Deep in one of Taipei’s buzzing night markets, surrounded by street vendors and scooter filled streets is one of Asia’s most stunning temples. It’s not the biggest or the oldest, but it might just change the way you see temples forever.
After three years poking around Asia, it’s safe to say that I’ve seen a lot of temples. From the quiet simplicity of mountain sanctuaries in South Korea, to the golden micropalaces of Thailand, and to the ancient zen enclaves of Japan. Someone once remarked to me that once you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all, but I beg to differ.
Still, if there’s one temple that struck me the most, it’s Longshan. Snuggled up to Hwahsi night market, the temple may not be the oldest or the biggest in Asia, but it’s certainly one of the most beautiful. The waterfalls of the front courtyard are only a hint of the beauty within the gorgeous architecture of Longshan’s walls. At times the colors and patterns of the design invoke images of a carnival-like setting.
Longshan is best experienced at night time when hundreds of red candles provide a flickering backdrop for incense clouds to rise their way to the heavens. There’s something more enchanting about the deep crevices of highly detailed sculptures when play off the dim light. There will certainly be no shortage of visitors. Like many temples in Taiwan, Longshan is multi-denominational, meaning no one single religion is represented here. Over 160 gods and deities are depicted in the artwork and carvings.
And this is why I will keep visiting temples in Asia as long as I’m here. After seeing dozens upon dozens, I still find myself surprised when I find one that changes my expectations about what to expect in a temple. Hopefully, it will change yours too.