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Taiwan: Guandu temple

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Guandu temple | Taiwan | Asia

[Visited: May 2012]

It was a grey day when we got off the subway stop, and walked towards Tamsui river, along the riverfront until we reached a big parking lot that was all but empty. Apparently, the temple was not popular today. From a distance, we could already see the temple, or at least: part of it. Built right against the vertical rock face on our left, the brightly and abundantly decorated temple seems to cling on to the natural wall. When we got closer, the details of the decoration became clearer. Laughing figures seem to lie on the wall surrounding Guandu temple, flowers give it a friendly feel, and there is a striking number of animals to be seen all around the temple. Dragons, horses, elephants, leopards, birds: they are omnipresent and overshadow the religious figures.

Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Detail of brightly coloured and lavishly decorated ceiling of Guandu temple

We looked around the inside, but knew there must be more, walked around the corner, where we reached the main entrance of the large complex. We stopped for a while on the courtyard, facing the main temple of Guandu that was first built in 1661 and as such is the oldest temple in northern Taiwan. and dedicated to Mazu, the goddess of the sea. Originally, the temple was called Ling shan temple, because it straddles Mount Ling, it was renamed to Guandu temple in 1921. Looking up, we saw the heavily decorated roofs, with even more sculptures, statues, carvings, paintings than we had seen before, on the other side - it is a dazzling sight. The beams and rafters of the roof are also painted and carved; it is an overkill of decorations.

Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Scary looking guardian Eyes that See a Thousand Miles of goddess Mazu in Guandu temple

Once inside, the overkill continues, but here, you can also see simple people in prayer in front of the statue of Goddess Mazu, with a bunch of incense sticks in their hands, leaving behind offerings, or taking out wooden sticks and checking their luck with a number - which is what we did, too. The friendly security guy who was quick to say that he was actually Christian, turned out to draw the most unfortunate number. We explored a small courtyard on the right of the temple, and walked the long tunnel cutting through the mountain. On both sides, we saw statues of emperors, some complete with real-hair black beards. At the end of the tunnel stands a statue of thousand armed, thousand-eyed Guanyin, goddess of mercy. At the end of the tunnel you step outside and find yourself on a balcony, right overhead the temple we had entered at the beginning: we had cut through the mountain and now looked out over Tamsui river and the mangrove trees on our left. We visited a prayer hall on a higher level, and enjoyed the view over the heavily decorated roofs, with the skyline of modern Taipei in the distance. From here, we decided to take the bike path and walk back along Tamsui river all the way to another subway station - our eyes needed a rest after the onslaught of artsy Guandu temple.

Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Lavishly designed colourful animals adorning the roof of Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Figures carved out of wood in Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Detail of carving in the long tunnel of Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Statue of Guanyin, goddess of mercy with lavishly decorated ceiling near the balcony of Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Interior look of the tunnel running below Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Bearded man statue in Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Worshipper in front of a richly decorated part of the temple of Guandu
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Colourful and lively statues on the wall surrounding Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): One of the many heavily decorated ceilings of Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Exterior look of a pagoda of Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Bridge carved out in a relief in Guandu temple
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): View of Guandu temple from the courtyard
Picture of Guandu temple (Taiwan): Spirit money, biscuits, and fruits left as offerings in Guandu temple

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