Taipei is not only famous for shopping and street food, it also houses one of the oldest temples in the world. Longshan Temple was built circa 1738 during the reign of Qianlong in Qing Dynasty, and has remained as one of the most famous attractions in Taipei to date. Getting to Longshan Temple was easy, as there is a dedicated train station named after it in the MRT line. We reached there in the afternoon to find the place filled with worshippers from all around the world.
Longshan Temple, Taipei
Entrance to the temple
There were 3 halls in the temple, formed by the front, middle and rear halls. Surrounding the temple grounds were plenty of colorful statues of dragons, the 12 zodiac animals, as well as lanterns. We noticed a huge lantern just in front of the entrance of the temple, where a queue was formed. Upon further observation, we saw individuals lining up to go under the lantern and perhaps making a wish, before proceeding towards the temple. It was the first time I saw something like this in a temple, and I wonder if this is specific to Longshan Temple or is this practiced anywhere else?
12 animals surrounding a lantern
Making a wish under the lantern?
One of the many decorative statues around the temple
During our visit, we were lucky to witness a prayer ceremony in session. The whole atmosphere was filled with soothing chants of Buddhist verses and melody by the monks, with many of the devotees following suit. The session probably lasted about half an hour, which was exactly how long we stayed just to immerse ourselves in this spiritual environment.
The busy temple
Worshippers in the temple
Bright yellow lamps decorating the temple
And if you believe in oracle/fortune-telling, there is a huge cylinder filled with numbered fortune sticks or ‘chim’ in the centre of the temple. One is supposed to hold the sticks together and silently whisper or think about his or her question to the deity. Then, lift all the sticks halfway up the cylinder and release them, while observing any unusual stick that might be protruding out from the bunch. Continue lifting and releasing the sticks until you are certain of one particular stick that looked outstanding from the rest. Take note of the number first, and proceed to the next step of confirming the validity of the answer.
Prayers in front of the middle hall
The many worshippers of the temple
Next to the cylinder is a metal box filled with wooden blocks. Find a pair that match, they should both form an oval shape together, with a flat surface on one side and a rounded surface on the other. Toss the pair of blocks on the floor – a valid answer will require one block with flat side facing up and the other with the rounded side facing up. If this is not achieved, the fortune stick obtained was not valid and the process of choosing another ‘chim’ is repeated. When a valid answer is found, proceed to find the interpretation of that particular ‘chim’ either from a temple priest or from a set of written guide usually available nearby. We both tried this out and found the answers to be pretty accurate! Try it out.
Kau Cim / Fortune sticks
Longshan Temple, Taipei
Although many would not prefer to visit a temple during their holidays, we did not regret visiting Longshan Temple. It was well-maintained and tidy, plus the atmosphere was just quite spiritual. It was almost enlightening.