Taiwanese temples – new and old

27 Aug

Over my two trips to Taiwan (May and July) I went to two different temples.  They seemed to represent two different sides of Taiwan and two different sides of worship in that country.

The first example was part of my group trip with my colleagues – a temple set high on a mountain that was created to awe.  The floors sparkled and the statues of the guardians towered over the people who were inside.  It was probably the largest and cleanest temple I have ever been in.  People walked around in hushed silence – though most of the visitors were groups who followed guides with little flags.

The temple was so large I couldn't get the entire thing in my shot

The temple was so large I couldn’t get the entire thing in my shot

Gold leaf and temple guardians

Gold leaf and temple guardians

Frightening lion by the door

Frightening lion by the door

Enormous multi-headed guardian inside

Enormous multi-headed guardian inside

When I confirmed the name with my colleagues, I got confused – it actually is called the Zhong Tai Mountain museum (中台山博物院)- but it is also a working temple.

Wishes floating to the ceiling like balloons

Wishes floating to the ceiling like balloons

Beautiful tiled floors - spotless!

Beautiful tiled floors – spotless!

The Buddha - meditating

The Buddha – meditating

Holy individuals - larger than life

Holy individuals – larger than life

The grounds outside the temple were manicured – a golden bridge crossed a small pond where we posed for an occasional photo in the mid-afternoon heat.  I was in awe of the surroundings and the peace at the temple – very different from the typical experience at a temple in China. We didn’t have enough time to visit both the temple part and the museum part, but I tried to absorb the peace and serenity that existed – even though it seemed just a little too squeaky clean.

The second temple was Longshan temple (Dragon Mountain Temple – 龙山寺) that is in downtown Taipei.  It was on the subway line and one of the top tourist sights in Taipei.  When I went though – it didn’t feel that there were any tourists at all – just me.  I snapped a few photos of the outside of the temple – an obviously historic building with lots of character and lots of people!

The entrance gate at Longshan temple

The entrance gate at Longshan temple

Intricately painted walls at Longshan temple

Intricately painted walls at Longshan temple

The double dragons dancing over the entrance

The double dragons dancing over the entrance

A peaceful waterfall near the entrance

A peaceful waterfall near the entrance

By chance I had arrived there at the same time as they were finishing an afternoon set of prayers.  In addition to the many monks who were seated in the main body of the temple, over 100 people in street clothes were following along and chanting prayers and sayings with the monks.  The smell of incense hung in the air.  I felt out of place taking photos, so I decided to put my camera away and just enjoy the spirituality in the area, hoping it would soak in to me.

I have been to lots of temples over the last several years, but this was the first one that I visited where it felt like ordinary people were participating in the life of the temple in more than writing wishes on a page or making a donation.  The temple had obviously been there for a long time, but it was neat and clean.  People inside were very polite – letting others towards the front or offering lights for the incense.  I am not a Buddhist, but it felt like some place I could feel comfortable in – a local temple, for the people who live nearby.

I thought the two temples summed up Taiwan for me – a city with many shiny new things – Taipei 101 – as well as a deep respect for history and culture found in the politeness of the people, the food and the worship.

I liked Taiwan.  It was a wonderful transition before the end of my long trip.  Taipei especially seemed very familiar – almost as if I had been there before – enough differences to make me notice, but enough similarities to mainland China that I still felt at home.  I would recommend a visit to anyone looking for a view of what China may become.

Have you been to Taiwan?  Do you have any feelings about temples and how they represent a people?

8 Responses to “Taiwanese temples – new and old”

  1. thirdeyemom August 27, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    I’ve never been to Taiwan or many Asian countries yet. But would love to someday expore!

    • gkm2011 August 27, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

      Please do! It is a different type of history, but can be just as fascinating.

  2. Naomi Baltuck August 27, 2013 at 11:42 am #

    All great photos–don’t know why, but that muti-headed statue really caught my attention.

    • gkm2011 August 27, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

      The guardians are very fierce, I don’t know that much about them, but they each have a specific weapon. These were particularly impressive.

  3. loganmurphy1984 August 27, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    After being here five years I still find Chinese temples to be very breathtaking, like LongShan temple you posted pics of above. Have ou been to Tainan? That place has more temples packed together than anywhere else on he island and a lot of awesome historical spots besides. What’s th name of that first temple, by the way, I didn’t see it in your post, but may have Judy overlooked it. It looks quite familiar. Keep up the awesome writing!

    • gkm2011 August 27, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

      Thanks, it is the Zhong Tai mountain museum (中台山)with a temple attached. At least that is what my colleagues told me. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Eileen黃愛玲 April 20, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

    Now I’m homesick. 😦

    • gkm2011 April 20, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

      Don’t be! Thank you for the compliment – that my blog can call up memories of home.

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