Wanhua 萬華

Longshan Temple

Location: No. 211, Guangzhou St., Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan 108
Longshan MRT Station Exit 1, turn right and go through the underground mall to leave from Exit 4
Hours: 7 days a week from 6:00am-10:00pm
Phone: +886 2 2302 5162

Longshan Temple is one of the oldest and most famous temples in the Wanhua district of Taipei. It was founded and constructed in 1738 by devout settlers that followed the original ancient Longshan Temple in Fujian, China, where it served to be both a place of worship and gathering for the Chinese settlers at the time. 

Longshan Temple
The temple’s name was established through its origins with the ancient Longshan Temple that had been established in the Chin-chiang County of the Fukien province, dating back to the 17th century. The settlers from the three counties of the Fukien province--Chin-chiang, Nan-an, and Hui-an--came to Monga (now known as Wanhua), at the beginning of the 18th century. When these settlers came over Wanhua, they decided to create a temple that resembled the one that resided in their hometown, and regarded it as a branching temple, for which they named after the original one. The temple’s construction was then dedicated to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, which was known as Kuan in Chinese or Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit. 

In 1919 however, the temple had undergone reconstruction under the management of Mr. Wang Yi-shun, who was a master architect of building temples in the southern region of Fukien, and its new structure was then completed in 1924. The temple is recognized to be a masterpiece of Mr. Wang, filled with beautifully and finely carved stone and wood pieces that accent the front and fore hall of the temple.

Since the reconstruction has occurred in the earlier years of the 19th century, Mr. Wang was able to incorporate his knowledge of Western architecture. Small concrete gables on the top of the front walls were created and served as decorative screens, as well as the addition of ornamental Corinthian capitals on some  the columns of the temple. Furthermore, the arrangement of beige and dark green granites (imported from China), along with black local andesites, gives visitors a striking first impression of the colour combination, which is accompanied by the carefully carved relief and open works of these stones. 

The pair of casted bronze dragon columns, which can be seen standing in front of the central door, remains to be the only two bronze columns in Taiwan. There are also two towers for the bells and drums respectively, on the east and west sides of the courtyard situated between the fore hall and the main hall. These two-storied towers have a conic roof that forming a hexagonal shape like that of a helmet; under this roof, skirts a second tier of roofing. Each sector of these hexagonal roofs, in double eaves, forms a slope in a converse “S” like curve. These roofs are the first examples of such an architectural design that was introduced to Taiwan. With that, all these extraordinary architectural characteristics combined together create the Longshan Temple, a very special monument representing traditional Chinese architecture of its time in Taiwan.

The current Longshan Temple consists of three halls: the fore hall, the main hall and the rear hall. The fore hall is used as the entrance of the Temple, as well as a place for people to worship in. The main hall is located at the center of the temple, where a statue of Kuan-in remains to be the main god of the temple. The main god is enshrined in the center and is accompanied by two other bodhisattvas (an enlightened being who, out of compassion, forgoes nirvana in order to save others), Manjusri on the left-hand side and Samantabhadra on the right. There are also eighteen Arhans (Buddhists whom have attained Nirvana) present on both sides as entourages. 

Initially when the temple was first created, it was only intended for Buddhist deities, as the main hall shows. The rear hall was added on towards the end of the 18th century, after Wanhua had been established by the Chinese government in 1792, as an official port for the trade with the Chuan-chou and Foochou of Fukien. As a result of the prosperous business, the merchant society of “Chuan Chiao” of Wan Hua had created the rear hall in order to honour their patron Mazu, whom they would pray to, and ask for protection for a safe business trip to China. The rear hall is divided into three parts: the center portion is for the worship of Mazu (the Goddess of marine voyage), the left side is dedicated to the Gods of literature (or patrons of examinations for civil service back then), and the right side is dedicated to the god of war, Lord Kuan.

Like many other temples in Taiwan, Longshan Temple is multidenominational, which means that although Guanyin remains to be the central deity worshipped there, the temple also enshrines 165 other deities. The temple overall remains to be Buddhist in nature, but of course in the process of its development, many deities of Taoism were also included. For instance, along the back wall are several bays containing different gods – on the right is the patron of scholarly pursuits (Matsu), and to the left, is the god of military pursuits (Lord Kuan) and business people. The Goddess Matsu is situated in the centre, and is said to provide for the safe return of travellers by sea or land as mentioned before (air travellers pay their respects to Guanyin). 

When the government decided build new streets to reform the city in the earlier years of this century, some temples were destroyed in the process, hence; statues of the gods of water and the city god of Tam-sui County were transferred to the rear hall of Longshan Temple.
 In essence, the diversity of deities that can be seen in this temple represents the tolerant mentality of the Chinese people with regards to their religious life.