Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Long Shan Temple 龙山寺

My initial itinerary did not include a visit to Lukang, as in all honesty, I have never heard of the place before this trip. But thanks to Judy, the person I was liaising this trip with from roundTAIWANround, I now not only have heard of Lukang, but also have been there! *Thank you, Judy!

The name Lukang (鹿港) literally means deer harbour and came about due to the trade of deerskins during the Dutch colonial period. In addition to local Taiwanese and Chinese architecture, no wonder I also noticed Dutch architecture (similar to the buildings in Malacca with small Dutch brickwork). This must have been quite a crowd-puller as in 2012, Lukang made it onto the Top 10 Small Tourist Towns list put together by the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan.

Judy suggested Lukang due to its historical architecture, as there are still many old temples preserved there, like this temple that we stopped at. This temple was just one of over 200 temples dedicated to a wide variety of folk deities that the town boasts. Despite undergoing some building conservation works due to the damage caused by the 921 Earthquake back in 1999, the temple was still in its grandeur.

This is the Lukang Long Shan Temple (龙山寺). A direct translation would be Dragon Mountain Temple. According to Allie (he's an awesome guide because he is like a walking encyclopaedia!), it used to be a small temple until the local residents rescaled it into a much bigger one.

As I entered the main entrance, I noticed how old the building was, as the paint and carvings on the wood have started to wear off. However, those are signs of how sturdy buildings built in the olden days were - entirely of wood without a single nail and still standing after thousands of years. The eight trigram or caisson found above the outdoor stage at the entrance was particularly mesmerising. How they built it without a single nail to improve the sound resonance of the stage is really beyond me. Technicalities aside, caissons in many Asian cultures are believed to suppress evil and promote peace.

This temple is classified a Class One historic site, as it is the oldest known Buddhist temple in Taiwan. Constructed during the Ming Dynasty, the resident deity is the Goddess of Mercy, like all Long Shan Temples in Taiwan. Also, a dragon temple would not be complete if there was no Dragon Deity, right? As such, the divine ruler of the ocean, the Dragon King has a shrine in the back worship hall.

As we also part respects to the Goddess of Mercy at home, we made a donation and paid our respects here, too.

We then heard some commotion happening in the front, where the stage area was. There were real canons and boy, were they loud! I was quite silly to be standing so near them. Dad, on the other hand, went to the other end of the stage. 

There were different groups performing different dances. Even Allie was unsure what the event was, as in his many trips to the temple, this was his first encounter.

This was no ordinary lion dance performance...

... I noticed that they were carrying something...

... as they made their way past me, I tried my best to take a close-up shot of what it was they were carrying...

Wow, it was the head of the Dragon King! Auspicious day for us, it was :)

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