Saturday, March 20, 2010

Longshan Temple

Our day at Yangmingshan Temple was very rewarding and very tiring, as evidenced by this picture of us at the top of a bridge (which as far as we could tell, was the highest point in the park). We've been seeing a lot of urban Taipei, so it was nice to have the change of pace to see more of the rural side. Taiwan is a BEAUTIFUL sub-tropical country -- truly a treasure of the Pacific.

We left the park about 4, so we still had some daylight left and pondered where to go. We decided on Longshan Temple (or Dragon Mountain Temple), which is one of Taiwan's oldest and most important temples. Every book and website has said this isone of Taipei's must-see's, so we decided we must see it.

The R5 bus dropped us off near the Shihlin Night Market and MRT Station again, but this time, we noticed a separate set of vendors and carnival-type booths just beside the Night Market which had not been there the night before, unless we just missed it. We are the kind of travelers that, if we see something interesting, we just have to discover what it is, and don't worry so much about whatever plans we had.
Here's just a few samples of this mini-market:

Probably spent an hour or so here, (getting some
souvineer shopping done) then jumped back on the MRT to Longshan Temple. In so doing, we rode the Bannan Line (which runs east-west instead of north-south) for the first time at Taipei
Picture one is us buying umbrellas. The sky looked like it was about to open up on us! It never did though. And I am pretty sure the one we got for Traci is actually a sun sheild (aka not waterproof) Picture two is the shop where we got souvineers. Picture three is a man making little glass figurines. We watched him make a tiger. It was quite impressive and interesting.
Main Station. This station reminded Traci of Grand Central or Times Square in NYC, except that here, there were far more people per square inch. If you haven't figured it out, TAIPEI IS CROWDED! We're getting used to it, though.

By the time we arrived at the temple, it was already dark, and we decided that this is actually a place more gorgeous to see at night. Chinese-style lanterns (there's probably a name for these, but I don't know what it is) lined the outside front entrance, and the smell of incense was already thick. Several monk-vendors were outside the temple selling various things, most noticeably, lotus flowers. People well thronging to the temple in droves, and we soon discovered why.

Inside was a mixture of about 5% sight-seers, and 95% worshippers. It was quite a sight to behold. People praying, lighting incense, lighting candles, laying down offerings (i.e. the lotus flowers, all kinds of food, etc.), reading scriptures, prostrating before idols, and other signs of devotion to their gods and goddesses. We were hypnotized by this scene. In reading our guidebook later, I found that the main hall is dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Guanyin, but there are also Taoist influences as evidenced by Mazu, the Taoist goddess of the sea. Apparently, other altars can be set up with "lesser deities" from other religions. The temple is absolutely stunning in its beauty and ornateness. Apparently it's pretty resilient too -- built in 1738, hit by an earthquake and rebuilt in 1815, and damaged by a typhoon in 1867.

Being Christians ourselves, we were obviously way out of our element at Longshan, and felt a strange combination of appreciation, sadness, joy, commonality, and diversity with the people we saw. I found myself in awe of their intense devotion and desire to connect with the divine, but just as strongly, wanted them each to know the Jesus I've come to know. I also saw such intense displays of worship that would shame many Christians (like me) for not offering as eagerly and intensely praise to our Creator and Lord.

Anyway, I think Longhshan helped us continue to gain an appreciation for what we've set out to do for these first few days -- the homeland of our children, with all its culture, history, religious diversity, etc.

In the pictures you can see people praying to the golden statue of Budha and a woman laying down her offering to the Gods.


Mama said...

Oh, that they only had the knowledge of our God Almighty who would give them such freedom and peace. The temple is beautiful. Sounds like we could all learn something from them - their intense desire to worship and give to their diety. That will be my prayer for them and for all of we Christians.
Love you,

Kristi said...

Wow. We visited temples in China, but never were at any of them in a time of worship (though on our first visit we did see people offering cans of orange Fanta). I'm so glad that not only will Pierson and Maylin have wonderful, permanent parents, but that they will also have Jesus Christ in their lives.