The Confucius and Buddhist Temples of Taipei

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A couple of the intricately carved and painted capitals at the Confucius Temple.

It's an odd quirk of the Unesco World Heritage system that there are no World Heritage sites in Taiwan. It's politics, you see. According to China, Taiwan is China. (Of course, according to Taiwan, Taiwan is the Republic of China.) So, in Unesco's eyes, they can't name any sites in Taiwan as World Heritage sites, because according to their rules, they would have to be the responsibility of China. But since China doesn't really have de facto control of Taiwan, they can't do that.

All this is just a round about way of saying that I think both the Taipei Confucius Temple and the Baoan Buddhist Temple in Taipei should be World Heritage sites. They meet the other criteria, which, as I understand it, means the sites have significant historical, cultural, and artistic merit. If you see these, you'll know what I mean.

Neither one is getting much tourist attention. On the day I went to the Confucius Temple, there was me and three Spaniards who are going to school in Taipei. On the days I went to the Baoan Temple, there were a lot of worshippers, but not many tourists.

So, maybe not being on the World Heritage list is a good thing. Secret pleasures are not necessarily bad.

You can read most everything I know about the two temples, (which are right across the street from each other, btw,) on the two linked Wikipedia articles. Or you can just look at the pictures, which is how I kind of approached both temples.

Except, if you visit, there are some great exhibits in English on the history and meaning of Confucianism in the Confucius Temple. Take some time if you visit to read up a bit.

You should also keep in mind that both these temples have undergone extensive restoration. The Japanese occupation of Taiwan before and during World War II was hard on anything Chinese.

I love visiting Asian temples. We must have seen a hundred of them in our previous travels to Japan and Thailand. There's nothing like the riot of color and imagery to engender pure joy and possibility. And while I do love Christian cathedrals, too, joy is not the main emotion that's at play there.

So have a look at these pics, and enjoy. I hope.

See this post for more tips on visiting Taiwan.

Images of The Confucius Temple

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The gate of part of the Confucius Temple, which is across a street from the main grounds. I believe the grounds of the temple complex were divided by roads during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan before and during World War II.
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One view of the roofline and columns of the main building of the Confucius Temple.
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Another view of the roof of the Confucius Temple, with the decorative dragons.

Images of The Baoan Buddhist Temple

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The courtyard of the Baoan Temple. The temple grounds are constrained by the contemporary neighborhood. It's grounds are much smaller than the Confucius Temple.
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One of the distinguishing features of the Baoan Temple is its murals. The outside walls and the inside beams are decorated with fantastic scenes.
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The painted beams of the interior gallery of the Baoan Temple.
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The carved and painted beams of the entryway of the Baoan Temple.
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The lanterns above the devotional table at the entry of the Baoan Temple. On the right, one of the temple guardians.
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The main shrine of the Baoan Temple.

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14 thoughts on “The Confucius and Buddhist Temples of Taipei”

  1. David and I went to Taipei and few years ago and just loved it. It must be the friendliest city on earth. We got to the stage where we were frightened to get our street map out because we would always collect a small crowd of locals eager to give us directions and welcome us to their city. i can’t remember whether we saw these temples but Taipei is definitely on our go back to list.

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  2. Very intricate. Gotta admit whenever I hear Taipei, I think of Chef Eddie Huang (from Fresh Off the Boat) and one day (for me) visiting the amazing street food there. Nice to know there are other things to do. :D

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  3. We were in Taiwan in 2011 and there were so many sites that should be World Heritage Sites. The National Palace Museum, for instance, is a great repository of Chinese Art since its 700,000 pieces were brought there during the revolution. It is a sister museum of the Palace Museum in Beijing which contains 1.8 million artifacts..

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  4. Oh my intense is not the right word or even elaborate. I would love to visit Taiwan some day and explore these temples even if they were not Unesco sites, I do love all the restoration work and intricate details to the exterior work.

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  5. In 1997, we visited Taipei at the invitation of one of Dr. Excitement’s former trainees who returned to Taiwan and became a Major at a Taipei military hospital. While Dr. E. presented his lecture, Dr. Chung’s wife (also a Major), took me with her daughter to a Taoist temple where I was most definitely the only non-Asian tourist. It wasn’t as spectacularly decorated as the ones you photographed , but I got to use the fortune sticks. Nice.

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  6. 100% agree with you that Baoan and the Confucius temple should be listed as UNESCO sites. I’ve lived in Taiwan for a decade, and I’ve wondered why we don’t have any UNESCO sites, but I’ve never actually looked into it, and what you said totally makes sense.

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