Considered by many to be Taipei's most stunning shrine, Dalongdong Baoan Temple (大龍峒保安宮) was founded in 1742 so residents of this historic neighborhood could make offerings to Baosheng Dadi. The quality and importance of the artwork here received international recognition in 2003, when it was accorded an honorable mention at the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards.
The current structure took a quarter century to build. Completed in 1830, it has a standard layout of front, central and rear halls, plus bell and drum towers. Inside the central chamber, Baosheng Dadi is protected by the Thirty-Six Celestial Officials, represented by figurines in the main hall. Each official, sculpted around 1830 by a master craftsmen from Fujian, rides a different animal.
It took nearly three years, beginning in 1917, to repair the damage done when, soon after the Japanese takeover, the temple was converted first into a Japanese-language school and then into a bamboo mat factory.
Make a point of finding the delicately painted lanterns and the stone window-frames carved to resemble scroll-books. To properly understand the various murals, paintings and carvings inside the complex, study the English-language section of the temple's very thorough website before arriving.
Each spring, the Baosheng Cultural Festival (保生文化祭) features several weeks of folk music and opera performances plus puppet shows, parades and guided tours. Scholarships are awarded to students and works of art are displayed. Most exciting of all are the firewalking rites in which devotees of Baosheng Dadi dash across burning charcoal. In keeping with the deity's specialty, there are lectures on herbal medicine and free medicals for neighborhood residents. The precise dates of the festival vary from year to year, but invariably cover the birthdays of Baosheng Dadi (14th day of the third lunar month), Zhusheng Niangniang (20th day of the third lunar month), Mazu and the god of agriculture, Shennong (神農).
From Yuanshan MRT Station, follow the signs to Baoan Temple and Taipei Confucius Temple; the two temples are almost side-by-side, less than 500m from the station.