Temples are an integral part of the religious and cultural landscape of Taiwan, with over 5000 in total ranging from small one-room shrines to vast and elaborately designed buildings. All play a key part in the religious life of the Taiwanese and are current places of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian worship, as well as monuments to the country’s heritage. A visit to Taiwan cannot be complete without at least one visit to a temple, to experience the unique spiritual atmosphere that underpins the fabric of Taiwanese society.
Most Taiwanese temples share a common design, with a wooden post and beam framework set upon an elevated platform, held in place by a curved roof that overhangs at the eaves. Within the temples, visitors will marvel at the wealth of artistic endeavours, from elaborate paintings and wood carvings to pottery and colourful figurines. Buddhist temples tend to be simpler in design with less emphasis on decorative arts, while the Taoist examples are vibrant, joyful places to visit.
Taiwan Confucius Temple, Tainan
Among the most beautiful of all the temples in the country, the Confucian Temple of Tainan is also one of the oldest and the focal point for the birth of the religion in Taiwan. Inside, a vast collection of ancient Chinese artefacts awaits you, giving the temple the feel of a museum as much as a religious centre, while the expansive grounds, which are free to enter, are also well-worth discovering.
Longshan Temple, Taipei
Dating from the mid-eighteenth century, the Longshan Temple in Taipei is one of the city’s most popular visitor attractions. Dedicated to Guanshiyin Buddha, the temple is an orderly, serene place which, from the regular incense burnings and Buddhist chanting, is clearly active place of worship. Inside there are a variety of curios and items of interest, including a pair of bronze dragons protecting the middle hall, exquisite wooden sculptures and Chinese verses and poetry inscribed on signs. Surrounding the Longshan Temple, visitors can marvel at the traditional Chinese medicine shops and market.
Changuang Temple, Taroka Gorge National Park
Unrivalled for its stunning surroundings, the Changuang Temple in Taroko Gorge National Park blends the beauty of Buddhist architecture with the splendour of the natural world. To reach the temple, visitors travel through Guanyin Cave and over a suspension bridge which offers memorable views of Taroka Gorge and is more than worthy of a short wait to take advantage of the photo opportunities here. While the trek through the park is safe in every respect, it is important to purchase appropriate holiday insurance so that you are fully protected in the event of a misfortune while exploring Taiwan.
Bao-an Temple, Taipei
Probably the second most famous temple in Taiwan after the neighbouring Longshan Temple, Bao-an is the perfect venue for the yearly Basosheng Cultural Festival which offers visitors to the country the opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of traditional Chinese arts, including opera, dance and floral parades.
Travelling to Taiwan demands that you ensure at least one of the country’s many temples is planned into your itinerary, so that you can appreciate the rich cultural and religious heritage that the country has to offer.