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Saturday, September 13, 2014

city god temple

Taiwan kinda has a thing for temples, evidenced by the fact that there are more than 5,000 on this small island.

Some are humongous and grandiose.
Others are teeny tiny.

There are Buddhist, Taoist and Confucius temples in Taiwan.
Depending on which kind of temple you discover, you will notice differences in structure and artwork.

This is Hsinchu's City God Temple, also known as the Cheng Huang Temple. 
It is a Taoist temple smashed in between a busy night market and even busier down town Hsinchu. 
It was built in 1748 and is considered the highest ranking city god temple in all of Taiwan due to the superior power of the spirits that protect the city.
Cheng Huang, the city god of justice, is responsible for determining the fate of all spirits in Hsinchu. 

Due to the temple's Taoist nature, it is bright and colorful.
Its roof is broad and sweeping and includes figures that represent good luck such as the dragon.
Inside, there is a large oven where money is burned as an offering to the spirits.
Taoist temples are very busy places, and even though there are no resident monks or nuns, locals use these temples for ceremonies that include loud music, fragrant incense and booming firecrackers. 

As an outsider, I no longer feel awkward exploring a temple in Taiwan. 
At first I did.
I felt like an intruder because Taiwanese people actually use their temples all the time. 
You would actually be hard pressed to visit a temple that was not being used by someone, even if it was in the mountains. 

But so far, after more than two years living in Taiwan, I can say that I have never once been looked at funny or dismissed or spoken to/gestured at rudely for being curious about these intriguing religious structures. 
For the most part, this is the one place locals ignore me. 

They do their thing, I do my thing.

And every time I visit a temple, whether it be big or small or Buddhist or Taoist or Confucius, I am simply blown away by its beauty and buzz of activity and sometimes very odd placement. 
After all, Taiwan has grown explosively in the last few decades. 
As cities and towns boomed, old temples became dwarfed by towering apartment buildings and flashy shopping malls and sometimes even western restaurants. 
It's a bizarre juxtaposition at times, like when The Outback Steakhouse is next door neighbors with a 300 year old Buddhist temple.

Add your comment

  1. I always love your photographs. Taiwan sounds completely brilliant! :)

  2. You do a great job of describing the juxtaposition with Outback next to a 300-yr-old temple; I've never been to Taiwan but have wondered if zoning or city planning exists in lots of other places around Asia!

    1. Yeah, I've wondered the same things many times while traveling around SE Asia.

  3. Love the photos! Is there really an Outback Steakhouse next to a 300 year old temple? That would be certainly one strange juxtaposition. That is one of the many things I like about China though, the combination of old and new.

    1. Not in Hsinchu but in the town over from us! It's bizarre. Some of my favorites are the temple next door to the scooter store and the temple next to the McDonalds.

  4. I really like that photo shot straight up at the roof. There's so much attention to detail and that ying-yang in the center. It's nice that the locals don't mind you going into the temple. I always feel kind of strange when I do it in Malaysia, but perhaps I haven't done it enough.

    1. Thanks. Maybe it's just that I don't care anymore? I mean, I never get the feeling that they think I am rude or out of place or disrespectful. I think at first I was making myself feel that way. Who knows.

  5. Wow, I love that shot looking up at the roof. So many great colours and well composed. It must be incredibly strange to have such a huge juxtaposition between the modern and the traditional.

    1. Thanks! Taiwan is one big contrast between old and new, especially because it's grown so much in the past few decades.