple administration, generative AI was employed to serve as an auxiliary to human staff. Lee Ming-da, inspired by the swift advancements in large language model technologies, proposed to Lin an innovative solution to bridge the staffing shortfall in customer service. With a multitude of tasks and a lean team, the goal was to alleviate the workload on service desks. Generative AI's prowess in engaging in textual dialogue and its capacity to utilize encoded knowledge made it ideal for handling inquiries and explaining doctrines on social media platforms.

Lee Ming-da's ongoing experiments involve programming AI with Lin's detailed narrations of the Wude scriptures — over sixty thousand words from video subtitles — to develop a conversational bot capable of scriptural interpretation. This method extends to transforming the archaic language of fortune-telling texts into accessible, modern prose, allowing AI to integrate and convey these teachings effectively. Despite these advancements, AI has yet to rival the comprehensive diagnostic skills of the temple's seasoned staff.

Chan offers a comprehensive analysis of Beigang Wude Temple's strategic initiatives, highlighting two primary objectives from a management standpoint: enhancing the devotee experience and boosting operational efficiency. 

The development of a robust online presence draws in new visitors, whereas implementing a detailed database ensures the continued engagement of existing devotees. By managing the entire spectrum of devotee interaction — from outreach to transaction completion and relationship maintenance — Wude Temple sets a benchmark. The integration of robotics and AI stands out as a transformative move aimed at streamlining processes and cutting operational costs.

Chan views Beigang Wude Temple as a prime illustration of how traditional sectors can embrace innovation, offering valuable lessons for other businesses. Under Lin's leadership, the temple's first order of business was to identify and address its operational challenges through technological solutions. 

Moreover, by leveraging cultural creativity, the temple has made itself more approachable to the youth, exemplifying a strategic approach to digital transformation that other business leaders might well consider emulating.

To outsiders, Beigang Wude Temple, under the guidance of Lin, stands as a paragon of digital transformation within a traditional setting. Yet, Lin modestly positions his efforts as adhering to his faith's core principles and rituals, distinguishing his approach not in philosophy but in the innovative methods employed to uphold these ancient traditions.

This story was first published in the February issue of Global Views Magazine | https://www.gvm.com.tw | https://www.gvm.com.tw/article/109748?utm_source=tvbs&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=monthly  

More coverage:

Discover Taiwan

#AI#Beigang#WudeTemple#ArtificialIntelligence#Chinese Religion
notification icon