I consider Guandu Temple Taipei’s hidden gem. In almost all my Taiwan/travel books Guandu gets 3 lines if it’s mentioned at all. This leaves me sad and in awe. It has to be the most incredible temple I’ve seen to date. All you ever here is “Longshan, Longshan, Longshan”. I know there is a lot of history behind Longshan and it is beautiful but it has nothing on Guandu.
How we found it
One day my old roommates and I decided to have a random exploring day. These are done by jumping on random modes of transportation and jumping off at stops we don’t know. We decided to take the red MRT line up towards Danshui and jump off as soon as anything caught our eye. Our roommate Deb only had a few weeks left in Taiwan and she really wanted to grab some pictures of rice fields, and hopefully rice field workers. Somewhere around Zhongyi I think we jumped off when we saw some fields of some sort. We found a cute little temple but started melting from the heat (it was August I think).
We decided to hop in a cab and to ask the cabby to bring us to beer. So we hopped in a cab and said “pijo!”. This of course totally stressed out our cab driver. He understood the request (because he laughed and made a drinking motion) but he started to ummm and ahhhh and scratch his head murmuring “pijo…mmm…. pijo….pffff… pijo”. We decided to call our “Taiwan mom” Jane and get her to help out. She told the cabby just bring us somewhere, anywhere, doesn’t have to be fancy… where we can drink beer.
Well our darling cab driver ended up taking us to this outdoor eatery across from Guandu temple. We got out and stared up at the temple in awe. I think we were so awed we actually forgot about the beer for awhile go to explore.
Guandu is massive. There are stairways going every which way leading to all kinds of ornate places. There are roofs upon roofs upon roofs filled with Taoist figures, buddhas, dragons, elephants (first temple I’ve seen in Taiwan with elephants), and about 100 other things I have yet to discover.
The find of all finds in Guandu was this tunnel we saw people dripping into. At the mouth of the tunnel is a really large round metal ball…with carved chinese in columns all around the metal ball. Above the writing there are coin slots. We stopped a nice couple to ask them about it. Each column represents something you’d like to have in the coming year. Many were related to wealth, and luck. Some to love and good health. We dropped a few coins in and continued.
The tunnel ended up being Loooooooooooooooong. On either side of us the whole way were various Taoist gods incased in the stone wall with protective glass in front of them. When we reached the top it opened up into a big round room that opened up into a big round balcony. Once in the room we turned around to see a huge buddha (we thought) at the time.
From the balcony we got the most amazing view of the river and bridge.
About Guandu (official info)
Guandu was built in 1661 as a dedication to Matzu the goddess of the sea. This is the oldest Matzu temple in northern Taiwan. Beside the temple (through the tunnel) is the Buddhist chapel dedicated to the Buddhist goddess of mercy, Guanyin of Thousand Arms and Eyes, this is the statue in-front of the balcony we thought was Buddha. According to legend, in 1895 three old banyan trees standing at the temple’s entrance died suddenly during the same night; local residents believed that this might have been a message from Matzu warning of impending disaster. Soon afterwards the area was soon occupied by the Japanese.
The tunnel I spoke about is an 80 meter Buddha cave which is lined with 28 devas (gods).
I didn’t take any pictures of the actual gods or devas out of respect. One of the first things I asked a Taiwanese person when I arrived is “what is disrespectful to photograph, specifically in temples”. She told me that generally anything is ok but a god/goddess should never be photographed directly. They can be in a photograph but they should not be the primary point of focus. I hate to seem like an annoying tourist especially when I’m truly enjoying something and am so wrapped up in it like I was our first night there, so I kept my camera down. Maybe sometime I’ll dress up as a dorky tourist and act the part to get some good shots if I’m
How to get there
If you like temples, this one has to be seen. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the Guandu MRT stop. Our second time going we used the map on the wall inside the MRT station to find it. If you’re feeling lazy or it’s really hot:
By Bus: Take the public bus no. 223, 302, 308, Zhinan 2, Zhinan 5, and get off at Guandu stop.
By MRT: Take MRT on Danshui Line , get off at Guandu Station, then
take a bus No.302 to Guandu Temple.
[Here] is a link to the MRT map of the area that shows the roads and Guandu temple if you’d rather walk (takes 10 – 15 minutes but is really easy to find).
Note: I’ve seen it spelled both “Kuantu and Guandu” the signs seem to be random so keep this in mind.
Avoid the public bathrooms close to the eatery on the river front. It was an absolute disgusting nightmare. I opened 3 different stalls and saw 3 completely different nightmares that I won’t go into but let’s just say I was gagging for about a half an hour afterwards. I’m nearly gagging just writing this. If you really have to pee there are public bathrooms at the bottom of the temple (inside) that seem to be significantly less grotesque.
[Click here] to check out the general area on the google maps website.
My Photography – Guandu