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Busy temples can be found in every Taiwanese neighborhood. (RM)  <img src='http://www.guidegecko.com/images/spyglass1.png' align='texttop' /> Click for full image
Travel Guide > Asia > Taiwan > Sights & Attractions

Visiting Houses of Worship

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When in Taiwan, feel free to enter any temple that looks intriguing, whatever your beliefs and even if you're wearing overt symbols of your own religion. Don't worry if you're casually dressed, and feel free to take photos so long as you don't disturb those praying or throwing divining blocks. At famous shrines, you'll see plenty of locals in miniskirts and sandals, taking snaps.

Most (but not all) temples have three large doorways at the front; you should enter via the one on the left. The one on the right is the exit, while the central portal is reserved for divine entities and shouldn't be used by human visitors.

You should never take meat or fish into a Buddhist temple or monastery, as vegetarianism (full-time for priests, monks and nuns; two days a month for lay believers) is required by the religion. In folk temples, however, you’ll sometimes see meat among the offerings. You shouldn't smoke, eat or drink when visiting a place of worship, and women shouldn't enter any shrine when they're menstruating. Unlike shrines in Japan, few temples in Taiwan require visitors to take off their shoes; if there are shoe racks by the doorway, then remove your shoes. Invariably there's no admission charge - another big difference between Taiwan and Japan.

Taiwanese people go to temples to express gratitude for their good fortune, or to seek the protection of or guidance from a god or goddess. Typically, a visit to a shrine begins with the burning of spirit money. Offerings such as fruit, cookies and soft drinks are then placed on the altar. Joss sticks are lit and held while the worshiper bows before the icon of the god he is propitiating. Worshipers often pray to several different gods during the course of a single visit. After prayers are completed, joss sticks are placed upright (while still smoldering) in a censer, from where they are later collected by one of the volunteers responsible for keeping the temple clean.

You may, if they wish, offer joss sticks and prayers when visiting a Taiwanese temple. There is no pressure to do so, nor will locals consider it very strange.

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Location: Taiwan

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