It was midday and downcast when I first visited Lungshan Temple and I was surprised to find it crowded and very different from temples in Japan. While the immaculately clean temples in Kyoto usually feel empty, Lungshan Temple put me right in the middle of clasped hands, bowed heads, and hundreds of burning incense sticks.
When you find yourself in the middle of sincerity, it’s easy to forget you’ve also come to appreciate architecture. Fortunately, I was able to see the physical beauty of the temple without bothering the people who actually had the right to be there.
Lungshan Temple has three halls. The first hall is used as a place of worship. Here you’ll see stone carvings of dark green granites from China and black local andesites. The main hall houses Guan-Yin, the main god of the temple. It is for having survived the bombing of Lungshan Temple in 1945. There are more deities in the rear hall. The left part of the hall is for gods of literature, the middle part is for Mazu, the goddess of marine voyage, and the right part for Guan-Yu, the god of war.
I wanted to capture the beauty of Lungshan Temple in pictures. But being in the middle of earnest worshipers made it feel wrong. After all, I know I’m going to be surprised or maybe even upset if someone suddenly came in during Sunday mass and took pictures like it wasn’t anyone’s business.
In the fore hall I observed people throwing a pair of moon-shaped stones up to the air and observing what they looked like when they fell to the ground. Although I had an idea what the stones were for, I didn’t know what it really meant so I didn’t try. Fortunately, I found a leaflet that explained what I needed to know. Unfortunately, I only read the leaflet the night before I left Taiwan.
If you want to try your hand at it, here’s the how-to from the leaflet:
1. Put your hands together with the blocks between your palms.
2. State personal details (name, date of birth, address) and the matter on which you are seeking guidance. Your statement should be well ordered, with the main points clearly expressed. Only ask one question at a time, and ask in a way that can be answered with “yes” or “no”.
3. Raise your hand, wait for a few moments, then throw the blocks gently upward and let them land on the ground. There are three possible results:
ACCESS TO LUNGSHAN TEMPLE VIA MRT:
Take the metro to Lungshan Temple Station, Bannan Line 5 (Blue Line).
Take Exit 1 and go left until you see Lungshan Temple across the street.