26 Mar 2009

Long Shan Temple: the treasure of Taiwan

Long Shan Temple in Lu Gang, Zhang Hua(彰化鹿港龍山寺), was built in 1786. The temple is dedicated to Guan Yin(觀音), Avalokiteśvara, also known as the Goddess of Mercy. It is listed the national heritage in Taiwan. The temple is a work of art, and every detail of the painting, sculpture, and architecture, and even the arrangement of buildings, all shows highly exquisite artistic presentation. The temple collapsed when the earthquake hit in 1999, and the restoration work was finally completed in 2008. During the restoration, there were disputes concerning whether the restoration should conduct new construction so as to ensure the strength of the structure or they should only try to restore the temple's original look. I am no expert on such issue, and after visiting the temple, I can only say the restoration work was done well.

The main entrance gate

The second entrance gate with the platform for Chinese opera attached behind.

Those dragon columns are made of stone and the carvings are amazing.

The platform for Chinese opera performances. It is usual for temples, especially really old and important ones, to have such platform in front of the main hall so that the gods/goddesses could enjoy performances (often presented to thank gods/goddesses).

The main hall, dedicated to Guan Yin and her disciples.

Inside the main hall. The lamp is a beautiful artwork.

The rear hall, dedicated to other deities (other buddhas and Bodhisattvas, which are widely worshiped by Chinese).

The back wall of the main hall with 大觀在上 (the literal meaning is a great view from the above) written (or carved) on the wall. The phrase 大觀在上 is borrowed from I Ching meaning that we should position ourselves on a higher level and broaden our views. Besides we must have a mild and humble attitude. By doing so, we would be able to observe everything in the world properly and to adjust ourselves in the right way.

Decorations on the door of the main hall. The flower basket is from someone who must have realized hie/her dreams after praying to Guan Yin in this temple.

This window is amazingly beautiful. There are two windows like this next to the door at each side of the second entrance gate. The central pattern is made from one piece of wood. Both windows have the same pattern and are preserved well.

Decorations on the roof. Both seem to depict fairies riding on phoenix.

More decorations on the roof.

A small lion stone sculpture. Seems to indicate the strength of the lion, which can support the weight of the roof. In the meantime, such mean animal can protect the temple from any possible attack, whether it is a man-made one or a supernatural one.

Small elephant stone sculpture with a monkey (same material) on top of the elephant. I believe this also indicate the power of animals, which at the same time act as the supporter and protector of dharma, the universal truth common to all individuals in all times, and the teaching of Buddha.

The use of animals may firstly, as mentioned above, indicate that the teaching of Buddha and the religious power can tame these wild animals and turn them into good protectors of dharma. Moreover, this use of animals show the artistic talent of the designer of the temple, which adds certain entertaining effect to the overall design of the temple. It amuses the visitors and ease the possible all too serious and rigid atmosphere a temple, especially an important one, may usually have.

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