Xinying Taizih Temple
Xinying Taizih Temple Introduction
Just down Route 72 on the outskirts of Xinying is a temple that you shouldn’t miss. In fact, you won’t be able to miss it, thanks to the giant gilded statue of Nezha that stands on the maroon-tiled roof. This is Xinying’s Taizih Temple, the first and foremost temple in Taiwan dedicated to the worship of the herculean boy-god also known as the Third Prince.
As the parent or ‘flagship’ temple in Taiwan for Nezha worship, Taizih Temple is justifiably over the top. Pretty much every single Nezha effigy in Taiwan (and they are legion) traces its line of descent back to this temple, so the birthday parties here are huge.
The temple was originally established either in 1664, 1688, or 1728, depending on who you believe. It went through several rebuilds over the years culminating in the current old temple, which was completed in 1927. This tiny temple stands across the street from the new temple, and is definitely worth a visit. The effigy of Nezha with his wind fire wheel on the altar here and the fantastic black tiger in the corner are totally photo-worthy, as are the elegant ink-wash paintings that decorate the interior. A protected, century-old banyan tree stands in front of the old temple; nearby is a rather incongruous Japanese torii gate and a beautiful replica arched bridge over the canal that looks as if it belongs in a painting of Suzhou.
But it is the new temple that commands one’s attention. Completed in 1992, everything about it is big. A huge pavilion in the temple square does service as a front pailou gate. When you enter the temple proper, you cannot help but notice that the door gods here are all warriors. No fairies or learned scholars guard the gates at Taizih Temple—this is the home of the Hercules of China.
The interior of the temple is a dark, cavernous space. The area in front of the altar alone is 42 x 36 meters. The entire ceiling is a cascading series of intricately carved black wood ceiling wells, and the back wall, also black, is even more ornate. Maroon and black form the dominant color scheme throughout the temple, and all light is focused on the gold-robed effigies in the shrine. The air is thick with incense and shrouded in a sense of mystery.
Nezha, or the Third Prince, is one of the oldest deities in the Chinese pantheon. He appears in any number of stories and legends, most notably the Investiture of the Gods, in which he begins life as the third son of Shang Dynasty military commander Li Jing (this would be around 1000 B.C.). Since birth, the child Nezha possesses superhuman strength, and he ends up fighting with the new Zhou rulers to overthrow the Shang. In some stories, he jumps out of his mother’s womb after a three-year pregnancy already able to walk and talk; in others, he subdues an evil sea dragon or flies in the sky with his wind fire wheel. After a series of battles in both the earthly and spiritual realms, Nezha achieves godhood and is granted the military title Marshal of the Central Altar. He holds the Wheel of the Universe, wears a red military sash on his shoulder, and carries a fire-tipped spear.
Even wielding all of this power, Nezha is generally depicted as a perpetual child or teenager. Because of this, he is viewed as a protector of children, and offerings to Nezha often consist of candy or toys. His mischief-making ways have also made him the patron saint of gamblers, especially since he has been known to reveal the winning numbers of lottery tickets. And because he flies around on his wind fire wheel without mishap, truck, taxi, and bus drivers put statues of Nezha in their vehicles to ensure a safe drive on the road.
Those interested in participating in Nezha’s annual birthday bash can come to Taizih Temple around the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, when the whole area turns into one big party. There’s plenty of great street food, you’ll get to see parades and performance troupes galore, and you’ll even be able to pick up a good luck charm while you’re at it to keep you safe on the rest of your travels!
No. 45-2, Taibei Vil., Xinying Dist., Tainan City 730, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
+886 6 6524038