Exploring the Influence of Superstitions on Taiwanese Politicians

It is common for “Fortune Tellers” to stand side by side with politicians in Taiwan

6 min readAug 11


In April 2015, during the Spring Festival, Taiwanese politician Tsai Ing-Wen announced her intention to run for the office of “President”. Tsai accompanied by DPP “legislator” Ke Jianming, Hsinchu Mayor Lin Zhijian, and others, gave a public speech, in which Tsai claimed that a fortune teller predicted to her that she will be elected “President” in 2016.

Tsai Ing-Wen did indeed become elected “President” of Taiwan in 2016. Shortly afterward, Taiwan experienced a severe drought. During this emergency, Tsai Ing-Wen made it a routine to visit the temple to ask the temple keepers to cast spells for rain. It was reported that Tsai visited the temple over 43 times from 2016 onwards. More recently, on March 23, 2023, Tsai Ing Wen, along with her staff visited the Chiayi temple to pray for rain. Tsai’s ally, Cai Yiyu who was present with her, afterward posted a social media post, claiming that a few hours after the prayer, “it really began to rain”, when it did not. For this, Cai was mocked by Taiwanese social media users.

“The President prayed for rain and it must rain” — A Taiwan Politician’s post on social media

Superstitions play a significant role in Taiwanese society and politics. Many of the superstitions practiced in Taiwan were carried over from the Chinese Mainland folk beliefs as a result of the waves of migrations from the Mainland throughout history. It is very common to see “fortune tellers” standing side by side with Taiwanese political leaders during election campaigns. The introduction of liberal democracy on the island has resulted in “superstitious politics”, in which Taiwanese politicians would attempt to virtue signal and appeal for votes by appealing to superstitious beliefs.

The Former “president” of Taiwan, Chen Shui Bian (2000–2008) was also devoted to superstitious beliefs. Reportedly, Chen Shui Bian had a personal fortune teller “Teacher Wong” who exercised a great degree of influence over him. Wong told Chen that if he wanted to win the 2004 election, Chen must arrange his office with an extra doorway to maximize the Feng Shui and always avoid the Zhuoshui River.

Chen Shui Bian was cursed with a stupid name “short water” which is bad luck in Feng Shui

In the Chinese language, the name Chen Shui Bian is 陳水扁. In Chinese this name infers the idea that the Chen’s shui (water 水) is Bian (short 扁). In Feng Shui belief, water is vital for prosperity, so it is believed that if water is flat, this represents bad luck.

Taiwan’s Zhoushui River (濁水溪), is translated as “muddy water river”, and has an interesting linguistic aspect. The term “Zhoushui” can also be a homophone for “Blocked water.” This emphasis on the lack of water would bring misfortune to Chen. Consequently, Chen chose to avoid passing by or visiting the Zhoushui River until he assumed the position of president and the political situation stabilized.

Chen won the “presidency” in 2004, but Chen also had one of the most corrupt administrations in the history of Taiwan. In 2008, Chen was for fraud and money laundering. So, maybe perhaps all the Feng Shui in the world could not save him.

Taiwan’s Zhoushui River (濁水溪) is directly translated as “muddy water river” but it might also be a homophone for “Blocked water” and is bad luck.

Taiwan “President”, Lee Teng-hui (1988–2000), who advertised himself as a devout Christian, was not a devout Christian. It was reported that Lee Tung Hui asked his friends to tell his fortune in private. When he was the “Vice President” of Taiwan, he handed over his birthday horoscope to Professor Wu Changyu of the Central Police Academy, who was very famous in numerology calculations. As soon as Wu saw Lee Teng-hui’s horoscope, he predicted that Lee would indeed win the presidency in the future.

Lee Tung Hui advertised himself as a Christian but he reportedly practiced divination and fortune-telling.

Then there was a fortune teller named Lin Changming. Lin Changming apparently also did a horoscope for Lee Tung Hui and told Lee Teng-hui that he would become the president by the end of 1987. Lee Tung Hui was reportedly estatic but kept this encounter a secret.

Ma Ying Jeou, who was the “president” from 2008 to 2016 and a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party was raised a Catholic. Ma has kept his Christian background vague and has never publicly announced nor attempted to use his religion for political purposes, unlike his rivals from the DPP.

Pastor Zhou Shenzhu, who was the former director of Taipei Bread of Life Church, confirmed Ma’s Christian faith to the media that Ma is indeed a Christian.

Despite this identity, Ma still visited the Chinese folk temples to demonstrate respect to the followers of traditional Chinese belief systems. As a leader, Ma Ying Jeou was kind and fair to the people of Taiwan. Ma was also incorruptible. When Ma Ying Jeou left office in 2016, the DPP attempted to find corruption charges against Ma as a form of revenge politics. The DPP could find no corruption in him because Ma was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent

Young Ma Ying Jeou praying with Christians
Ma Ying Jeou paid respect to Confucius at the Confucius temple
Ma Ying Jeou went to Mainland China in 2023 to ancestor venerate.

Although Taiwanese people are highly educated, and the society is very modern, folk beliefs are still very influential to people on the island. The evolution of Taiwanese society is quite different from that of the mainland in this regard. Mainland China, which has followed the socialist route from 1949 onwards, experienced a movement to abolish what the Communist Party calls “feudal superstitions”. An entire generation of Chinese people was raised in the 1950s and 1960s to not rely on superstition or religious beliefs. Politics, religion, and superstitious beliefs were absolutely separated by the Chinese Mainland government.

The movement to abolish religion and superstitious beliefs has ended in Mainland China since the start of the 1980s. Starting from the 1980s, the freedom of religious belief has been reinstated by the Chinese Mainland authorities, and according to the law, no person may be forced to believe in or not believe in any religion. But while ordinary citizens of China can be religious or superstitious, Communist Party Members, government officials, policemen, and soldiers cannot.

In Mainland China, Communist Party of China (CPC) regulations, military regulations, and police regulations forbid party members from participating in religion or superstitious beliefs.

Communist Party members can visit or participate in traditional cultural practices. CPC members can also protect the interests of religious believers, but they themselves cannot believe in religion or superstitions.

The regulation of the CPC makes a red line distinction between cultural practices — which are practices like ancestral veneration, Chinese New Year celebrations, Autumn festival, and Ching Ming, which do not necessarily require belief in superstitions, which party members CAN participate in, versus feudal superstition which are beliefs in spells and spiritual powers changing reality, which is prohibited for party members.

This religious policy of the Communist Party of China is ideal as it permits the freedom of religion among citizens, while creating a complete separation of religion, superstition, and politics, thus preventing government officials from appearing to favor one religious or belief group over the other, and offers an environment of impartiality in the enforcement of the law. This prevents interreligious conflicts and tensions in a country of over 1.4 billion people.




Mr. Huang writes about articles related to the Chinese speaking world. B.S. in Business Management, A.S. in Administration of Justice.