Good for: longshan temple, Taiwan, Taipei, Chinese New Year
Lonely Planet review for Longshan Temple
Religious life in Taiwan is alive and kicking seven days a week at Longshan Temple. Though not the biggest temple in the city, there is something unique and beautiful about the vibe at Longshan that keeps people coming back.
The temple dates back to 1738. As the story goes, a passer-by left an amulet of Guanyin (goddess of mercy) hanging on a tree on the site of the present temple, and the amulet shone so brightly, even after dark, that all who passed by knew the site was blessed. Nearly three centuries later, the spot still exudes a certain warmth. The stones that line the courtyard of the temple were originally ballast on the ships that ferried immigrants from Fujian province across the often treacherous Taiwan Strait, and the waterfall inside the courtyard is a favourite spot for shutterbugs. Once you enter the main building, expect a riot of scarlet and gold in the form of enormous bronze incense burners and carved-stone columns. The best times to visit are around 6am, 8am and 5pm, when crowds of worshippers gather and engage in hypnotic chanting.
Like many temples in Taiwan, Longshan is multidenominational. Although Guanyin is still the central deity worshipped here, the temple enshrines 165 other deities. Along the back wall are several bays containing different gods – on the right is the patron of scholarly pursuits, while on the left is the god of military pursuits and business people. The goddess Matsu is in the centre, and provides for the safe return of travellers by sea or land (air travellers pay their respects to Guanyin).
The lights on columns at the back of the temple represent a person whose family has made a donation in his or her honour.
Outside the front gate of the temple, old monks sit selling cedar-wood beads, and old women sell magnolias. The number of vendors increases markedly on weekends. Across the street from the temple is an underground market and the entire neighbourhood is good for shopping for religious items and trinkets of all sorts.