This unique Taoist temple along Sanxia Old Street was constructed in 1767 during the Xing Dynasty. It has been reconstructed three times since then, most recently in 1947. The director of the construction was the renowned Taiwanese artist and painter Li Mei-shu, and his work on the temple is widely considered to be his masterpiece. The architecture of the temple is quite unique, given that all of its walls and columns are sculpted from stone. As with other recently renovated temples in Taiwan, western elements are mixed in with traditional Chinese elements, which is unsurprising considering Li Mei-shu' western art education.
The name of the temple, loosely translated, means “Temple of the Divine Ancestor.” Specifically, it is dedicated to Qingshui, a medieval Chan Buddhist monk who is said to have gained supernatural powers through his skill in meditation. With these powers, he brought the rains that saved his hometown from a period of drought. This led to him becoming a deified person in Chinese folk religion. He is an especially popular deity in Taiwan. Have a look around his temple in the video below!
Every sixth day of the first month on the Chinese lunar calendar, Qingshui’s birthday is celebrated. During this time, the temple holds a “Pigs of God” contest. Farmers compete to raise the fattest pig, decorating it with ornaments. The fattest pig is then sacrificed to the god. This practice, however, has drawn the ire of animal rights activists, and most temples in Taiwan have stopped using live pigs. Contrarily, Qingshui Zushi Temple continues to perform the ritual sacrifice in the traditional way.
Cover image by Benjiho [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)].