Zushi Temple (清水祖師廟), Sanxia, Taipei

Zushi TempleZushi temple, in Sanxia, Taipei is one of the older temples in Taiwan.  It was originally built in 1767 and has gone through 3 reconstructions since.  We went on a rainy day but that, in no way, lessened the  beauty of the temple.  I’m always in awe when I visit a temple in Taiwan because of the sheer amount of intricate artwork and carvings jammed tightly into such a small space.  This holds doubly true for the Zushi temple because of the large amount of stonework within it’s walls.

The temple (while having areas dedicated to other deities/personnages) is mainly dedicated to Qingshui.

Qingshui was a monk during the Song dynasty in ancient China.  Some stories say he gained supernatural powers through meditation, and used these powers to help call down rain on drought ridden areas.  Other stories claim that he learn a lot about herblore and became a very proficient healer.  Whatever the case may be, his reputaion grew and he garnered a following.  Eventually he was elevated to “worship worthy” status, and the Zushi temple is testament to that.

Qingshui is especially popular among the people of Taiwan – he is worshipped by a lot of people here and looked to for protection and luck.  Definitely doesn’t have the following that Matsu does, but still a player in his own right.

The temple is a double storeyed building with an open courtyard.  Walking in through the front, you first see this:

IMG_4350

It’s the table on which offerings of joss paper, fruits and flowers are left.  Beyond the table is the open courtyard, and on this day, as you can kind of see, there is a bit of rain falling down.  Here’s a better look at the courtyard from the side:

Zushi temple

You can see the entrance offering table on the right with all the flowers.  And here’s a look at the courtyard from the second floor:

IMG_4362

To the left of the entrance was a giant shelf of joss paper.  In case you’re unfamiliar with it, joss paper, also known as ghost money, are sheets of paper given up as burnt offerings to appease the spirits of the dead.  Looks like this:

Joss paper

As you pass by the  courtyard, there are small shrines to various gods:

Guan Ying

This particular shrine is dedicated to Guanyin – the embodiment of compassion and mercy.  She is a very popular figure in Taiwan, up there with Matsu.

Finally,  you get to the main altar of Qingshui:

Qingshui, Zushi temple

This area is pretty big and heavily decorated with carvings and sculptures.  My crappy camera picture doesn’t really do it any justice.  Seeing it in reality is much more awe-inspiring.  Behind this main area are stairs that lead to the second floor.  Up there, there are more shrines and carvings.  One of the wings was closed off, so no idea what it had to offer.

The thing that really got me about this temple was the sheer amount of stone or wood carvings.  Besides the statues of the gods and warriors and heroes, there were scenes from nature carved into stone, along with all sorts of animals.  Take a look at some of the scenes:

Zushi temple carving

Zushi temple carving

Zushi temple carving

And some of the animal figures:

Zushi temple carving

Zushi temple carving

Zushi temple carving

Zushi temple carving

Zushi temple carving

Zushi temple carving

I remember thinking that there is nothing like this back home (except for maybe a museum or some very ornate churches) that have as much painstakingly done art work all over the place.

Finally, the icing on the cake (perhaps a small concession from the rain gods who insisted on pissing on our parade all day) was that the time of our visit coincided with an art exhibition.   The paintings of Li Mei-Shu were on display in front of the temple.   He’s a prominent Taiwanese artist who personally led the 3rd reconstruction of the Zushi temple – a famous figure in Sanxia:

Li Mei-Shu paintings, Zushi Temple

A closer look at some I liked:

Li Mei-Shu painting

Li Mei-Shu painting

Li Mei-Shu painting

Li Mei-Shu painting

Despite the weather, it was a good trip, and worth dropping by if you are close to Sanxia.  Here’s where you can find the Zushi temple:

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