“Do you think that the Taiwanese are still very religious or does modern life push religion to the background?” asked my travel friend today. We had to visit just one of the temples in Taipei to get our answer: religion is very much a part of Taiwanese life. In fact, as we visited various temples throughout the day we saw many young boys and girls fervently praying around to various deities and shrines; the main group that dropped religion in Europe. They pray to one after the other altar, every time offering up a burning incense stick. You can see it happen in many places, but these are the three most impressive temples in Taipei. A lively experience! I think I am still going to smell them in my hair tomorrow morning.
Spotify tip while reading this post:
Relatively few countries in the world have temples in honor of Confucius, the great philosopher. But as Confucianism took root in Taiwanese culture centuries ago, Taipei has one. And it’s not just a building, it’s the whole compound that breathes the balanced peace of the Confucian philosophy. Old, solemn trees give the gardens a enchanting atmosphere. And the blue of the temple building and walls contribute to the easing tranquility of the place. The whole temple leaves me with the impression that wisdom lives here. It makes me want to know more about Confucianism. Unfortunately, the explanations say something about the life of Confucius (which is, by the way, a Latin name the Europeans gave him for Kǒng Fūzǐ, his real name that means Master Kong) but not about his teachings.
Two trivia: there are no images of any deities here, it’s all about the scriptures of Master Kong. And the temple is the only in the world having ceramic sculptures on the roof. Some of these are in the shape of dragons, a much used symbol in Chinese religions. It stands for power: it gives power to the “good” or admirable people, but also symbolizes the destructive power to people who don’t earn good power.
How to get there: Take the red MRT (metro) line to Yuanshan. Follow the signs (there are English translations).
Bao’an Temple (vs Longshan Temple)
Handy: just across the street from the Confucius temple you find the Bao’an Temple. A very well visited temple, smoking in incense. With its wooden carved entrance and many colors, it made a huge impression on me. Like I was dropped in the scene of a Chinese movie. It was even stronger after various musicians played traditional music with flutes and Ehru types of instruments. The hundreds of yellow lampoons, the colored wooden ceilings, the statues and the carved pillars with dragons, it’s a beauty of a temple.
Better than the Longshan Temple? Perhaps just as beautiful, but the Longshan Temple insanely busy with a praying and food-offering crowd. Possibly it was a special day, there were many offerings of food. Like a food factory, people grab a plate, get food like bacon, eggs, and other things, get a blessing from one of the priests and place it on one of the long tables. And then the incense praying commences. Fascinating to my eyes.
Where to find it: Take the red MRT line to Yuanshan station. Signs will show you the way.
Off the tourist maps you will find the magnificent Ciyou Temple. A four-story miracle of wood carvings, sculptures and other decorations. It is a dream to see from the street, so colorful and elaborated. From the top floor you have a nice view over the decorated rood top and the lights in the street behind it.
We just bumped into it on our way to the Raohe Street Night Market. As the stinky tofu “lured” us nearer, we got insanely surprised by finding this rainbow colossus that not even the Lonely Planet makes any remark of. Go see!
Where to find it: Walk from the Songshan MRT station at the end of the green line and follow the signs towards the Raohe St. Night Market. Can’t find it? Then it’s probably at the other end of the Night Market, you can’t miss it.