Thursday, February 16, 2017

Taipei, Taiwan: Visiting the Longshan Temple in Wanhua District

Wanhua is the oldest district in Taipei. This is the ‘Old Taipei’ of the city and this also means that the oldest buildings and temples are located here. Perhaps one of the good reasons to use Wanhua District as a base during a visit to Taipei.

Longshan

Longshan Temple is the oldest temple in Taiwan, but it is also the most famous, and visited by hundreds of devout worshippers and tourists every single day. The temple was built in 1738 during the Qing Dynasty by pioneer immigrants from the Fujian province of China. They built this temple patterned after the original one in their hometown, and blessing it as well with the same name.

For the art enthusiasts, one can peruse the many lovely detailed artworks on the walls and ceilings here, and the stunning wooden and cast iron sculptures on the pillars of the temple halls are surely a delight to see. This ancient building is a great representation of traditional Chinese architecture in Taipei. The temple has been lovingly restored many times and the latest one was after the second world war. I have read that Chinese poems and verses are written on the walls. It is too bad that I do not speak and write Chinese to appreciate these. Here in Taipei, they speak Chinese Mandarin.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the Read more link below]

Longshan Temple is dedicated to the Guanshiyin Buddha, the Goddess of Mercy (also known as Guanyin or Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit). Guanshiyin or Guanyin is the main god in this temple.

Now I have read a bit about Buddhism here and there, but understanding and keeping track of all the deities just totally overwhelms me. It is like taking an MBA crash course with additional 2 other degrees and suffering from information overload and mental fatigue. It is almost impossible to know everything in this world! You really need a proper degree to learn all this, haha. But ah, just when I think I am a learned woman, I realised I am ignorant. Why am I not surprised?

Similar to Christianity and Islam, Buddhism (as well as Hinduism) has many branches, sects and denominations. But there is one thing for sure that is very clear, and this is present in any, or rather, most religions. Most human beings have a primal need to acknowledge and honour a higher being.

I think I have personally gone past this dogma and this particular need. However, I will probably find it awkward when someone, a devout believer of a higher being, asks me, “So what do you believe in then?” Awkward not because I do not have the answer because I do. But awkward for me to see the response on their faces when I say, “Nothing.”

Why is discussing religion just a lot like opening a can of live wriggling worms?

The fact remains though that I am still and always curious about other cultures, how people live and what they think about life in general. It gives me comfort when I am able to take a peek into their lives, see their practices and become a witness of their beliefs. It solidifies my understanding of the world that we are all different, but far too similar one way or another. In the end, we all have the same fears and longings. Travel truly widens and enriches our mind and soul, and not just our experiences.

Oh, I just remembered a trip a year ago with my family in Bintan Island, Indonesia. We were able to visit the biggest Buddhist temple outside China dedicated to the same goddess, Guanyin: Avalokitesvara Graha Temple in Bintan Island. I thought I would mention it here for another temple reference.

Well here’s a much lighter subject: Around the temple area is a very lively neighbourhood with a busy market called the Huaxi Street (Night) Market. Here you can try the popular under the adventurous tourist's snake soup at Snake Alley. I never made it there for the obvious reasons, haha. But maybe it is something for you?

How to get here: Quite easy! Because Longshan Temple has a metro stop nearby with the same name. When you alight from the metro following the Longshan temple direction, you get out to a park. The temple is located just across it.

Here is my Longshan Temple photo gallery:


Cut flowers on small plates for the offering are sold outside the temple.


Impressive waterfall fountains in the temple grounds.

Longshan

Do pay attention to the details of the wood carvings of the temple. They are stunning.

Longshan

Longshan

Lots of incense burning and offering of flowers and food to the Buddha.

Longshan

One thing Buddhism has in common with Christianity: Lighting long-stemmed candles.


I saw a number of men and women reading scripts from a booklet.

Longshan

Ah, yours truly, of course,=)

Longshan

Jiaobei blocks and Kau Cim sticks are part of the Chinese lottery practice in temples wherein they ask something and is answered by a Yes or No with these sticks and blocks.

Longshan

Incense burning and offering of wishes on a paper. I have read that this is not really officially a Buddhism practice to burn paper in the temple but many Chinese still do this. 


Travel Period: January 2017
Destination: Wanhua District (Taipei), Taiwan

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Happy Travels! Enjoy Life =)

All pictures were taken by a point and shoot pocket camera or a smartphone.

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