Tainan

Koxinga Shrine (延平郡王祠)

When people talk about 'history' in Taiwan, the first place that usually comes to mind is "Tainan". The city which was at one time the capital of the island and even though it isn't the political capital today, is still often referred to as the "Capital City" (府城).

Tainan is one of the oldest developed cities in the country and if you've spent any amount of time in Taipei, a walk through Tainan almost seems as if you're been transported to a completely different country.

Tainan's modern history of development stretches back to when the Dutch East India Company established a fort and trading post in the area in 1624. The city then became the capital of the Kingdom of Tungning (東寧王國) after the Dutch were expelled which was then followed by the Qing, the Japanese Empire and the current Republic of China.

Through all these turbulent periods of political and foreign rule, the people of Tainan have been able to absorb those foreign cultures, cuisines and architectural styles and build a unique city with an identity of its own with arguably the best cuisine in the whole of Taiwan.

While Taipei might currently occupy the position as the political capital of Taiwan, Tainan is certainly the cultural capital and if you want to really experience Taiwan's 'folk culture' at its best, a trip to Tainan is the best recommendation anyone can give you. The amount of historical and cultural sites available for both domestic tourists as well as international travellers is enough to keep you busy for days.

In this post I want to introduce the Koxinga Shrine (延平郡王祠), a shrine of great importance with regard to Taiwan's history. This shrine has a history unlike any other in Taiwan and at over three and a half centuries old has not only withstood the test of time but also several periods of political upheaval as well as destruction on several different occasions.

Before we start talking about the shrine however, I think its important to offer readers a bit of an introduction to the man for which it is dedicated to - a local folk hero in Taiwan who is revered and respected by the people of Taiwan as well as in both Japan and China.

Koxinga (鄭成功)

One of the most interesting figures in the last few hundred years of Chinese and Taiwanese history, the man known as Koxinga (國姓爺) or Zheng Cheng Gong (鄭成功) was born near Nagasaki in Japan in 1624 to Zheng Zhilong (鄭芝龍) a pirate and merchant of Chinese origin and a Japanese woman named Tagawa Matsu (翁氏 / 田川マツ).

Koxinga lived in Japan until the age of seven when he returned to China with his father to further his studies. At the age of fourteen he took an imperial examination and was awarded the status as a 'Xiucai' (秀才) or "scholar" which started him on his path to civil service and in part cemented his loyalty to the Ming Dynasty (明朝).

In 1644, Koxinga began his studies at the Imperial Nanking University, now known as Nanjing University (南京大學). That same year however saw attacks from a peasant rebellion from within the empire which weakened the already crumbling dynasty. Soon after the decision was made to open the gates of the Great Wall to allow Manchu (滿族) armies from the north to come in and put an end the the insurrection.

Unfortunately for the Ming, the exact opposite happened and the Manchu's sought to take tactical advantage of the weakened state and take control of China.

The final blow to the Ming came when Emperor Chongzhen (崇禎) committed suicide rather than being taken prisoner by the Manchus ending the three century old dynasty (1368-1644).

The Qing Dynasty (清朝) was established later that year.

The defeat of the Ming Dynasty and the suicide of the emperor had a tremendous impact on Koxinga's life and saw the young man returning to his home base in Fujian where his family held a considerable amount of power and influence.

As Ming-loyalists, the Zheng family sought to drive the Manchu's out of China and restore the dynasty with the first step being the establishment of the Southern Ming (南明) in Nanjing. Unfortunately the dynasty and its emperor, Emperor Longwu (龍武) were short lived as the Qing quickly consolidated power and moved their forces south to quell the rebellion.

When the Qing invaded Fujian in 1646, Koxinga's father was forced to surrender, his mother (was rumoured to have been) raped and murdered and Emperor Longwu was captured and executed thus ending any hope for either the Southern Ming or the Ming itself.

Despite the loss of the Southern Ming and even the loyalties of his father, Koxinga continued his struggle against the Qing recruiting many to his cause. While Koxinga's forces were considerably smaller than that of the Qing, he used his Naval superiority to his advantage launching raids on Qing-held territories within the Fujian area and enjoyed a series of military successes that caused major headaches for the newly established dynasty.

In 1661, Koxinga turned his attention to Taiwan, which at the time was under Dutch control. The plan was a simple one - force the Dutch off of the island and transform it into military base which could be used by his forces in an attempt to retake the mainland and restore the Ming.

With a fleet estimated at 400 ships and over 25,000 soldiers, Koxinga first seized the Peng Hu islands as a strategic base between China and Taiwan for which to plan attacks on both areas. Less than a year later, Koxinga negotiated a treaty that saw the Dutch vacate Taiwan with their belongings and more importantly their lives and ended 38 years of Dutch rule over the island.

Once in control of Taiwan, Koxinga and his clan sought to make reforms and govern the island as a temporary seat of government for the Southern Ming. This meant that Taiwan would not only become the base of operations for the loyalist movement, but also an example of how Ming governance could be maintained.

Despite progressive reforms and an effort to develop infrastructure in Taiwan, Koxinga died of Malaria only a year into his clan's rule of the island leaving Taiwan under the control of his son Zheng Jing (鄭經) who formed the Kingdom of Tungning (東寧王國) and ruled Taiwan from the time of his father's death until 1683.

Koxinga died at the early age of 37, but in his short time on this earth he led a very eventful life. Despite having lived in Taiwan for no more than a year, Koxinga is often honoured as one of the most important saints in Taiwanese folk religion known as Kaishan King (開山王) or the Yanping Prince (延平郡王) and has temples, schools, universities, streets, etc. all named in his honour.

In China he is celebrated as a national historic figure who brought Taiwan back under the sphere of 'Han Chinese influence' while here in Taiwan he has been deified and ironically is often associated with a "Free Taiwan" and a figurehead within the Taiwanese Independence movement.

Interestingly the life of Koxinga somewhat mirrors that of former President Chiang Kai-Shek, who (a few hundred years later) in order to regroup and make an attempt to retake the mainland retreated to Taiwan and ultimately died here.

The failure of both men to achieve their goals has for better or worse helped to shape Taiwan into the free, sovereign country that it is today. History has been much fairer to Koxinga than it ever will be to Chiang, who committed terrible atrocities during his governance.

History

The "Koxinga Shrine" that we see today can also be referred to as the "Yanping Prince Shrine" (延平郡王祠) or the "Kaishan King Temple" (開山王廟). Koxinga has been enshrined at the temple for well over 350 years but the shrine itself has ultimately become a bit of a chameleon and a political tool for whichever regime has controlled Taiwan since his death.

I'm going to separate the history of the shrine into a few different sections and give a brief explanation of what happened during each:

- Kingdom of Tungning 東寧王國 (1662 - 1683)

In 1662, the same year Koxinga died, his son Zheng Jing (鄭經) had a small shrine built in his father's honour. The small shrine became known as the Kaishan King Temple (開山王廟) which showed the reverence people in Tainan held for the man who drove the Dutch out and helped to develop the city.

Qing Dynasty 清朝 (1683 - 1895)

Given Koxinga's history of of anti-Manchu aggression, the subject of his worship in Taiwan a bit of an issue for the Qing empire who took control of Taiwan. In order to appease the people of the area and not cause any uprisings the shrine was left intact and renovated in 1745 and 1845.

 - Japanese Era 日治 (1895 - 1945)

As Koxinga was of mixed Japanese ancestry, the shrine became a strategic location for the colonial government to promote Japanese nationalism in Taiwan. The shrine, which was known as the Kaishan King Temple (開山王廟) was converted into the Kaishan Shinto Shrine (開山神社), the first Shinto shrine on the island which showed the importance the Japanese put on appeasing the local population with the inclusion of Koxinga as a Shinto god.

The conversion of the shrine into a Shinto shrine meant that the original design of the structure was changed from that of traditional Chinese to that of Japanese-style while some of the elements of the original design were respected.

- Republic of China Era 民國 (1945 - Today)

At the end of the Second World War, the shrine was in bad shape due to allied bombs which destroyed most of its exterior. In 1947 the government repaired the shrine but in 1963 a major renovation took place that changed the architectural style to that of what would be more common in Northern China removing all elements of Japanese influence.

The shrine was designated a national historic site in 2010 and since then it has been open to the public for tourism purposes.

Design

The design of the Koxinga shrine is surprisingly a lot like that of a typical Confucius Temple. It is a walled structure with a large courtyard and a main hall in the middle. The colours coincidentally are also predominately red and green, which are considered auspicious in Chinese culture. The colours and architectural design are indicative of the Northern Chinese style that we see in the Confucius Temples throughout Taiwan but is honestly a bit confusing considering that Koxinga himself was a resident of Southern China.

The roof of the main shrine building was also constructed in a similar way and is adorned with several different mystical animal sculptures along the trusses.

When you enter the complex you are met with a Japanese-style gate (Tori) which is a remnant of the Japanese Colonial Era and would have indicated the entrance to a Shinto Shrine. Today the top of the gate is decorated with a Republic of China star on the top and is a point of contention for the people of Tainan.

Beyond the gate is the main entrance to the shrine which seems plain from the outside but opens up to an airy and spacious room that offers excellent views of both the courtyard and the main building of the shrine as well as the walls along the perimeter. To both the left and right of the main entrance are two separate shrines dedicated to Chang Wan-Li (張萬禮) and Gan Hui (甘輝) who were fellow Ming loyalists and served in Koxinga’s army as generals.

The main hall is a simple one with a life-like statue of Koxinga in the middle which serves as the main shrine as the temple but also seems as if a king is sitting on his throne, which I’m sure was intentional. The main shrine is a beautiful example of Taiwanese wood-working skills and the intricate carvings on the Taiwanese cypress shouldn’t be missed. The roof of the main shrine is where you’re going to see more of the Northern Chinese architectural influence and further similarity to a Confucius Temple as it is adorned with mystical animals along the trusses.

On either side of the main shrine are rooms with spirit tablets as well as rooms with interactive displays which offer visitors a bit of a history lesson about the shrine and some of the artifacts which remain from when it was originally built.

The entrance to the shrine for Koxinga's mother. 

Behind the main shrine is a small shrine room (similar to the Chongsheng Shrine 崇聖祠 in a Confucius temple) dedicated to Koxinga's mother Tagawa Matsu. Koxinga was a noted momma's boy and the love he had for his mother fuelled a lot of his rage against the Manchu's after her untimely (and precarious) death. The shrine to Koxinga's mother is a simple one with a spirit plate in her honour but also an important one considering the political implications of having a Japanese woman enshrined in the temple.

Outside of the main walls of the shrine is a small park with man-made lakes and a giant stone statue of Koxinga riding a horse facing the road. The small park is tree covered and relaxing while the giant stone statue seems to be a bit out of place, but whatever.

The Koxinga Shrine with its current design is a bit of an enigma. It doesn’t make much sense for a shrine dedicated to a Southern Chinese Pirate-King to be designed with Northern Chinese style architecture. It also didn't make sense for the former one-party state (which had its capital in Nanjing rather than Beijing) to build the shrine in such a way but what you see today is what you get. From the historic photos I’ve seen from the original shrine as well as when it served as Taiwan’s first Shinto shrine, the shrine complex has undergone a tremendous amount of changes over the years and I’m sure will change again sometime in the future.

Getting There

If you're like me, you might want to do a walking tour of Tainan while you've visiting the city. There are quite a few places to visit in the city's historic West District including the Confucius Temple, the Martial Arts Hall, the Hayashi Department Store, the City God Shrine, the Grand Mazu Temple, Fort Provintia, etc.

If you're not like me, I still I highly recommend a walking tour as you'll be able to see a lot more of the intricate details of Taiwan's most historic city that you'd likely miss if you were travelling by car or scooter.

If it is extremely hot though, as it often is in Taiwan, you can take the free shuttle bus from the High Speed Rail station or if you're already in town you can take Tainan City Bus 17, 18 or 100 from the Tainan Train Station.

 

Address: #152 Kaishan Road. Tainan City, West Central District. (臺南市中西區開山路152號)

With a history spanning over three centuries, this shrine has withstood the test of time and has proven that no matter what direction the political winds blow that Koxinga, the Pirate King will remain a constant presence in Taiwan serving as a folk hero for the people of this country and an important historical reminder that Taiwan is a beautiful country with a rich history.


Tainan Confucius Temple (台南孔廟)

When people talk about history in Taiwan, the first place that comes to mind is "Tainan". The city which is in the south of the country was once the capital of the island and is often referred to as the "Capital City" (府城) despite Taipei currently being the capital of Taiwan. The city is one of the oldest in the country and if you've spent any amount of time in Taipei, a walk through Tainan almost seems as if you're been transported to a completely different country.

Tainan's modern history of development stretches back to when the Dutch East India Company established a fort and trading post in the area in 1624. The city then became the capital of the Kingdom of Tungning (東寧王國) established by Koxinga (鄭成功) and his family after the Dutch were expelled which was then followed by a period of control by the Qing Dynasty (清朝), the Japanese Empire and the Republic of China.

Through all these turbulent periods of political and foreign rule, the people of Tainan have been able to absorb those foreign cultures, cuisines and architectural styles and build a unique city with an identity of its own with arguably the best cuisine in the whole of Taiwan.

While Taipei might currently occupy the position as the political capital of Taiwan, Tainan is certainly the cultural capital and if you want to really experience Taiwan's 'folk culture' at its best, a trip to Tainan is the best recommendation anyone can give you. The amount of historical and cultural sites available for both domestic tourists as well as international travellers is enough to keep you busy for days.

In this post I want to talk about one of Tainan's oldest and most celebrated residents - The Tainan Confucius Temple. The temple with its three and a half century old history was the first Confucius Temple constructed in Taiwan (of which there are now many) and is considered to be the first real "school" in Taiwan. The temple today serves as a popular tourist attraction and is an important historical site where ancient tradition is both practiced and preserved so that future generations can continue to experience not only Confucian philosophical values but also the Taiwanese folk traditions which have helped shape Taiwan into the country it is today.

History

To start, I want to make a bit of a clarification in case you are confused about the name of the temple. The Tainan Confucius Temple (台南孔子廟) goes by a few names, I'm going to be consistent with this post and refer to it only as the "Tainan Confucius Temple", but for clarity sake the temple also goes by "Taiwan Confucius Temple" (臺灣孔廟) as well as the "Scholarly Temple" (全台首學) or “Taiwan's first school" depending on how you want to translate the Chinese name.

Each of the names reflects a period of Tainan's history - The "Scholarly Temple" refers to the fact that the "first" school in Taiwan was founded on the grounds of the temple while the "Taiwan Confucius Temple" receives its name from a time when the temple was the only Confucian Temple in Taiwan and was the place where people would have to go not only to receive an education but to prepare for the Imperial examination (科舉) if they wished to become a civil servant. Today there are more than twenty Confucius Temples in Taiwan and each one is associated with the city in which it resides, so referring to the temple as the Tainan Confucius Temple today makes sense.

The temple easily makes claims as being the first in a few areas - It is considered to be the first educational institution in Taiwan, the first Confucius Temple as well as the first temple dedicated to the veneration of literature and the arts.

With a history dating back to 1665, the temple has gone through several different transformations and has had to be rebuilt several times due to the turbulent nature of Taiwan's political and colonial history. Even though not all of the buildings we see today are over 350 years old, the fact remains that this temple has played an instrumental role in Taiwan's history.

To explain the history in clear terms, I'm going to separate it into different sections based on the different colonial and political eras that Taiwan has undergone and talk a little bit about what happened at the temple during each period.

Kingdom of Tungning (東寧王國)

Taiwan's First School!

The Tainan Confucius Temple was originally constructed in 1665 under the instruction of Zheng Jing, the son of Ming-loyalist and Pirate-King Koxinga's (鄭成功). The Zheng family is an important one in the history of Tainan and even though their Kingdom of Tungning (東寧王國) lasted only two decades (1662-1683) before being overthrown by the Qing Dynasty, they made a lasting impact on the city.

The Zheng Family which set up shop in Tainan in a (failed) attempt to amass the forces necessary to overthrow the Qing dynasty (清朝) and restore the Ming dynasty (明朝) sought to promote the principles of the Ming which included Confucian values of education as well as encouraging the people of Taiwan to take up the civil service exam.

The temple built in 1665 included a small Dacheng Hall (大成殿) where the veneration of Confucius would take place as well as what we now refer to as the Minglun Hall (明倫堂) which is credited with being Taiwan's first place of public education.

Qing Dynasty (清治時期)

During the Qing Dynasty the grounds of the Confucius Temple were renovated and expanded upon several times to include two halls to the east and west of the main shrine as well as the Chongsheng Shrine (崇聖祠), a shrine to the Taoist Earth God (福德正神) and a shrine dedicated to the God of Literature (文昌大地). The Temple was renamed at the time to reflect its importance as Taiwan's first school (全台首學) but was known locally as a Confucius Temple.

The Qing didn't really have a lot lot of influence in the south of Taiwan but the expansion of the temple was an important part of its history and even though the temple we see today isn't the same as what we see today, the Qing government laid the foundations for the current design according to the traditional architectural style of Confucius temples in China compared to what was originally put in place by the Cheng family.

Japanese Colonial Era (日治時期)

During the Japanese Colonial Era the temple initially kept up its role as a place of education and became part of the Japanese public school system. Later, the Japanese built a much larger school on the temple's grounds (Today's Zhongyi Elementary School 忠義國小) and then appropriated neighbouring land to construct the Tainan Martial Arts Hall (台南武德殿).

During the Second World War however the temple suffered the same fate as a lot of other ancient places of worship in Taiwan (Longshan Temple, Taipei Confucius Temple for example) and became a hiding spot for munitions which ultimately made it a target for allied bombing campaigns causing quite a bit of damage with required the temple to undergo a number of repairs and renovation projects.

Republic of China Era (民國時期)

When the Republic of China (under the control of the Chinese Nationalist Party) became the governing authority over Taiwan the government took quick steps to erase Japanese language and traditions among the population. The government came up with a campaign to 'promote' Chinese culture which ultimately stretched beyond Japanese and promoted Mandarin over all of the other languages spoken in the country.

The promotion of traditional Chinese culture became an important aspect of the governments policies and places like Confucius Temples were looked upon as perfect places for the government to achieve their goals.

The Tainan Confucius Temple being the temple in Taiwan with the longest history was thus promoted as an important tourist site and place for people to go and pay respects to the all-important Chinese philosopher and educator while newer temples were constructed in his honour in various other cities throughout the country.

Additions to the Tainan temple were made as well as both repairs and renovations since then with work being done in 1953 (民國42年), again in 1977 (民國66年), 1979 (民國68年) and then once again in 1989 (民國78年) shortly after the site was granted protected status as a national historic site.

While the temple's history has spanned a number of different political eras, a new tradition started when the ROC set up shop on the island. It became a tradition with each of the presidents presenting a plaque to the temple with one of the many sayings of Confucius. Despite the polarizing political situation in Taiwan it is a tradition that has been kept since the time of Chiang Kai-Shek all the way to the current president.

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 China, Hong Kong and Taiwan 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 have "spirit tablets" (神位) rather than images of the sage. Although if you really want to see a statue of the sage there are several temples nearby this one that have shrines dedicated to him.

Dacheng Hall (大成殿)

Dacheng Hall is the main shrine area of any Confucius temple - The hall sits in the middle of a granite courtyard with a large elevated platform in front of it as well as on the sides. Inside the hall is a very simple shrine set up with the Confucius Spirit Tablet (神位) on a nice red table with several plaques above it.

One of the main differences between this Confucius Temple and the others throughout the country is that while we often refer to it as the "Tainan Confucius Temple" it is also known as the "Taiwan Confucius Temple" due to its historical importance. Because of this, it has become tradition since the Republic of China took up shop in Taiwan for each President to place a plaque of their own in the shrine room with each President making their own addition.

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The plaques and their meanings are as follows:

  • President Chiang Kai-Shek (蔣介石): "Education for All" (有教無類)

  • President Yen Chia-Kan (嚴家淦): “The teacher for all ages" (萬世師表)

  • President Chiang Ching-Kuo (蔣經國): "Tao is Universal Through All Times" (道貫古今)

  • President Lee Teng-Hui (李登輝): "The highest of moral character "(德配天地)

  • President Chen Shui-Bian (陳水扁): "The world will flourish if we work together "(中和位育)

  • President Ma Ying Jeou (馬英九): "Confucian Education is Transformative" (聖德化育)

  • President Tsai Ying-Wen (蔡英文): "Equal Education for a Moral Society" (德侔道昌)

This shrine room is a stark contrast to what you'd normally see at a Taoist temple in Taiwan and the plaques are probably the shiniest things that you'll notice when you walk in the room. The simplicity of the shrine room is something that is common with all Confucius Temples where priority is placed not on the man as a "god" but as an extraordinary philosopher and educator.

On either side of the Confucius shrine there are additional shrines dedicated to the four sages (四配) Yan Hui (顏子), Zengzi (曾子), Zisi (子思) and Mencius (孟子) who were Confucius scholars and authored books which expanded upon the Confucian philosophy and has had a lasting impact on Chinese culture and the diaspora of Chinese people's throughout the world.

The building is the highest building within the main complex and is elevated off the ground. In the front of the hall is a stone carved mural of a dragon with several more dragons on the roof. In the middle of the roof there is a 'seven-levelled' pagoda which is thought to suppress evil.

What most tourists don't realize about the temple is that while it is advertised as having an over 350 year history, it has since been reconstructed several times and the Dacheng Hall that we see today was actually reconstructed in 1977 making it only about 40 years old.

Dacheng Gate (大成門)

The Dacheng Gate acts as the entrance to a Confucius Temple. The gate typically 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.

The Dacheng Gate and the courtyard in front of it at the Tainan Confucius Temple is a popular meeting place for the people of Tainan and is often the site of quite a few events with seniors coming out to practice Tai Chi in the mornings, sing karaoke in the afternoon as well as various other activities.

Taking into consideration that the front of the Dacheng Gate is often a busy place, it is often quite difficult to get wide angle photos of the main shrine without a bunch of people crowding up the picture. For a photographer it can be a bit annoying but truthfully I think the fact that the temple is so busy is a great thing.

The gate also acts as a place where you need to pay an admission fee to gain access to the main part of the shrine. In most cases I wouldn't pay admission to gain access to a temple, especially a tourist temple, but in the case of the Tainan Confucius Temple I'm happy to pay the 25NT entrance fee as the money goes towards the upkeep preservation of the building.

The Gate was constructed in 1715 and was restored between 1987 and 1989. The murals on the outside of the gate are in excellent condition and were wonderfully restored. The roof is constructed with a three ridged Swallow-Tail ridged roof (燕尾脊) design.

Chongsheng Shrine (崇聖祠)

The Chongsheng Shrine is traditionally situated behind the main Dacheng Hall in all Confucius Temples 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 throughout history. 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 for the descendants of Confucius.

Those descendants have spread out throughout China, Taiwan and Korea so the Confucius Temple's throughout Asia also act as an ancestral shrine giving them a place to worship.

The shrine venerates five generations of Confucius's descendants and is a windowless room made of wood with eighteen beautiful red pillars. The shrine was constructed in 1723 but underwent repairs most recently 1985 and 1986.

Education Hall (明倫堂)

The Education Hall or "Minglun Hall" is probably my favourite part of visiting the Tainan Confucius Temple. As I've mentioned above, Confucius Halls are for the most part uniform in design but this one is able to get away with being a little different thanks to its historical importance.

The Education Hall at the Tainan Confucius Temple actually predates the temple itself and is the reason the temple gets its name "Taiwan's First School" (全台首學). The hall was built in 1663, expanded again in 1700 and then renovated and restored between 1987 and 1989. It consists of a main gate with a courtyard and the main building which is usually open and has excellent air circulation.

Design-wise, the exterior of the Education Hall follows a lot of the same design techniques as the Confucius Temple especially when it comes to the roof. The interior however is what separates this small hall from the rest of the temple complex.

The interior is a calligraphers wonderland and features a beautiful wall of calligraphy taken from "The Great Learning" (大學章句), one of the four books authored by Confucius and is a recreation of the work of Zhao Mengfu (趙孟頫) one of the greatest calligraphers to have ever lived.

While the main attraction to the hall is the wall of calligraphy that faces the exit, there are also two large characters on each wall facing each other that read "忠孝節義" and refer to loyalty and filial piety which are the cornerstones of the Confucian philosophy.

 Wenchang Pavilion (文昌塔)

Behind the Minglun Hall is the Wenchang Pavilion, which actually looks more like a pagoda than a pavilion. The pavilion is often open to the public but usually only the weekends.

The pavilion has three floors and has a very narrow stairway that allows guests to walk up the old wooden stairs. Each floor has a shrine to a Taoist god with there being a shrine dedicated to the Great Master Kui (魁星) - whom interestingly I heard a young Taiwanese man in front of the shrine refer to as "Kui-Ge" (魁哥) which is a Taiwanese colloquial way of calling him "Brother Kui."

The third floor is dedicated to the Wenchang Emperor (文昌大地), the Taoist God of Literature and is an important god for students who want to score well on tests or gain admission to a good school.

The best part of the old pavilion is the view you get from the windows on the second and third floor which give you a nice vantage point to check out the roof of the Confucius Temple.

Getting There

 

The Tainan Confucius Temple is considered to be one of those must-visit tourist spots not only in Tainan, but also in Taiwan. The temple is more than three centuries old and is taken care of extremely well. The modern history of Taiwan through all of its political turmoil and modern development are written all over the storied walls of this beautiful temple complex. A stop here not only offers tourists a chance to learn about Taiwanese history but allows guests to really appreciate a bit of peace and quiet in Taiwan's first place of higher education.

If you are visiting Taiwan, I can't tell you how important it is that you make it a priority to get out of Taipei and spend some time visiting Tainan. The history of this country is put on display in every little nook and cranny of this beautiful city and the Confucius Temple is one of those places where you get to enjoy it in whatever language you speak!

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