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COMPASS MAGAZINE > February 2013
 

Lunar New Year Day Trips to Traditional Temples

Words by Niang Chen
Translated by Angel Pu

Taiwanese traditionally visit a temple on the first day of the lunar new year out of hopes for a safe and lucky new year. Whether you're Taiwanese or not, central Taiwan offers a variety of famous temples for those who are interested in observing and experiencing local religious culture, or praying for the new year.


松柏嶺受天宮
Photo provided by Shoutian
Temple

松柏嶺受天宮
Photo provided by Shoutian
Temple

Songbo Hill Shoutian Temple

118, SongShan St, Songshan Village, Mingjian Township, Nantou County
(049) 258-1008
Open: 5:30 am-10 pm
Getting There: Take National Freeway No. 3, exit at Mingjian interchange, take Provincial Highway No. 3 to Mingjian, and take Provincial Highway No. 139 Section "B" (MingSong Rd.) to Shoutian Temple.

Situated on a hill south of Bagua Mountain, Shoutian Temple is one of Taiwan's best-known temples for worship of the god Xian Wu. A huge square in front of the temple overlooks western Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait. This temple is full of worshipers and tourists, even on weekdays, and to specially celebrate the Chinese New Year the temple will prepare vegetarian noodles for visitors Feb. 10 to 14, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. At 3 p.m. on Lantern Festival day (Feb. 24), there will be a "10,000-person lucky cake eating" event, with 30,000 people invited to share 7,000 lucky peach-shaped sweet cakes, making this one of the most important annual Lantern Festival events.

Songbo Hill is famous for producing semi-fermented tea, so visitors can take some time to enjoy this delicious drink after worshiping at Shoutian Temple. A path in front of the temple square connects to Ershui in Changhua county. It only takes 40 minutes to walk and is well worth it, with beautiful, lush scenery and monkeys in the trees.
Nantou not only boasts beautiful scenery but also many famous temples. Zinan Temple and Shotian Temple are not far from each other (about a 25-minute drive). If you encounter a traffic jam on your way to the temples over the holiday, you can make a detour and enjoy the cheap, delicious traditional snacks in the Nantou Market. (intersection of ZhangNan Rd. and MingQuan St.). Famed market vendors include Xue's Goose and YouDe Noodles (tel. 049-223-8021; 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; open during holidays). YouDe's popular items include noodles (NT$30) and Marinated Tofu (NT$10).

松柏嶺受天宮 松柏嶺受天宮


Nantou Zhushan Town Zinan Temple

Nantou Zhushan Town Zinan Temple

Nantou Zhushan Town Zinan Temple

40, DaGong St, Sheliao Village, Zhushan Township, Nantou County
(049) 262-3722
Open: 7 am-5 pm
Getting There: Take National Freeway No. 3, exit at the Zhushan interchange, take Provincial Highway No. 3 to Mingjian township and take Provincial Highway No. 16 Section "A" to Zinan Temple.

Built in 1745, Zinan Temple is one of the most famous Earth God temples in Taiwan and is reputed to help visitors make money or overcome financial troubles. Many people who desire to open a business come here to "borrow money" from the Earth God for good luck. The amount of money that worshipers can borrow depends on the results of "bwa bwei" (thrown divination blocks). For example, the first "shin bwei" (one block up and one down) means the worshiper can borrow NT$600, while a second "shin bwei" is NT$500, and so on. One worshiper can throw the divination blocks six times and the money should be returned within a year. These funds are usually used to purchase business equipment and, according to worshipers, the money brings good luck to their new ventures. As usual, the temple also distributes "lucky money" to worshipers during the Chinese New Year holiday, attracting tens of thousands of lined-up people every year. Chinese New Year events here include the following. Feb. 9: 10 p.m.-- handing out of gift bags that include a Year of the Snake lucky coin; 12 midnight--shooting off fireworks to welcome the new year. Feb. 10: children go to the temple for lucky candies; 10 a.m.--handing out of gift bags that include a Year of the Snake lucky coin. According to feng shui beliefs, lucky coins can be placed in a "fortune position" (usually diagonally to the main entrance of one's home) for good fortune.

Nantou Zhushan Town Zinan Temple Nantou Zhushan Town Zinan Temple
Photo provided by Zinan Temple


Yuanbao Temple

Yuanbao Temple

Yuanbao Temple

109, MeiChuan W Rd, Sec 3, North Dist. (intersection of MeiChuan W and JinHua N roads)
(04) 2205-2123
Open: 6 am-10 pm

Built in 1791, Yuanbao Temple mainly worships Baosheng Dadi, the god of medicine and health. Its beautifully-constructed structure is one of downtown Taichung's most famous temples. From Feb. 10 to 24, a "Seven Star Safety Bridge" will be erected here and is said to drive out evil spirits and provide blessings of good fortune for people who walk on it. At 8 a.m. on Feb. 10, the temple will give out 10,000 red envelopes (each containing NT$20) and invite a traditional Taiwanese opera theater company to perform. The highlight of this event will be a one-hour fireworks show at 8:30 p.m. on Lantern Festival day (Feb. 24). The temple is also preparing 4,000 lanterns for visitors on that day. These fireworks have become one of the most anticipated Chinese New Year events for Taichung city residents, and visitors are welcomed to enjoy this spectacle and some savory snacks from vendors around the temple.

Yuanbao Temple Yuanbao Temple


Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia

Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia

Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia

158, ShunTian Rd, Dajia Dist.
(04) 2676-3522
Open: 3:30 am-11 pm
Getting There: Take National Freeway No. 3, exit at Dajia interchange, go to Dajia and follow the signs to Jenn Lann Temple.

Jenn Lann Temple is Taiwan's best-known temple for worshiping the goddess Matsu (Mazu), and is crowded year-round, particularly during the Chinese New Year holiday. According to Taiwanese tradition, the first person to stick incense into the incense holder in the new year will be very lucky the entire following year. At 10:40 p.m. on Feb. 9, the temple will be closed for 20 minutes and re-open at 11 p.m. for worshipers to do this. Afterwards, they will receive red envelopes from the temple. This year, 60,000 red envelopes containing NT$10 for good luck will be handed out.

Besides struggling to be the first to place their incense, getting red envelopes and praying to Matsu for safety and good luck, visitors can enjoy the busy night market around the temple. To welcome tourists during the new year holidays, the market will be open all day long from Feb. 10 to 12. Must-eat snacks include A-zai Rice Cakes (133, JiangGong Rd.; tel. 04-2687-6515), braised pork skin, and red rice yeast braised pork. Other famed local products include Dajia taro cakes, butter pastries, and Dajia rush hats and mats, so don't forget to buy some gifts for relatives and friends after visiting the temple.

Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia Jenn Lann Temple in Dajia


Qingshui Ziyunyan Temple

Qingshui Ziyunyan Temple

Qingshui Ziyunyan Temple

206, DaJie Rd, Qingshui Dist.
(04) 2622-5500
Open: 4 am-11 pm
Getting There: Take National Freeway No. 1, exit at Zhongqing interchange and head toward Qingshui; or take National Freeway No.3, exit at Shalu interchange and head toward Qingshui; take ZhongShan Rd. and follow the signs to the temple.

Built over 300 years ago, Ziyunyan Temple is central Taiwan's largest temple worshiping the goddess Guanyin. Although it has recently been repaired and renovated a few times, visitors can still feel this temple's powerful, stately atmosphere, fully exuding the beauty of Chinese religious culture. Besides regular chanting for good fortune the temple holds other rituals, including lighting of lamps for safety (NT$500 each), and "pacifying Taisui" (a prayer ritual for those whose Chinese zodiac signs conflict with the new year) for those born in the years of the snake, pig and tiger. The temple will hold a riddle event on Lantern Festival day and all are welcome to come and test their brains.

A-po Pearl Tapioca is one of the most famous snack vendors situated around Ziyunyan Temple. Its chewy tapioca has the delicious aroma of sugar that reminds many Taiwanese of their childhoods. Baizhenxian Bakery (tel. 04-2622-4104), right next to the temple, has been open since 1943 and is famous for its addictive traditional salty meat pastries and Azuki Bean Mochi Cakes (NT$70/piece).

Qingshui Ziyunyan Temple Qingshui Ziyunyan Temple