Guan Gong Temple
The history of Guan Gong Temple 歷史沿革
With an original construction date of 1665, Guan Gong Temple can claim to be one of the oldest temple that dedicated to the deity Guan Gong, the god of justice, courage and loyalty in Taiwan. Sometimes called the “Eastern God of War”. In the Taoist religion, he is one of the highest ranking deities and worshipping him is believed to bring prosperity to businesses and ward off evil. Guan Gong is also worshipped by Buddhists who call him Sangharama Bodhisattva and herald him a heavenly dharma protector and the patron saint of soldiers.
Said to be the most widely worshipped god in the Chinese world, Guan Gong is traditionally portrayed as a powerfully built armoured warrior with a red face, stern brow, long beard and flowing green robes. His weapon is a guandao (a heavy glaive-like polearm reputed to be his own invention) named “Green Dragon Crescent Blade”. Guan Gong figures in many traditional Chinese operas, as well as in film, television, manga and video games.
The temple complex houses a main hall largely devoted to the worship of Guan Gong, with shrines to Guanying (a bodhisattva), God of Matchmaking and 5 Gods of Letter and Education. Owing to its historical role in government ceremonies and rituals, the official names of the site are State Temple of the Martial God and Tainan Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple, but it is commonly known as Guan Gong Temple.
The historical Background of Guan-Yu (Guan Gong) 關羽生平
Guan Yu (160–220 CE), also known as Guan Gong, was a famous general and hero of the early Three Kingdoms Period. Lionized in Luo Guanjhong's fourteenth-century historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Guan Yu was renowned for his indomitable spirit, heightened sense of honour and stoic fortitude. His legendary exploits, both historical and fictional, led to his gradual apotheosis beginning as early as the sixth century and culminating in deification in the seventeenth century. During his lifetime, Guan Yu was also an expert bookkeeper and he was familiar with Confucianism, hence his popularity with business owners, accountants and students preparing for exams.
The Temple Complex 寺廟建築
Features such as the long, red-brown “horseback” wall and the five distinct roofs, including the most ornate “swallow’s tail” style roof, the temple is presented in the Southern Min architectural style (i.e. from southeast Chinese provinces including Fujian, the origin of the first waves of Hoklo immigrants to Taiwan in the 17th century).The entrance is decorated with carvings of animals and mythical beasts, the doors dotted with metallic studs in multiples of nine, a number connoting royalty and wooden beams are connected to columns with nail-less studs concealed by carvings of lotus flowers. Builders used no nails anywhere in the construction of this temple.
Hanging over the inside of the main entrance is a large nameplate with the three Chinese Characters reading “Da Zhang Fu”. It was presented by a visiting Qing Dynasty general in 1791 to the temple. In classical Chinese, these characters represent courage, strength and loyalty, the traits of god Guan Gong.
In the main hall is a splendid statue of Guan Yu brought from Fujian Province by relatives of Jhu Shugui, “Prince of Ningjing” in the 17th century. The statue is flanked by richly decorated likenesses of his son (right) and bodyguard (left). Zhou Chang was Guan Yu’s loyal general and bodyguard during his lifetime. The passages on either side of the highly ornate altar are illuminated by circular windows with square centres—evoking the traditional shape of ancient Chinese coins. When the sun shines through the windows, the floor seems to be covered with money.
- Temple to Guanyin 觀音廳
To the left of the main hall is a small temple to Guanyin. The statue at the altar is renowned for its benevolent expression and tender gaze. Her eyes, slightly downcast, seem to follow you no matter where you stand in the room. There is a courtyard behind the temple to Guanyin. The building on the right of the courtyard is a temple to the god of fire.
- Temple to God of Matchmaking 月老祠
Yue Lao is the god of matchmaking. Single people often visit this shrine, located opposite the temple to Guanyin, to pray for luck in love, and those whose hopes are ultimately fulfilled may return with an offering of wedding cake and fruit.
- Temple to God of Letter and Education 文昌殿
This temple is frequently visited by students praying for luck in exams. Supplicants write their name and the exam details on a slip of pink paper. If they do well in the exam, many return to mark their gratitude by hanging a red string decoration or making a gift of flowers or fresh fruit.
No.229, Sec. 2, Yongfu Rd., West Central Dist., Tainan City 700, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
06 220 2390