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The temple's renowned octagonal ceiling.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Taiwan > Sights & Attractions

Longshan Temple (Lugang)

  
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If the putative founding date of 1653 is correct, Lugang's Longshan Temple (鹿港龍山寺) is oldest Buddhist shrine in Taiwan. Originally located on what is now Dayou Street - around 600m to the north and at that time very close to the ocean - the temple moved to its current site in 1786. Seriously damaged by earthquakes in 1795, 1848 and 1999, it has been painstakingly and sensitively restored each time. As a result, the complex retains a tremendous sense of antiquity as well as very considerable beauty and charm.

The most famous feature is the octagonal "algal well" ceiling near the front of the complex. Designed to fool evil spirits into thinking the shrine is in fact underwater (and thus impervious to arson, a major hazard considering the amount of wood here), it's a dazzling work of art that converges on the whiskery face of a dragon. Once you've taken that in, examine the timeworn window carvings. Then begin counting the doorways. Some are conventional rectangles, while others are octagonal or circular. There are 99 in all.

The front chamber has five entrances rather than the usual three. Another special element is the small platform in the forward courtyard; come on a weekend or during a festival and you'll likely see a drama being performed here, or musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments. The main chamber, near the back of the complex, if often crowded with middle-aged and elderly women in black robes praying to Guanyin, the main object of veneration inside this place of worship. Her birthday is celebrated here (and islandwide) on the 19th day of the second lunar month.

Precious effigies have been lost to fire and theft. The seated Guanyin you'll see was sculptured by a mainland Chinese master in 1928 to replace a Tang Dynasty statuette destroyed in a conflagration seven years earlier.

During the colonial era, icons were moved around to better suit the sensibilities of the Japanese Buddhists. When the Japanese left in 1945, the Amitabha Buddha was relegated to the North Hall (on the left if you're coming through the main entrance), while the Guanyin statue was returned to the main hall, as were the Eighteen Lohats. Since then, grateful worshipers have paid for an effigy of Dizangwang, and the largest Guanyin icon in the temple was donated in from 1962.

Directions

Frequent buses from Changhua and Taichung stop on Zhongshan Road, from where it's a 10- to 15-minute stroll to Longshan Temple.

Type: Monument/Building
Costs: free
Location: Taiwan
Street address: 81 Jinmen Street, Lugang, Changhua County
Nearest public transport: Zhongshan Road bus stops
Opening hours: Daily 5:30am-9:30pm
Telephone: +88647772472







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