TEMPLES AND OLD HISTORIC BUILDINGS IN TAIPEI
There are a number of Buddhist, Confucian, Chinese and Taoist temples in Taipei. The three main temples are the Lungshan (Dragon Mountain) Temple, a Buddhist temple dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy; the Confucian Temple, located in the heart of Taipei, with a beautiful formal gardens where many Taipei residents go pray and seek quite repose; and the Hsingtien (Soar to Heaven) Temple, the largest Taoist temple in Taipei.
Other temples found scattered around Taipei include Xiahai City God Temple, Guandu Temple Taipei, Dalongdong Bao'an Temple, Zhinan Temple, Qingshan Temple Taipei, Qingshui Temple, Songshan Ciyou Temple and Xingtian Temple
Among the historical buildings that tourists seek out are the Lin An-Tai Old Homestead, Yangming House, Shilin Official Residence, The Red House, Taipei Martyrs' Shrine, National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (formerly the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall), Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall and the building along Bopiliao Old Street.
Martyr's Shrine is an excellent example of classical Ming architecture. Dedicated to Nationalist soldiers who died during the Chinese Revolution, it has a majestic archway, tranquil paths and a changing of the guard ceremony performed by guards who do their duties with same determination as the guards at Buckingham Palace.
Lungshan Temple (two blocks east of Snake Alley, Huaxi Night Market and Guangzhou Night Market) is the oldest, most visited and perhaps the most interesting temple in Taipei. Adorned with intricately carved stone dragon pillars, a tile roof and decorated eaves, it is often crowded with Chinese who come to light bouquets of smoking joss sticks and donate ghost money to variety of ancient gods in return for good luck on the lottery, good scores for children on important exams and good business. In the courtyard, locals cast red, crescent-shaped pieces of wood to divine their fortunes. More than 100 gods are worshipped at the temple, so many that Lungshan is sometimes referred to as "a meeting place of the gods."
Lungshan (also spelled Longshan) Temple was founded, according to legend, by a man who left an amulet honoring Kuanyin (the Goddess of Mercy) hanging from a tree at the site of today's temple. At night it was discovered that the amulet produced brilliant light and had the power to fulfill wishes. In 1738 people began constructing a temple to honor Kuanyin. It was finished two years later. The temple also contains shrines honoring Matsu (Goddess of the Sea), Kuan Kung (God of War) and Buddha. The temples was largely rebuilt in 1957 because the old buildings were badly damaged by wars and natural disasters.
Lungshan Temple is facing the South and has a three-section design comprised of a front hall, rear hall and middle hall, protected by dragons on the right and left sides. The temple was built in the fifth year of the reign of the Qianlong Emperor in Qing Dynasty. The doors, beams, and poles are beautifully decorated. There is a pair of bronze dragon poles in the front hall, four pairs of dragon poles in the middle hall. There are exquisite wood sculptures. Among them, the well and Buddha in the main hall are highly appreciated. At main altar houses is statue of Kuanyin, Other gods — some with long-beards and others red faces — also have their own shrines and worshipers. The temple has many Chinese poems, verses and lyrics written on plaques.
A variety of fairs, activities and festivals are held at the temple. On each 1st and 15th day each month of lunar year, regular visitors come to the temple for worship ceremony. The temple attracts many people, including domestic and foreign tourists is regarded as religious, tourist and historical sight. In 1986, a crowd of activists first publicly called for an end to martial law at the temple.. Around it are traditional streets/shops, antique shops, Buddhists article shops, and Chinese medicine shops. Herbal Medicine Lane (near Lungshan temple on Qingtsao Lane) has ten traditional medicine shops that sell hundreds of different kinds of herbs and traditional Chinese medicines
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take the THSR to Taipei Station, continue by MRT to Longshan Temple Station; 2. Take the train to Wanhua Station. By Road: 1. Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Taipei Interchange Prov. Hwy 2B Minzu W. Rd. Expressway Guilin Rd. Sec. 1, Xiyuan Rd. Guangzhou St; 2. Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Zhonghe Interchange County Hwy 106A Township Road Bei-91 County Hwy 114 Guangfu Bridge Sec. 2 to 1, Xiyuan Rd. Guangzhou St; Address: No. 211, Guangzhou St, Wanhua District, Taipei City; Tel: -(2)-2302-5162.
Qingshan Temple (within walking distance of Lugshan) was built in 1854 to honor the god king Qingshan, whose image was brought to Taiwan from the mainland by fishermen. Wedged between busy streets, the temple contains magnificent carved beams and wall paintings. It is said that the image of King Qingshan has to power to stop famine and dispense rewards and punishments in the underworld.
Nearby on Chiu Street are numerous shops selling Chinese medicines and herbs, carvings and embroidered textiles and religious items such as paper money and televisions that are burned during funerals for the dead to take with to them to the afterlife.
According to legend, fishermen from Hui-an in mainland China, who brought the god's image to Taiwan, carried it past Old Street (today's Xiyuan Road) and suddenly found themselves brought to a halt; the god refused to move any further. Throwing the oracle blocks to find out what the matter was, the god's devotees discovered that he wanted to stay there. The temple was built at that spot. At the time, an epidemic had engulfed Taiwan; prayers to King Qingshan quickly brought about a a recovery. After this the number of devotees increased, and they contributed money to build a new temple to honor Qingshan.
The temple is home to two guardians, General Hsieh Pi-an and Fan Wu-ti. In the early days the chains in their hands were often heard clanging in the temple and the streets nearby. Some said they saw the generals patrolling the streets and this in turn helped keep thieves away. A celebration marking the birthday of King Qingshan is held on the 22nd day of the 10th lunar month. On that day all of the other temples in the area also celebrate the occasion, helping make it one of the most interesting festivals in Mengjia. The approach to this temple takes you past some of some interesting building built during the Japanese period.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei City Bus(No. 49, 218) to Zushi Temple stop. By Road: 1. Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Taipei Interchange Prov. Hwy 2B Minzu W. Rd. Expressway Sec. 2, Guiyang St; 2. Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Zhonghe Interchange County Hwy 106A Township Road Bei-91 County Hwy 114 Guangfu Bridge Sec. 2 to 1, Xiyuan Rd. Sec. 2, Guiyang St; Address: No. 218, Sec. 2, Guiyang St, Wanhua District, Taipei City; Tel: -(2)-2382-2296.
Qingsui Temple (81 Kangting Road) is also known as the Divine Progenitors Temple. Built in 1787, it is one of the best examples of mid-Qing temple architecture in Taiwan. Among its important features are delightfully simple carvings on the stone walls, decorated beams around the dragon pillars, and tile carvings on the corridor walls.
The temple is dedicated to the Divine Progenitor Qingsui, a deified Sung dynasty high monk who brought rain in times of drought and provided medical care to the poor. The most famous of the Divine Progenitor statues is the Nose Dropping Statue. According to legend the nose of this statue will drop off before a natural disaster and return to its place after the disaster is finished. Nearby is the Huanghofa Cake Shop, an establishment that has been provided cakes for festivals and for 90 years.
Qingsui Temple was constructed in 1787 when seven images of Divine Progenitors were brought over by immigrants from Anxi. The most powerful of these is believed to be the Penglai Divine Progenitor ("Nose Dropping Divine Progenitor") Qingshui Temple's long history is reflected in its decoration. As you enter the temple you are greeted by a pair of large dragon pillars in front of the central doors of the front court; the brick carvings on both sides of the outer wall date from the late 18th century and early 19th century, making them the oldest pieces of art in the temple. Also of interest are the inscriptions of Qing Dynasty reign periods on the beams, stone walls, and dragon pillars.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei City Bus (No. 49, 218) to Zushi Temple Stop; By Road: 1. Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Taipei Interchange Prov. Hwy 2B Minzu W. Rd. Expressway Sec. 2, Guiyang St. Kangding Rd; 2. Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Zhonghe Interchange County Hwy 106A Township Road Bei-91 County Hwy 114 Guangfu Bridge Sec. 2 to 1, Xiyuan Rd. Sec. 2, Guiyang St. Kangding Rd; Address: No. 81, Kangding Rd, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2371-1517.
Confucius Temple (Dalong Street) is a splendid example of traditional Chinese architecture and landscape gardening. A refuge from congested Taipei, it is a nice place to relax and experience ancient Chinese culture. The temple comes to life on the sages birthday (September 28) when school children in costumes carry out rituals that are over 2,000 years old.
The Taipei Confucius honors one of the greatest philosophers and teachers of all time, Confucius, as well as other philosophers. Confucius valued simplicity, and simplicity is the dominant characteristic of his temple. Here you see none of the densely rich decor of many other temples; even the usual stone lions are missing from the entrance. The columns, doors, and windows here are also different, in that they bear no inscriptions. This indicates, it is said, that nobody dares flaunt his literary prowess before the Master. Nor are there any images in this temple. In ancient times, Confucius temples contained images of the Sage, but different craftsman carved them in different likenesses. This lack of uniformity upset Emperor Tai Tsu (reigned 1368 A.D.) of the Ming dynasty, who decreed that all new Confucius temples would henceforth contain only memorial tablets and no images. Later on, during the reign of emperor Shi cong (1522-1586), it was decreed that all existing images of Confucius be replaced with memorial tablets. This rule is still followed today.
Standing outside of Dacheng Hall, the main hall of this temple, you can see a pair of upright cylinders in the center of the roof. These are called book-hiding barrels, and there is a story behind them. In ancient times, the first Emperor (reigned 246-214 B.C.) of the Qin dynasty wanted to keep his people illiterate so that they would not challenge his rule; he had books burned and scholars killed. To save their beloved books, students hid them in rooftop containers built to look like chimneys.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Yuanshan Station; By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Taipei Interchange Sec. 3, Chongqing N. Rd. Minzu W. Rd. Dalon St; Address: No.275, Dalong St, Datong Dist, Taipei City 103, Taiwan (R.O.C.), Tel: -(2)- 2592-3934.
Pao An Temple
Pao An Temple (near the Confucius Temple) is a 230-year-old Taoist temple dedicated to three main deities: Pao Sheng (God of Medicine), Ju Lai Of (God of Luck), and Chu Sheng Niang (Goddess of Birth and Fertility).
Located at the confluence of the Tamsui and Keelung rivers, DaLong Cave (Longdong) developed very early. The center of worship here is Pao-an Temple, built in 1825. This is a large temple, and its construction was different; in addition, all of the wood and stone materials — and even the artisans — had to be brought over from mainland China. For these reason, the temple required a full quarter-century to complete.
This temple features the usual dragon pillars, and also a pair of stone lion that are not so usual. Normally, of the two lions (one male, one female) that guard a temple, the male has an open mouth and the female a closed mouth; here, however, both have open mouths. It is said that they are not lions at all but a "humane beast" and a "law beast," stationed there as an appeal to respect the law and carry out good government.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Yuanshan Station. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Taipei Interchange Sec. 3, Chongqing N. Rd. Hami St; Address: No. 61, Hami St, Datong District, Taipei City; Tel: -(2)-2595-1676.
Xingtian Temple is the home of the God of War and other deities. It is good place to observe traditional temple architecture and observe Chinese practicing traditional methods of worship.
This very busy temple is devoted to Guan, a famous deified general who lived (A. D. 162-219) during the Three Kingdoms period. A man, who valued loyalty and righteousness above all things, Guangong is worshipped as the God of War; since he was adept at managing finances, he is also worshipped as the patron saint of businessmen.
This is young temple, built in 1967, with a simple and dignified appearance. In front of the hall is a censer with a somewhat unusual design, its two handles in the shape of flying dragons and its four sides adorned with dragons’ heads stretching toward the sky. The courtyard of the temple is usually busy, with crowds of worshippers bowing their heads or kneeling in devotion. On the main altar you will see offerings of only fresh flowers and tea, since the temple forbids the killing of offering of animals. The temple also discourages the burning of ritual paper money as an offering to the deities and the spirits of the deceased, the staging of operas for the gods, the presenting of gold medallions in gratitude to the deities, and the like. The temple supplies free candles, and there is no donation box-a first for traditional religion in Taiwan!
Many believers feel that this is a very efficacious temple, and it is frequently thronged with people praying for help and seeking divine guidance by consulting oracle blocks. Even the pedestrian underpass outside the temple is filled with fortune-tellers and vendors who take commercial advantage of the temple's popularity.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the THSR or TRA to Taipei Station, transfer to the MRT to Xingtian Temple Station. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Yuanshan Interchange Jianguo N. Rd. Sec. 3 Minquan E. Rd. Sec. 2; Address: No. 109, Sec. 2, Minquan E. Rd, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2503-1831.
Zhinan Temple (near the zoo in the Wenshan District) is nicknamed the "Temple of a Thousand Steps." Perched high on the slopes of Monkey Mountain, this temple offers wonderful views of the city. The name "Zhinan Temple" includes two important meanings: 1) that the god, Lu Enzhu resides at the Southern ("nan") temple in the Heavenly Court; and 2) that in order to determine who on Earth needs help, he uses a compass ("zhinan").
Zinan Temple (also spelled Chin Nan Temple) is known to foreigners as "the Temple of a Thousand Steps." This is no exaggeration — there are actually around 1,200 stone steps up to the temple — and there is a saying, "live an extra 20 seconds for each step you climb." If this is true, you can add more than six hours to your life by climbing all of the steps. The main deity in this temple is Lu Tunpin, one of the Eight Immortals of Chinese legends. He is a well-loved deity, despite a reputation for somewhat randy behavior. He is said to return frequently to the mortal world to bring salvation to the faithful.
Zhinan Temple sits on Monkey Mountain and, in addition to the steps, is accessible by a paved road. But the stone steps are worth a trip in themselves; they are flanked by rows of stone posts topped by stone lanterns that were donated by devotees during the period of Japanese occupation (1895-1945).
In the same area, there is also Fude Temple, dedicated to the land god. In front of the temple, there is Qixing (Seven Stars) Pond, which was designed according to fengshui principles and also serves as a receptacle for believers to place their monetary contributions. Taking the stone steps, it is possible to reach Zhinan Temple Corridor, as well as see the entire Muzha tea farm landscape.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Taipei Zoo Station, take Maokong Gondola to Zhinan Temple Station; 2. Take THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Wanfang Community Station, take Taipei City Bus ( No. Small 10) to Zhinan Temple Station. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 3 Muzha Interchange Nat'l Hwy 3A Wanfang Interchange Sec. 4, Muzha Rd. Wanshou Bridge Sec. 2, Xiuming Rd. Wanshou Rd; Address: No.115, Wanshou Rd, Wunshan District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2939-9922.
Guandu Temple (15-minute walk from Guandu MRT Station) is dedicated to Matsu, goddess of the sea. The temple, first built in 1661, sits beside a kind of Buddhist chapel dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Guanyin of Thousand Arms and Eyes. Outside the temple there are numerous stalls selling products such as spirit money used in religious observances, as well as snack foods and souvenirs.
The hillside above the temple provides excellent views of the river and the mangrove swamps. The dike that stretches from Guandu in both directions toward Taipei and Tamsui is an ideal place to take a stroll or enjoy the scenic beauty afforded by the wide expanse of the river. Tthe oldest Matsu temple in northern Taiwan, the temple was originally named "Ling-shan (Mt. Ling) Temple," since it is located atop Mt. Ling. According to legend, in 1895 three old banyan trees standing at the temple's entrance died suddenly during the same night. Local residents believed that this might be a bad omen from Matsu, warning of impending disaster — and sure enough, the area was soon occupied by the Japanese.
Guandu temple is filled with exquisitely carved dragon pillars, stone lions, and wall sculptures. Even the door gods are in the form of relief carvings, in contrast to the usual paintings. The rafters and beams are also beautifully carved and painted. On the main altar sits an image of Matsu, the benign expression on her face in sharp contrast to the fierce visages of the guardians who flank her, Eyes that See a Thousand Miles and Ears that Hear on the Wind.
To the right of the temple is an 80 meter Buddha cave, at the entrance of which is a symbolic mortar that is supposedly able to suppress all evil. The sides of the cave are lined by 28 devas, and at the rear is a thousand armed, thousand-eyed Guanyin, or goddess of Mercy. To the rear of Guanyin is the cave's exit and a fine river view.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei MRT to Guandu Station, transfer Taipei City Bus (No. Red 35, Small 23) to Guandu Temple Stop. By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Taipei Interchange Prov. Hwy 2B Zhixing Rd; Address: No.360, Zhixing Rd, Beitou District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2858-1281.
Lin An-tai House
Lin An-tai House (in Binjiang Park) is a delightful Qing dynasty-era family home. Beautifully situated among gardens, trees, lawns and mountains, it is a graceful architectural marvel with tiled roofs, intricate stone and wood carvings, and a large courtyard—all enclosed with a brick wall. The house belonged to a noble family, was built in 1783 and reconstructed at its present site in 1978. Laid out according to the laws of geomacy, it is considered to be Taipei's most beautiful and well-preserved Chinese-style home. The areas for the family and servants are clearly delineated.
Lin An-Tai Old Homestead is a traditional Chinese courtyard house with elegant decorations and is one of the few traditional houses preserved in northern Taiwan. The Lin family came to Taiwan in the 18th century and engaged in trade in northern Taiwan. With the money they made, they built a house and named it. Today, the house is over 160 years old. It is the best-preserved and maintained ancient house in Taipei City.
Lin An-Tai Old Homestead is famous for its delicate carvings; one of the examples is the creative dragon carving on the front door. There are six dragons, representing the six sons in the family. The carvings of vases and bats carry the meanings of good luck, wealth and safety. Some of the tiles and bricks of this ancient building have been restored due to its long history, but the stones and woods have remained intact over the long years. The crescent shaped pond in front of the building was used for defense, raising fish, prevent fire, water supply and keep a moderate temperature.
Getting There by Public Transport: Take the THSR or train to Taipei Station, transfer Taipei City Bus (No. 222) to Xinsheng Park (Lin An Tai Historical Home) stop; By Road: Nat'l Hwy 1 Yuanshan Interchange Songjiang Rd. Minzu E. Rd. Sec. 3, Xinsheng N. Rd. Binjiang St; Address: No.5, Binjiang St, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2599-6026.
Yangming House (on Yangming Mountains) was a hot-spring villa during Japanese occupation of Taiwan. Late president Chiang Kai-Shek loved the beautiful scenery here and built Zhongxing Hotel to accommodate foreign guests and to spend the summer; the hotel was later reconstructed as Yangming House. As Yangming Villa and Zhongshan Building were constructed nearby, important government officials often gathered here, making Yangming Mountain (Yangmingshan) the decision center for the government. After the death of Chiang in 1975, historical KMT documents were moved from Li Yuan in Caotun, Nantou to Yangming Mountain (Yangmingshan) for exhibition in memory of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and late president Chiang Kai-Shek. As late president Chiang had respected and admired Mr. Wang Yang Ming, the building was named Yang Ming In 1996; KMT donated the Academy to the Ministry of Interior, providing a recreational and educational space for Taipei citizens.
Yangming House is a 2-story, traditional Chinese building. The theater, VIP rooms, offices, and restaurant are on the first floor. The second floor was used by Mr. and Mrs. Chiang and their paintings and some personal belongings can still be found here. On the wall of Chiang’s bedroom, there is a wedding photo taken in Shanghai on December 1, 1927. In addition, there are other photos of the couple visiting different places.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) Royal Bus (bound for Jinshan) Yangming Mountain (Yangmingshan) National Park Administration; 2. THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) MRT Jiantan Station Taipei City Bus (Red 5) Yangming Mountain (Yangmingshan) Taipei City Bus (No. 108) Visitor Center; 3. THSR Taipei Station (or TRA Taipei Station) Taipei City Bus (No. 260) Yangming Mountain ( Yangmingshan) Taipei City Bus (No. 108) Visitor Center; By Road: 1. Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Taipei Interchange Prov. Hwy 2B Bailing Bridge Zhongzheng Rd. Prov. Hwy 2A Yantou Hwy Shamao Rd. Hushan Rd. Sec. 1 Zhongxing Rd; 2. Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Zhonghe Interchange Prov. Hwy 64 Prov. Hwy 106A Prov. Hwy 3 Huan River Expressway Minzu W. Rd. Prov. Hwy 2B Bailing Bridge Zhongzheng Rd. Prov. Hwy 2A Yantou Hwy Shamao Rd. Hushan Rd. Sec. 1 Zhongxing Rd; Address: No.12, Zhongxing Rd, Beitou District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2861-1444.
The Red House (Wanhua District) is a Western-style red-brick octagonal structure built in 1908. It was Taiwan's first public market and now is a well-preserved class III historical site. Designed by Kondo Juro, a western-influenced Japanese architect who worked at the local government civil engineering office, the market has octagonal- and cruciform-shaped buildings, featuring the ‘eight trigrams (bagua) design, considered revolutionary and unparalleled in both the East and West. The Octagon Building, Cruciform Building, and the adjacent South-North Square are now collectively known as the Red House.
In November, 2007, Department of Cultural Affairs commissioned Taipei Culture Foundation to manage The Red House. It underwent a series of cultural transformation including adding second floor Theater, Central Display Area, Grid of Hundred Treasures, Cho West Cha, and the Red House Boutique Area to the Octagon Building; and adding 16 Workshops, Cultural Arts Exhibition Platform, Riverside Live House, Market for Artists & Designers to the Cruciform Building and placing the Moonlight Movie Theater by North Square and Outdoor Café located by South Square. These changes provided better services to the general public, created a space of creativity, attracted crowds, and expanded the domain of overlapping cultural arts. The Red House has successfully transformed into a new cultural & creative industries development center in Taipei City. In 2008, it was awarded The 7th Urban Landscape Award in Historical Space Redevelopment Category.
Getting There by Public Transport: 1. Take the THSR to Taipei Station, continue by MRT to Ximen Station; 2. Take the train to Taipei Railway Station, continue by MRT to Ximen Station, By Road: 1. Nat'l Hwy 1 Exit at the Yuan Mountain (Yanshan) Interchange Jianguo N. Rd. Jianguo S. Rd, Sec. 1 Zhongxiao E. Rd, Sec. 3 Zhongxiao W. Rd, Sec. 1 Zhonghua Rd. Chengdu Rd; 2. Nat'l Hwy 3 Exit at the Zhonghe Interchange Prov. Hwy 64 Wenhua Rd, Sec. 2 Huajiang Bridge Heping W. Rd, Sec 3 Nanning Rd. Zhonghua Rd, Sec. 2 to Sec. 1 Chengdu Rd; Address: No.10, Chengdu Rd, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Tel: -(2)-2311-9380.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Taiwan (Republic of China) tourism and government websites, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020