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The basilica resembles many churches in the Phillippines.  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Taiwan > Sights & Attractions

Wanjin Basilica

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Wanjin Basilica (萬金聖母聖殿) is Taiwan's oldest church, having been founded in 1863 by Spanish Dominican missionary Father Fernando Sainz (1832-1895).

The first edition of the church, an adobe structure, collapsed within a few years after an earthquake. The current Spanish fortress-castle style building dates from 1869-1870. Some 13.7m wide, it's 35m long and 7.6m tall. The belfry was originally on the southern tower, on the right if you're facing the front of the church. It fell down in the 1940s and was rebuilt in the center. The walls are made of bricks and stones cemented together with a blend of gravel, lime, brown sugar, honey and kapok fiber. The church bell was cast in Spain.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II declared the church to be a basilica minore. The most recent renovation was completed in 2003.

The Treaty of Tianjin, forced on China in 1858 by the Western powers, specifically permitted missionary activities throughout the Qing Empire. Despite this, when Sainz and his companions arrived from the Phillippines in May 1859, they were arrested by the magistrate and detained for two days before being allowed to proceed into the interior. Later the same year, Sainz bought the land on which the basilica now stands for 62 silver coins. Work on the church was delayed because traveling between Wanjin and Kaohsiung was difficult and dangerous. The church also bought some plots of land nearby; these were loaned to local converts who farmed them.

In the first decade, the structure was set on fire several times by anti-Christian mobs. However, the main walls always survived, and overt hostility subsided after 1874, when the Emperor Tongzhi conferred on the church an inscribed stone bearing just two characters. Reading feng-zhi (奉旨), meaning "an edict sent by the highest authorities," it confirmed that the church enjoyed official protection.

Wanjin is ethnically complex. Many of those who've lived here for more than three generations have more lowland aboriginal blood than Han ancestry. Also, several members of the Paiwan tribe have settled in Wanjin. Now about 80 percent of the village's residents are Roman Catholics; on an island where fewer than one in 14 professes any form of Christianity, this is very notable. Certainly it's the only lowland community in the ROC where Marian grottos outnumber land-god shrines. Blank walls near the church have been decorated with colorful murals. Unless the weather is exceptionally hazy, you'll see the Central Mountain Range right behind the basilica.


From Pingtung City, take Highway 1 (the old provincial road), then follow the signs  southeast toward Wanluan and then Wanjin. Bus no. 8212 (just two services per day, at 8:55am and 4:45pm) from Pingtung Bus Station goes to Wanjin. If you're driving, it's recommended that you leave or arrive via Road 185, which runs north-south and hugs the mountains. Parking is easy behind the basilica, near the Dominican Monastery.

Type: Monument/Building
Costs: free
Location: Taiwan
Street address: 24, Wanxing Road, Wanjin Village, Wanluan, Pingtung County
Nearest public transport: Wanjin bus stop
Opening hours: Daily 9am-5pm
Telephone: +88687832005

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