One of the oldest and most well-known temples in Taipei, Longshan Temple was originally built in 1738 during the Qing Dynasty. As a temple of Chinese Folk Religion, it combines Buddhist elements with shrines to traditional Chinese deities such as Mazu and Guan Yu. According to the temple’s official website, “the variety of deities in this temple shows the tolerant mentality of the Chinese people in their religious life.” Indeed, Chinese society is said to be built on the “Three Teachings” of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. While in other parts of Asia, such as Korea, these philosophies are thought to be in conflict with one another, the Chinese generally regard them as complementary and mutually enriching.
The temple is dedicated to Avalokitesvara, a central figure in Buddhism celebrated as the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Depending on the culture, Avalokitesvara can be depicted as male or female. Known as Kuan-in in Chinese, she is portrayed as the goddess of mercy. Mazu is a sea goddess based on the purported historical shamaness Lin Mo, who is said to have lived from about 960 to 987. A symbol of loyalty and righteousness, Guan Yu was a 3rd central military general whose myth took on great religious significance by the 14th Century.
The temple has been destroyed in full or in part in various earthquakes over the years, and it was damaged by U.S. bombing during World War II. Since then, it has been rebuilt to surpass its former splendor, and is a popular with traditional worshippers and tourists alike. Learn more in the video below! Chinese New Year is considered the best time to visit the temple, as it's teeming with worshipers performing traditional rituals to ask for good luck in the New Year. Immediately following the New Year, Longshan Temple puts on its famous annual lantern festival, during which the temple grounds are illuminated by enchanting paper lanterns.
Cover image by WikiLaurent [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)].