Chung Tai Chan Temple

Nantou County

From the entrance doors with their giant guardians to the 18 lohan reliefs, only top-quality materials and artists, both Taiwanese and foreign, were used to build this awe-inspiring contemporary edifice. Another highlight is the seven-storey indoor pagoda, which was created without any metal nails or screws. Designed by Taipei 101 architect CY Lee, Chung Tai Temple, with its colossal icons and massive halls, almost brings to mind a totalitarian aesthetic.

This 43-storey temple is more than just one of the quirkiest buildings in Taiwan (think: tiled mosque meets Macau's Grand Lisboa) – it's a global centre of Buddhist academic research, culture and the arts. Opened in 2001, it represents an international branch of Buddhism founded by the Venerable Master Wei Chueh (1928–2016), the master who is said to have revived the Chan (Zen) tradition in Taiwan.

Several resident nuns speak good English, and it is their responsibility to give guided tours to any and all visitors. Reservations must be made three days in advance.

There are also weekly meditation classes held in English, and weeklong retreats during Lunar New Year and summer. Other retreats, lasting three days, are held on an irregular basis. During retreats, guests stay at the temple.

You can get to the temple in a taxi from Puli (NT$350). If you are driving, head north on Zhongzheng Rd out of Puli and then follow the signs. The temple is about 6km away.

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