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Religious Centers

Longshan Temple, Baoan Temple, and Xiahai City God Temple
Taipei’s Glorious Heritage-Site Temples

  • Source: Department of Information Technology, Taipei City Government
  • Date: 2009/1/12
Besides being rich repositories of religious symbolism, Taipei's famous temples are also rich repositories of the Chinese architectural heritage and aesthetics. Their trove includes priceless paintings, carvings, and other skilled work of great artistic value. Religious devotees, art and architecture lovers, and general tourists come in great numbers, especially during the Lunar New Year period, the complexes are thick with incense smoke, people moving to and fro, and general excitement. Each temple stages its own unique variants of age-old religious rites and ceremonies during the Lunar New Year. In this article, we introduce you three of the city's finest temples and finest examples of this land's historical, architectural, and artistic heritage.

Longshan Temple, an Artistic Gem—Admire Festive Lanterns, Divine Your Future

This colorful complex had its first edition built way back in 1738 and is today a national historical relic of the second grade. The complex has three halls lined up back to back with the main hall in the middle. Two covered galleries run down either side. In total, the modular space is divided into 11 units. The complex sports the classical hipped, double-eaved roof style. The renovated facade wall is of stone hauled all the way from Mt. Guanyin on the north coast along the Tamsui River. The complex, from an aerial angle, is laid out in the shape of the Chinese character “回”; Longshan Temple is considered amongst the premier models of the Chinese-temple architectural genius in the world.

Longshan’s front hall has a truly beautiful, amazingly intricate octagonal plafond and the only bronze dragon pillars in Taiwan. The large central hall has four gold-covered pillars supporting a rounded, spiralling plafond, something that is rarely seen. The overall effect of the elaborate stone carvings, woodcarvings, colorful paintings, and harmonious symmetrical layout is dazzling, delicate, and exquisite. The aesthetics of the traditional Chinese temple are truly a sight to see, forcing you to marvel. In 1996, with the Buddhist expression “Before entering through the Buddhist door, first purify your heart, then begin the rites!” in mind, a lovely artificial waterfall and fountain with pool were built on the left and right sides of the main entrance. As people enter, they are symbolically purified by passing through the sound and sight of running water, and with tranquil soul and proper sense of reverence, they can proceed to their rites.

During the Lunar New Year, you can witness many special events at the temple. On New Year’s Eve (Jan. 25), there will be a series of lyrical lantern-lighting ceremonies starting at 9 pm, the lanterns representing peace and tranquility, lightness, the God of Wealth, and the Medicine Buddha. At precisely midnight is the resounding “Ringing in the New Year with Bell and Drum” event, raising the curtain on the new year at the precise moment of its birth. At 11am, the following morning is the warm-hearted “New Spring Greeting Gathering”. This year on Lantern Festival, Feb. 9, the temple will stage its splendiferous festival-lantern exhibition as always. The events and rites are spread over a full month, bringing glorious color and pageantry to a place already gloriously colorful. Get yourself there for an unmatched eye-opening glimpse of the traditional local culture and flair!

Dalongtong's Baoan Temple, Winner of International Acclaim

The fabulous Baoan Temple, in the old and proud Dalongtong community, was erected in its original form in 1805. It has since come a long way, today a large and rich complex. It was not only declared a national historical relic of the second grade in 1998 but also received an immensely prestigious UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation in 2003. The layout of the complex is majestic and stately, and the artwork of the great masters in place deservedly renowned, including the architecture, the wall paintings, the stone, wood and clay sculptures, the koji ceramic art, and the cut-tile mosaic work. Each individual part is exceedingly beautiful, but the whole is magnificent, a feast for eye and soul that is the epitome of Chinese-temple architectural and artistic virtuosity.

Temple chairman Liao Wu-zhi points out that the complex is divided into three major sections, with three halls lined up front to back. On either side of the front hall stand the traditional sculptures as the saying “green dragon on the left, white tiger on the right”. Look closely and you’ll learn that the walls on the temple’s left and right have windows in the shape of book scrolls. Nodded bamboo stalks made of stone stand within the frames. Count how many stalks in each—stalks in odd numbers signify the yang element, stalks in even numbers the yin element. You’ll find the yin/yang total in harmonious balance, as are yin/yang forces in the universe.

The front hall has a hipped, double-eaved roof and a bogus double roof. The upper and lower eaves feature water-wall blocks and brilliantly vivid sheared-tile koji ceramics with clay sculptures that jump to life when seen. In about 1960, a screen wall to prevent the free flow of baleful influences was erected in keeping with the fengshui maxim “support in the back, light/reflection in the front”. In 1917, two master craftsmen were brought in to renovate the complex from front hall through to the rear hall, and in their competition fixing either side of the complex the superb artistry was created, still visible—as well as much differentiation that the sharp of eye can still detect.

On Lunar New Year’s Eve this year (Jan. 25), the temple will be open all through the night, allowing the faithful to come and go as they wish, offering sacrifices and asking the temple deities about the year to come. On the morning of the first day of the first lunar month, the temple will be open for public “spring visit” activities. Also note that at all times of the year, there are volunteers on hand to explain the symbolism and architecture in English and Japanese; on Saturday and Sunday no prior booking is needed, but for weekday visits prior booking online is required.

Xiahai City God Temple—Where the Rarely Seen“Chinese Chopper Style” Architecture is on View

The Xiahai City God Temple sits at the heart of the old Dadaocheng community, and is 140-plus years old. As a national historical relic of the third grade, this temple has its architectural model similar to the temples of China’s south Fujian, from which the ancestors of most Taiwanese came. These special design characteristics can be seen throughout, on the roof, in the main hall, ceremonial archway, and elsewhere. Temple manager Chen Wen-wen says the temple is done in the seldom seen “Chinese chopper style” of architecture; the unusually long and thin layout said to be like a chopper, it’s edge visible when viewed from the front, symbolizing the City God’s decisive decision-making style in handling troubles. One of the other most important characteristics is the ornamental walls on either side of the main hall, which are about 80 years old. One is a dragon wall, the other a tiger wall. Among the pair, the tiger is capable of hurting people, harboring inauspicious foreboding, and thus geomancers advise that any temple expansion must never be toward the tiger wall. Any development undertaken is therefore toward the dragon wall on the left.

Since 1996, the temple has coordinated with surrounding Dihua Street for its selling of festive goods during the Lunar New Year. During this season, the temple distributes free red-date and medlar tea out front to arriving worshipers. Before the Lunar New Year, on the 15th day of the last lunar month, the gods are thanked for protecting the local community for the past year with the lamp-lighting “round dipper ceremony”, with another such ceremony held on the 10th day of the next month to ask for peace and tranquility in the year just born. Also of great importance is the Valentine’s Day on Feb.14; the Matchmaker, Old Man Under the Moon, is particularly effective at the Xiahai City God temple, and you’ll even see Japanese tourists arriving to ask this kind elder’s help in delivering up true love.


Longshan Temple
Tel: (02) 2302-5162
Add: 211, Guangzhou St.
Hours: 6:00 - 22:20
Website: (Chinese)
Transportation: Take the MRT Ban-Nan (Blue) Line to Longshan Temple Station and go out Exit 1. The walk takes about three minutes.
Baoan Temple
Tel: (02) 2595-1676
Add: 61, Hami St.
Hours: 6:30 - 22:30
Take the MRT Tamsui (Red) Line to Yuanshan Station, go out Exit 2, then go down Kulun St. and turn right on Dalong St. The walk takes about 15 minutes.
Xiahai City God Temple
Tel: (02) 2558-0346
Add: 61, Sec. 1, Dihua St.
Hours: 6:00 - 20:00
Take the MRT Tamsui (Red) Line to Shuanglian Station, go out Exit 1 or 2, and proceed along Minsheng W. Rd. to Sec. 1, Dihua St. and turn left.
From MRT Zhongshan Station, go out Exit 1 or 2, and proceed along Nanjing W. Rd. to Sec. 1, Dihua St. and turn right. On both routes the walk is about 8 minutes.

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  • Updated: 2015/7/10 16:53
  • Reviewed: 2015/7/10 16:52

  • Source: Department of Information Technology, Taipei City Government