Taipei has been on my list of quick and easy trips from Seoul for a while. Unfortunately, last year’s trip throughout the Korean Thanksgiving celebrations was a bust. I wasn’t 100% ready for Taiwan, it seems. This past long weekend, however, Co-Pilot and I ventured out to Taipei! I had created a list of must-sees based on various Taiwan Travel Bloggers recommendations. While we didn’t make it to all of the sites, we saw (and ate!) nearly everything on the list.
While in Taipei I knew I wanted to see a temple. I wanted to limit temple visits, however, as I’ve been to so many in Korea, China, and Japan. In Taipei I was amazed at all the variety in the architecture. I found that when researching Taiwan, most Buddhist temples looked like a combination of what I had seen in China and what I see regularly in Korea, so the draw wasn’t there. We had really wanted to go to the beach, but the weather just didn’t cooperate. More on that in my (upcoming) post on Jiufen’s Old City.
Staying in the Zhongzheng district of Taipei was actually really convenient for seeing tourist attractions. We walked from our hotel to Longshan Temple and it took us about 45 minutes because we kept stopping to look around. The streets were really clean and easy to navigate, too.
Longshan Temple (also known as Lungshan Temple of Manka) is the most well-known temple in Taipei. It was built in 1738 and is situated in the Wanhua District of the city. Ximending can be found here too. It’s interesting to see Taipei’s oldest temple situated just south of the heart of a shopping and theatre district! We left the temple around lunchtime to grab a pepper pork bun and walk back home. Although it was bright and sunny out, there were prostitues already lining the streets just around the corner from the temple.
“The temple has been destroyed either in full or in part in numerous earthquakes and fires but Taipei residents have consistently rebuilt and renovated it. The temple was rebuilt during Japanese rule. Most recently, it was hit by American bombers during the Taihoku Air Raid on May 31, 1945, during World War II because the Japanese were reportedly hiding armaments there. The main building and the left corridor were damaged and many precious artifacts and artworks were lost. It was rebuilt after the end of World War II a few months later.”
35 % of the population in Taiwan is Buddhist, whereas 33% identify as Taoist. I would love to have seen more Taoist places of worship. The plethora of bookstores, libraries, cultural centres, and community areas for elderly people in the pursuit of learning shows Taoist influence is all around Taipei!
The temple itself has a lot of mixed messages. In my research I’ve found that it’s dedicated to the God of mercy (Bodhisattva”Guanyin”). The god of literature (Wenchang Dijun) is worshipped primarily by high school and university students during academically stressful times of year. The Taiwanese Cupid (“the Old Man Under the Moon”) is there, too. The patron of police and gangsters, Guan Gong God of War, is even there! There are places to worship over 100 other gods and goddesses, but it was too busy for us to really explore. I also didn’t want to intrude when there were clearly many practising Buddhists there to pray.
Map/ Directions to Longshan Temple in Taipei:
Have you been to Taipei? What was your favourite temple?
Let us know in the comments section below!