Cídé Temple 慈德宮 (also romanized as Tzude Temple) is an unusual manifestation of Taiwanese folk religion situated on a hillside overlooking the historic town of Caotun in northwestern Nantou, Taiwan. Constructed in 1984, it was inspired by the recurring dreams of a local fruit farmer, Zhāng Wénqǐ (張文杞), and funded by generous donations from the community. The main hall of the temple takes the form of a bottle gourd (葫蘆) laying on its side, and the entrance is covered by a conical bamboo farmer’s hat (斗笠). These features give the temple its peculiar shape, but they were not chosen at random; the design is inspired by ancient Chinese mythology, albeit with an idiosyncratic twist.
Wǔchāng Temple 武昌宮 is one of many remnants of the devastating 921 Earthquake, which ripped through central Taiwan on September 21st, 1999, toppling tens of thousands of buildings and claiming nearly 2,500 lives. Located in the rural township of Jiji in Nantou, less than five kilometers from the epicenter of the magnitude 7 quake, this temple was destroyed mere months after it was completed. Rather than clear the debris, the damaged structure was left more or less as it was the morning after it collapsed, and a new temple with the same name was built in front. Nowadays this ruined temple is a popular roadside attraction and a prime example of disaster tourism in Taiwan.
Sānqīng Sānyuán Temple 三清三元宮 is an unusual attraction in Fuxing, immediately to the south of Lukang in Changhua, Taiwan. It was constructed over the course of nearly two decades by Huang Chi-Chun 黃奇春, a former soldier who moved here in the late 1970s. This otherwise modest structure is adorned with thousands of seashells, pieces of coral, and other oceanic oddments—which is why it is more commonly known as the Changhua Shell Temple 彰化貝殼廟.
In the summer of 2017 I embarked upon a series of road trips around central and southern Taiwan. I began in Taichung and ended up riding as far south as Kaohsiung over the course of several months. It was not one continuous journey; I would head south, ride for several days, stash the scooter at a train station, and return to my residence in Taipei before doing it all over again. There wasn’t a lot of planning involved, nor were these trips entirely random. Usually I had some idea of what to see and where to go, but there were also many serendipitous discoveries along the way. Ultimately I gathered material for more than 50 posts, many of which have already been published. This introductory post gathers an assortment of photos from the first segment of the trip from Taichung to Nantou, with particular emphasis on the districts of Taiping, Puli, and Shuili.
Puli was my home base for several days of road tripping and adventure around Nantou in October 2015. Recently I decided to publish my findings and impressions from this trip despite not knowing much about what I was seeing at that time. Most of the other posts in this series document trips from one place to another but in this post I’m focusing on some of what I found within city limits, starting with some history to put everything in context.
Kuíxīng Temple 魁星宮 in Tamsui is nominally dedicated to the eponymous Kuíxīng 魁星, god of examinations and one of the Five Wénchāng 五文昌, a group of deities representative of classical Chinese culture. He typically takes the form of a man balanced on one foot with a writing brush in one hand, his body twisted in a pose suggestive of the strokes of Chinese calligraphy. But you didn’t come here to read about Kuixing—this temple is notable for being one of only a handful of sites in Taiwan venerating Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正, president of the Republic of China until his death in 1975, as a god. For a time it was informally known as the Tamsui CKS Temple 淡水蔣中正廟.
Last October, while living in Zhongli, I ventured out into the countryside for a random bicycle ride on Halloween. Like most of my rides I didn’t have a route planned or anything, only a general intention of checking out the obscure Fugang Old Street (富岡老街) about 15 kilometers west of the city. Along the way I followed my intuition (with a little help from Google Maps) and captured photographs of anything interesting and unusual I came across. Featured here are more than two dozens pictures from this ride through parts of Zhongli, Xinwu, Yangmei, and Pingzhen in western Taoyuan.
Not long after moving to the administrative capital of Changhua in 2014 I published a collection of photographs entitled Postcards from Changhua City. All of the photos in that post were shot in my first few months of residency but I ended up staying for half a year. In that time I gathered more than enough material for a sequel while making my daily rounds. So here it is: more photos from my time in Changhua City, a historic town in central Taiwan. As before, additional information and links are included in the caption for each photo, where available.
Héngwén Temple 衡文宮 is located on the south side of Yuanlin, a mid-sized city in Changhua, Taiwan. Completed in 1976, this temple is mainly notable for its 72 foot-tall statue of Xuán Wǔ 玄武, literally “Dark Warrior”, alternately known as Xuán Dì 玄帝 (“Dark Deity”) or Xuántiān Shàngdì 玄天上帝 (“Dark Heavenly Deity”) among many other names. The statue itself is a hollow structure containing several additional floors filled with murals depicting the origins of Xuan Wu as well as various small shrines. A similarly oversized statue of Xuan Wu can be seen on the famous Lotus Pond 蓮池潭 in Zuoying, Kaohsiung, and there’s probably several more scattered around Taiwan, but this one is apparently the largest of its kind. Such claims are often difficult to verify as pretty much any temple with a big statue is likely to say the same thing.
After spending a day riding around Pingtung City I was ready to hit the road again. With no specific destination in mind—only an intention to head in the direction of Hengchun, far to the south—I checked out of the vintage homestay I lodged at the previous night, stopped at Eske Place Coffee House for a delicious and healthy vegetarian breakfast, changed into cycling wear, and exited the city to the east. I knew almost nothing about where I was headed or what I might see on the third day of my southern Taiwan ride in 2015. I only had one stop planned in advance: a hospital in Chaozhou rumoured to be abandoned. I didn’t know it at the time but I would spend almost the entire day riding through the historic Hakka belt of Pingtung.