Taichung

Taichung Confucius Temple (臺中孔廟)

A few months ago I took a solo day-trip to Taichung on a beautiful sunny day to check out the Taichung Prison Martial Arts Hall as well as to check out the grounds of the former Taichung Shinto Shrine, which was converted into the Taichung Martyrs Shrine after the end of the Japanese Colonial Era.

Next to the Martyrs Shrine is the Taichung Confucius Temple, one of the Confucius Temples in Taiwan that I hadn’t had a chance to visit or write about yet, so I decided to stop in to take some photos.

The interesting thing about Confucius Temples is that even though they vary in age and size, they are pretty much all designed in the exact same way, which means that when I take photos in one of these temples, I end up taking the same photos from the same angles because I know they are what works best.

Confucius Temples in Taiwan are a stark contrast to the beautifully designed Taoist and Folk Religion temples that you’ll come across as they place more importance on simplicity rather than overloading your senses with design. This in itself is a good reason to visit them, but in some cases there is a bit of a precarious nature to these shines which shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to the politics and culture in Taiwan, which is something I’ll touch on a bit later.

Although this temple isn’t as widely visited as the temples in Taipei and Tainan, it is still worth a visit if you are in the area and I think that the lack of tourists might actually be a great thing if you are into taking photos like myself.

History

Taiwan is home to well over twenty Confucius Temples - The temples, which are dedicated to Confucius, one of history’s most revered educators and philosophers can be found throughout various country’s in East and South East Asia and are a testament to the historic and cultural importance that Confucius and his philosophies have had on Asia.

Here in Taiwan it is common to find a Confucius Temple within each country or major city with some of them being quite large while others can be quite small. Don’t be fooled though, not all of the temple’s are as historic as Tainan’s beautiful Confucius Temple which dates back to 1665. The majority of the temples that you’ll find today in Taiwan were constructed within the past fifty or so years.

The reasons for this are quite simple - Faced with a large population of people who identified more with Japanese culture, the Chinese Nationalists constructed Confucius Temple’s around the nation in an attempt to force Chinese culture on the people of Taiwan while at the same time the Chinese Nationalists considered themselves the protectors of traditional Chinese culture and felt that it was important for them to preserve the practice of Confucius worship. The temple’s therefore can be thought of as propaganda tools and is probably why most of the newer ones, like the one I’m writing about today aren’t as widely visited as the shrines in Taipei or Tainan.

The history of the Taichung Confucius Temple dates back to 1899 when a small temple was constructed in the downtown governing area of the city. The small temple which was next to the historic Taichung City Hall (台中州廳). When the Japanese Colonial Era started though, Taichung became an important place for development and the Japanese tore down quite a few buildings in that area to widen the roads and construct modern buildings for governmental use.

The current Taichung Confucius Temple is a beautiful one, but as mentioned above, it is one of those that was constructed well after Japanese Colonial Era on reclaimed land and no where near where the original was once located. Building a Confucius Temple in Taichung was important for the government at the time due to the fact that Taichung was the seat of the so-called “Provincial Capital” (台灣省政府) of Taiwan and because it was useful for the propaganda campaign mentioned above.

Construction on the current temple started in 1972 and was completed in 1976, a year after President Chiang Kai-Shek passed away. The temple, which is situated on 23,000 square meters of land directly next to the Taichung Martyr’s Shrine which was constructed on lands that were once home to the beautiful Taichung Shinto Shrine (台中神社) which paid honour to the fallen members of the Japanese imperial forces.

After almost forty years, the Taichung Confucius Temple has a quiet park-like atmosphere where you won’t see a lot of tourists or many events taking place. It has become a place for local residents to come and enjoy a bit of nature and to do a bit of exercise. Like most Confucius Temple’s however, the place comes alive each year on September 28th, otherwise known as “Teachers Day” (教師節) when the temple holds traditional ceremonies to honour Confucius and is quite a sight if you are a tourist.

Design

Confucius temples tend to be uniform in their simplicity - Unlike the overwhelming beauty of Taiwanese folk temples and Taoist temples - Confucius temples stand alone in their almost "zen-like" nature in that they don't have shiny gold or bronze decorations and murals all over the walls with hundreds of sticks of incense creating a haze throughout the temple.

The simplicity exhibited in Confucius temples throughout Taiwan and the rest of Asia is meant to be a show of respect to Confucius as well as the importance of his philosophical views of education and his influence on Chinese culture and history.

One of the common features of all Confucius temples is that there is no imagery or statues of Confucius. This is a rule that goes back almost 500 years to the Ming Dynasty (明朝) when the emperor decreed that all Confucius temples should be uniform and only havie "spirit tablets" (神位) rather than images of the sage.

The layout of the temple follows the design of the original Qufu Confucius Temple in China’s Shandong Province (山東省) where Confucius lived and follows the temple-style architecture of the Song Dynasty (宋朝) - although some of the designs and murals on the walls are a bit different with this one having murals of flowers and grass painted in beautiful colours on the walls and roof trusses.

Dacheng Hall (大成殿)

Dacheng Hall is the main shrine area of any Confucius temple. The hall sits in the middle of a large granite courtyard with a large elevated platform in front of it as well as on the sides. Inside the hall is a very simple set up with the Confucius spirit tablet propped up on a nice red table-like shrine.

The simplicity of the main shrine room in a Confucius temple is a stark contrast to what you'd see at a Taoist temple but there is beauty in simplicity and if you have the chance to walk inside the shrine room (it's not always open to the public) I recommend stepping in and checking it out.

As with all Confucius Temples, there are an additional two shrines in the room which sit upon the west and east side walls and are dedicated to the four sages (四配) Yan Hui (顏子), Zengzi (曾子), Zisi (子思) and Mencius (孟子) who were Confucius’ most well-recognized disciples and who authored books which improved upon the philosophy of their master.

Dacheng Gate (大成們)

The Dacheng Gate acts as the entrance to any Confucius Temple and although it is a gate, it forms a perimeter around the courtyard and the Dacheng Hall. In most cases the gate is likely to be the most ornate part of the entire temple with murals to the sides of the main entrance as well as intricate designs on the roof.

In the case of the Taichung Confucius Temple I think that the gate is probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing parts of the temple. The colours on the gate mix in beautifully with the surrounding nature and allow tourists to feel like when they walk through the doors that they’ll be transported to a different time and place.

Chongsheng Shrine (崇聖祠)

The Chongsheng Shrine is situated behind the main Dacheng Hall and is used as a shrine room to venerate several generations of the ancestors of Confucius as well as the various Confucian sages and philosophers. This shrine room is not unlike a shrine room that you'd find in any large Taiwanese home and is an important place for ancestral worship.

As the descendants of Confucius have spread out throughout China, Taiwan and Korea, it's important for them to have a place to worship. The shrine room isn't often open to visitors but you can look through the front door which usually has a waist-high gate in front of it to see the inside. The Chongsheng Shrine isn’t usually the most widely visited part of a Confucius Shrine but it has historical significance and is an integral part of the temple, so its always a good idea to check it out.

Getting there

If you are visiting Taichung and don’t have access to your own method of transportation, I’d say the best way to get to the Taichung Confucius Temple is either by YouBike or bus. The temple is a short ride away from the Taichung Train Station and is also close to the beautiful Taichung Park where you’ll find the Mid-Lake Pavilion. If you decide to take the YouBike route you can easily stop by both the park and the temple as well as the Taichung Martyrs Shrine.

If you decide to go by bus, you can get there by taking Bus #1, #21, #31, #41 or #67 from Taichung Train Station.

 

Address: No.30, Sec. 2, Shuangshi Rd., North Dist., Taichung. (台中市北區雙十路二段30號)

Taiwan’s Confucius Temples: Taipei | Taoyuan | Hsinchu | Tainan | Qishan

If you are visiting Taichung, the Taichung Confucius Temple in conjunction with the Taichung Martyrs Shrine are probably nice destinations to stop off. They are conveniently located a short distance away from the Train Station between the beautiful Taichung Park and the popular Yizhong Street (一中街) making them an easy stop along the way between a few of Taichung’s top tourist attractions. You don’t really need a whole lot of time to see either and if you’ve seen a Confucius Temple in Taiwan before, you’ll likely notice that what you’re seeing here is a lot similar to what you’ve seen before. I guess that’s what makes Confucius Temples interesting - they are historically significant but stay relatively uniform in their design. If you have time, stop by and check it out.

For more information about Taiwan’s Confucius Temple’s please check out my Confucius Temple Guide.


Taichung Martyrs Shrine (臺中市忠烈祠)

A few months ago I took a solo day-trip down to Taichung to check off the beautifully restored Taichung Martial Arts Hall from my list of places to visit. While in the city I figured I might as well check out a few other spots to make the most of my time before heading over to one of my favourite coffee shops.

One of the places that I’ve wanted to visit was the Taichung Martyrs Shrine which is a short bike ride away from the train station.

There may be some who find Martyr’s Shrines interesting, but I’ve never actually visited one of them on purpose - especially the touristy grand shrine in Taipei.

To tell the truth, I’ve never actually seen the point of visiting a war shrine dedicated to fallen soldiers from China’s wars, especially since the majority of those war-dead had never stepped foot in this country.

With that being said, I had a different goal in mind - A few months ago I wrote about my visit to the Taichung Park where the former Shinto Shrine there had been destroyed years before with what little remains today being recently vandalized by silly little men with too much time on their hands. The history of the Japanese Colonial Era in Taichung is an interesting one and the importance that the colonial powers placed on Taichung was important to the development of the city we see today.

Taichung was not just home to the smaller Shinto Shrine in Taichung Park but also a much larger one in the place that the Taichung Martyrs Shrine currently occupies. While the shrine itself is long gone and the buildings have been replaced by Chinese-palace style buildings, the history of the plot of land remains important and there is still evidence of what used to be there.

I decided to take the short bike ride over from the train station which would be the perfect end to an already productive day of taking photos to check out both of these shrines. While I won’t spend much time in this post about the design of the current Martyrs Shrine, I’ll contrast the photos I took with some beautiful historic photos I’ve collected from the past to show a bit of the history of this piece of Taichung’s history.

Taichung Shinto Shrine (臺中神社)

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The original Taichung Shinto Shrine, or the “first generation shrine” as it’s referred to in Chinese is the shrine that I wrote about a while back which was pretty much demolished after the colonial era ended.

The remaining pieces were recently vandalized and the main shrine area strangely became home to a statue of Confucius. The smaller first generation shrine was constructed near the train station and was situated in Taichung Park near the beautiful Mid-Lake Pavilion.

As Taichung grew however in terms of its development the colonial government decided to construct a much larger county-level (縣社) Shinto Shrine that would be more fitting for a city of its size.

In 1942 (昭和17年) the Taichung Shinto Shrine (臺中神社) which was also known as “Taichū Jinjya” (たいちゅうじんじゃ)  was completed and opened to the public on a plot of land over 23,000 square meters large.

Much like the Martyrs Shrine of today, the purpose of the original Shinto shrine was to pay honour to the fallen heroes of the Japanese empire.

While it was a shrine dedicated to the war-dead it was also a place to worship several Shinto gods which included Prince Yoshihisa (北白川宮能久親王), Ōkuninushi (大國主) and the Three Deities of Cultivation (開拓三神) which happened to be the most common Shinto deities found in the over 200 Shinto Shrines throughout Taiwan during the Japanese Colonial Era and were also enshrined at the Taoyuan and Tungxiao Shinto Shrines. 

Note: Prince Kitashirakawa Yoshihisa was a popular 'deity' in Taiwan during the Colonial Era due to the fact that he died of Malaria in Tainan and was the first member of the Japanese Imperial family to pass away outside of Japan in almost 900 years.

As mentioned above, the Shinto Shrine occupied a large plot of land which has since been divided up to include both the Martyrs Shrine as well as the Taichung Confucius Temple.

Even though the buildings that occupy the land today are much larger in scale than what was originally there, the Shinto Shrine placed more emphasis on integrating natural beauty into its design. Today some of that natural beauty still exists with some of the large beautiful trees that line the Sando, or the “Visiting Path” (參道) which also still has the some of the original lanterns.

While you might think that the original Shinto Shrine was destroyed shortly after the colonial era ended, it wasn’t until 1972 that it was finally torn down and plans were made to replace it.

Even though the colonial era ended in 1945, the housing crisis meant that any existing infrastructure would be used to house refugees fleeing from the Chinese Civil War.

In 1946 the Main Hall (主殿) was converted into the Taichung Martyrs Hall with the parts of the grounds later becoming home to the Air Force, an elementary school and a junior high school.

In the late 1960s plans were made to tear down the original structures and rebuild a new Chinese palace style structure which would become the new Martyrs Shine. Even though the new building opened to the public in 1970, a few remnants of the original Shinto Shrine still existed but would be removed a few years later when the government started enforcing its new policy of cleansing Taiwan of Japanese influence.

Even though the original shrine doesn’t exist today, we are lucky that there were avid photographers among the Japanese who came to Taiwan and that there are still photos to prove that this area was once home to a beautiful Shinto Shrine and I’m happy to share their work in conjunction with mine to give a bit of a contrast.

Taichung Martyrs Shrine (臺中市忠烈祠)

The Chinese palace style Taichung Martyrs Shrine was completed in 1970 on a plot of land considerably smaller than the original.

Even at its current size of 6168 square meters however, its still one of the largest Martyrs Shrines in Taiwan with the land since being partitioned into two different schools and reserving a plot for the the construction of the Confucius Temple next door.

Even though the newer shrine doesn’t occupy as much land as the previous tenant, it makes up for that in the size of the buildings that were constructed with the little space that they had and cover an area of 620 square meters.

The current set up of the Martyrs Shrine consists of a large gate (大門), a long visiting path (參道) with Chinese gardens on each side, a main gate (山門), a front hall (前殿) the main hall (正殿) and five gates (精忠門) on the sides and behind the main hall.

I won’t spend a lot of time describing each different section of the shrine but I’ll give a short description: The visiting path is a long beautiful pathway lined with tall trees and gardens on either side and was probably the highlight of the experience for me. At the end of the walking path you are met with the front hall, which is flanked by the much larger main hall.

The front hall acts as both a gate and an administration building for the people who take care of the grounds. Even though its a much smaller building than the main hall, it blends in quite serenely with the nature that surrounds it making it also quite picturesque.

The main hall of the shine is quite large and looks like a typical Chinese palace-style building. In terms of its layout, its roof and the colour-scheme look a lot similar to the National Palace Theatre and Concert Hall at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei (although not as big). The main hall is quite nice to look at from the outside but when you look into the large empty shrine room you will probably feel a bit underwhelmed as there isn’t a whole lot going on inside and because you can’t actually get in to walk around.

A simple shine for the war dead is quite typical however for shrines of this kind. You maybe expecting a bit more but what you see is what you get with Martyrs Shrines like this.

If you appreciate Chinese architecture, a visit to this shrine is probably going to be a pretty cool stop for you as the architecture adheres quite strictly to traditional design and Feng Shui.

The shrine is quiet, peaceful and is full of nature, which makes it a nice respite from the busy city.

There are pamphlets at the front hall which offer all the information you’ll need about the shrine in English, Japanese, Korean and Simplified Chinese.


Getting There / Map

 

If you are visiting Taichung and don’t have access to your own method of transportation, I’d say the best way to get to the Taichung Martyrs Shrine is either by YouBike or bus. The shrine is a short ride away from the Taichung Train Station and is also close to the beautiful Taichung Park where you’ll find the Mid-Lake Pavilion. If you decide to take the YouBike route you can easily stop by both the park and the temple as well as the Taichung Confucius Temple.

If you decide to go by bus, you can get there by taking Bus #1, #21, #31, #41 or #67 from Taichung Train Station.

Address: No.30, Sec. 2, Shuangshi Rd., North Dist., Taichung City (台中市北區雙十路二段30號)

The Taichung Martyrs Shrine isn’t the major tourist attraction that its counterpart in Taipei is and you won’t get to enjoy the ceremonial changing of the guard ceremony at this one but if you are interested in Chinese-style architecture, then you’ll probably enjoy a short stroll around the grounds.

Personally, my visit was solely to see what little remains of the once beautiful Taichung Shinto Shrine that occupied the space. The original buildings may have been lost to time and politics but the set up of the park and the beautiful gardens that lead up to its entrance are evidence enough of the storied history of this little piece of Taichung.