To say that Taiwan is in touch with its spirituality would be a severe understatement! In the wondrous melting pot of Taiwanese culture and religious ideology, elements from some of the world’s oldest belief systems and ancient superstitions have been brought together and proudly represented in its many decedent temples.
Of the 15,000 temples scattered across this vibrant nation, many of the country’s biggest and best are held within its capital. So in that case, let me show you every temple worth checking out in the city of Taipei!
The article may contain affiliate links which I may be compensated for at no extra cost to you dear readers!
Table of Contents
Brief Introduction To Taiwanese Temples
For centuries, Taiwan has had a number of outside influences which created a fascinating crucible of religious ideologies. Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Christianity and even Islam have all added to the vibrant spirituality of this nation.
Taiwan also has a number of homegrown faiths which are practised by the indigenous tribes that lived here before the arrival of Chinese migrants. Those arriving foreigners also went on to create their own forms of folk religion. As such, Taiwan has always been a hotbed of religious diversity.
The result is a litany of jaw-dropping temples which practise different religious ideologies and cherry-picked superstitions. In turn, they would form the building blocks for a completely unique form of spirituality.
What Kind of Temples Are There in Taiwan?
Due to the immense amount of diversity, many religions and their numerous deities often coexist peacefully under one roof. At times, it’s difficult to tell which exact religion the temple is devoted to! That being said, most Taiwanese temples belong to one of three religions; Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.
Buddhist temples typically have very grand designs and are often lavished with an immense amount of gold! Unsurprisingly, they’re mostly filled with numerous statues of Buddha along with other important figures of Buddhism.
Taoist temples have equally vivid designs and are usually decorated with countless figures of tigers, dragons and other mythical creatures.
Confucian temples on the other hand look pretty basic compared to their religious counterparts. The faith makes a point of focusing on the teachings of the religion rather than the beauty of the temple itself.
What Do Taiwanese Temples Symbolise?
Taiwanese temples are fraught with symbolism! From head-scratching artwork to mythical creatures and subtle intrinsic designs abound, there is plenty to keep the eyes engaged and to let your imagination run wild! It could take years to fully understand the subtle nuances that make each temple in Taipei so unique!
Temples still play a very important role in the daily lives of the Taiwanese people, both young and old. They’re used as a place of comfort and reassurance and a place to seek guidance from a higher spirit.
Locals often visit temples to pray for love, luck, loved ones and even good scores on exams! They also become a hotbed of activity during local festivals and are used as a place to bring in the new year.
We start off with not only the most significant temple in Taipei but possibly all of Taiwan! Holding the title of the city’s oldest temple, it’s found right in the heart of Old Taipei and the spot which the entire city gravitated around for centuries.
Originally built in 1738 by Fujian immigrants, the temple has managed to survive multiple fires and earthquakes over the years. Though it was first built to worship Guanyin, the goddess of Mercy (she’ll come up more than once on this list!), the temple also holds over 100 statues of other gods and goddesses throughout its palace-style complex.
Located right in the centre of the vibrant Wanhua District, the temple is surrounded by such treats as Herb Alley, the Bopiliao Historical Block, and the notorious Huaxi Night Market. Though all the surrounding noise is drowned out by the awe-inspiring Buddhist chanting ceremony that takes place every morning.
Songshan Ciyou Temple
While it may not be the most significant temple of all, it certainly is one of the most beautiful in Taipei! Like many others in Taiwan, the temple is dedicated to Mazu, the goddess of the sea who watches over sailors and fishermen. She’s considered the patron saint of Taiwan and the most important deity of all!
The temple was apparently built by a travelling monk who worked alongside a group of Mazu faithful to raise enough money to fund the project. Soon enough, this once little riverside village was blessed with this striking 6-story structure. Today the temple dominates the entrance to Raohe Night Market (one of the most popular in Taiwan) and has become an iconic landmark.
Listed among the Taipei’s “Big 3 Temples” (along with Longshan and Qingshui), this UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage site is considered one of the city’s most beautiful.
Initially constructed as a humble wooden shrine in the 1700s, the temple soon gained popularity amongst the people which resulted in vibrant restorations and expansion to the grandiose structure you have today.
The temple is known for its stone-carved artwork which decorates each room, including 200-year-old dragon columns which spiral towards the roof of the front hall. The temple also has a free health clinic, built to represent the temple’s main deity, Baosheng Dadi, who was known for his medical knowledge.
Confucius is an iconic figure throughout Asia as a teacher and philosopher whose ideas have greatly influenced Chinese culture and civilization. As such, temples devoted to Confucius can be found throughout many Asian cities, including Taipei!
Unlike most other temples in Taiwan which are absurdly lavish, Confucius temples are far more simplistic. The belief is that more focus should be shown on the teachings of the religion rather than the aesthetic appeal of the temple.
Inside the courtyards are a number of small exhibits displaying local traditions. The site also hosts a number of free programs and interactive exhibits for visitors to enjoy, including calligraphy and papercrafts.
Bangka Qingshan Temple
Sitting in the shadows of nearby Longshan Temple, this deceptively small site packs quite a punch!
Known as one of the “Bangka Big Three” temples, the main hall houses a statue of the Qingshan King, the eyes of which are said to follow you around the room! This Taoist deity is believed to ward off disease, hence it was very important to the local people back in the day!
Constructed from wood and stone, the temple is littered with striking detailing across its walls and ceilings, including a beautiful mosaic decorating the main hall. The temple also hosts one of the most vibrant street processions (a regular occurrence in Taipei) during the 10th month of the lunar calendar.
Everything you need to know about each temple in Taiwan!
Learn about everything from the detailed symbolism to how to pray like a local.
Yet another one of Taipei’s most popular temples, this particular one attracts upwards of 10,000 people a day, making it the most-visited temple in northern Taiwan!
The unique blend of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism forms a wholly unique house of worship. Though that isn’t the only thing that makes it unique. Xingtian Temple also gained a reputation for environmental protection, being the first temple to ban incense and joss paper burning.
Xiahai City God Temple
Despite its less-than-imposing structure, the City God Temple is one of the most favoured among Taipei’s youth. Standing along Dihua Street, which happens to be Taipei’s oldest street, the temple is dedicated to Xiahai Changhuang, the City God. Despite that, there are still 600 other statues found inside!
As the name suggests, the main deity is the city’s protector. It’s for that reason that many other cities throughout Taiwan and China have temples dedicated to him.
Though as far as the younger generation is concerned, the temple’s most important deity is Yue Lao, the Chinese Cupid. Hopeless romantics come here in droves to pray in a desperate attempt to find some companionship or just wish for luck in their current romance.
FaChuKung Temple (Fa Zhu Gong Temple)
For many years, the district of Dadaocheng revolved around one trade, tea! So, it’s only natural to have a temple devoted to Fa Zhu Gong, the god of tea farmers and traders!
Yet this temple is anything but ordinary! It was originally built in 1869 during the district’s heyday. Though as the city grew, the government decided to cut the temple in half to make way for a new road. The resulting nip-and-tuck left behind one side of the temple with a bare red brick face facing out into the street.
The peculiar design choice for this temple came from the same architect who built none other than Taipei 101, the country’s most iconic landmark (and one of the tallest buildings in the world!). He also left a single road for passing traffic to cut through the ground floor, leaving behind quite a unique creation.
Taipei Tianhou Temple
Right in the heart of the hip Ximending District, Tianhou Temple is yet another of Old Taipei’s most significant sites. The temple was also built with funds donated by immigrant merchants from Fujian, China in 1746.
Though the Qing Dynasty temple is dedicated to Mazu, it also contains a statue of Kobo Daishi, the Japanese founder of Shingon Buddhism. As such, the temple is very popular amongst Japanese tourists!
Yet another temple dedicated to Mazu, this one had to be completely relocated! It originally looked out onto the bay of the Tamshui River with Bali Guanyin Mountain on the right. Later in 1910, the Japanese government tore the temple down to make way for the urban development. In a moment of defiance, the locals funded the temple’s relocation to its current spot.
These days, the temple is hidden amongst a labyrinth of traditional food stalls that line the way to the temple courtyard. It regularly gathers crowds of hungry locals and is a favoured hangout spot amongst the older folks.
Bangka Qingshui Temple
The last of the “Bangka Big 3” is much more reserved than the others. The temple is dedicated to Qingshui Zushi, a Song Dynasty Buddhist monk who, according to legend, saved a town from a devastating drought.
Inside stands the statue of the monk with a blackened face that was apparently caused when spirits tried to burn him. The figured most iconic feature is its “drooping nose”, which is said to warn of impending danger when it droops downwards.
The temple, much like the previous one on this list, is surrounded by a collection of Taiwanese restaurants, making it another popular spot for the city’s OAPs.
Learn how to pray like a local while you visit a local Taiwanese temple!
Each temple in Taiwan has its own “speciality“. Some temples are used to pray for love, others for health, though this temple is a favourite amongst Taipei’s students before their upcoming exams.
The temple is dedicated to Wenchang Wang, the god of literature. The site once served an important role in Taipei’s education, and is considered the origin of the local public school system!
As such, prior to exam season, scores of acne-filled students congregate to donate offerings and pray for good scores. Even the offering themselves have a unique symbolism, where tangerines are used for good luck while kumquats are used for exam success.
Wedged amongst the high-rise cityscape, its current 3-story offering is much larger than the original structure that once stood here.
The temple is decorated with detailed carvings across its walls, including a set of dragon pillars in front of the main hall. Standing behind them are the equally outstanding Door Gods on the temple doors carved from a single block of red sandalwood.
Yet another decorative highlight on offer is the Dragon Parade carving on the ceiling, which many worshippers believe will dance as you begin to look up!
Linji Huguo Chan Temple
A little far outside of the city, but well worth the effort! The Japanese wooden shrine is one of the more beautiful nods to its colonial past, and is in fact the oldest wooden structure from that period, as well as one of the largest!
Standing on the edge of Yuanshan Park at the base of Yuanshan, it’s quite a pretty site!
Zhinan Temple (Chih Nan Temple)
Further outside the city centre, many temples are scattered amongst the mountain ranges surrounding Taipei. The site is dedicated to the Taoist deity Lu Dongbin, a man with many mysterious miracles attributed to him. As such, he’s one of the more believed figures amongst the Taoist faithful.
The temple was barely visited prior to the building of the Maokong Gondola. Though thankfully it is now within easy reach for the humble tourist!
Songshan Tianbao Temple
Yet another mountain temple, this particular one is wedged roughly in between Elephant and Leopard mountains. Due to its location, this stunning temple receives much less attention than its city-centre counterparts, though equally worth your patronage!
Built in the 1960s, it’s seen little restoration over the years, allowing it to be slowly reclaimed by the nature that surrounds it. By far, its most notable feature is the 8-meter-tall bearded statue built into the cliff wall. Oh, and its bear hair is actually real!
Silver Stream Cave (Yinghe Cave and Waterfall)
This has to be the most unique temple on offer in Taipei! It’s built into a large rocky overhang buried in the jungle with a small waterfall trickling down right in the middle of it. The temple is easily one of the most jaw-dropping ones on this list.
The path through the temple allows visitors to explore a scattering of shrines and caves, with a statue of Lu Dongbin at the end. It bursts with Tomb Raiding vibes, making it all the better!
Ghost Month is a very important festival in Taiwan, though there are MANY things that you shouldn’t do!
Yet another temple dedicated to the goddess Mazu, and yet another temple built with donations from faithful immigrating merchants.
The temple sadly had to be restored after being destroyed in a fire caused by rival Chinese immigrant clans. Though through the efforts of locals, the area was rebuilt into the Shilin New Street which we have today, with Cixian Temple right in its centre.
Though the layout is pretty typical with its swallow-tailed ridged rooves and coiling dragons beside the main entrance, it’s the added extras that make it so intriguing. The main gate is lit up with extensive LED lights, giving it a very funky vibe. There’s also a stage directly opposite the temple which holds regular vibrant performances!
Fufudingshan Shell and Coral Temple
One of the quirkiest temples in Taiwan, the Fufudingshan Shell and Coral Temple has quite a unique décor!
The entire surface of the temple is covered with seashells and coral of all shapes and sizes, from the walls and ceiling to the columns and altar. It’s certainly a one of a kind experience, and definitely a worthy highlight!
Wuji Tianyuan Temple
Reminiscent of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, this fascinating five-story circular masterpiece is by far one of the most beautiful sites in Taipei! Similarly nicknamed the “Altar of Heaven”, the area also became synonymous with cherry blossoms! Each season, tourists and photographers huddle here in droves to enjoy the wonders of these delicate little flowers.
Xinjiang Leshan Altar
Inside Xinjiang Leshan Altar, you’ll find an all too familiar scene. Lavish altars with scatterings of offerings between them, and perhaps even a monk faithfully chanting away his daily prayers. Yet the real peculiar site can only be appreciated from the outside.
Sandwiched between the high-rises next to it, this incredibly tall and slim structure stands out with its bright red crimson colours as a beacon of faith amongst the gloom. It makes for a great photo too!
Beitou Puji Temple
This one is yet another well-preserved remnant of the Japanese colonial era. Puji Temple was built in 1905 using donations made by Japanese railway workers who were working on the train line to Beitou. Japanese-style worship ceremonies are still held in the temple to this day!
The temple is also dedicated to Guanyin, who also happens to be the guardian spirit of the hot springs. Very convenient seeing as the temple is found in the hot-spring-rich district of Beitou.
Built on a structure that stood here since 1661, this temple is by far one of the oldest in Taipei! Yet another dedication to Mazu, the temple is known for its statue-filled tunnel and its stunning Thousand Armed Guanyin Statue.
The site is equipped with a number of staircases that lead to various spots to admire the temple from a number of breathtaking angles.
Located among a collection of temples on the slope of Bishan, the complex has some of the best panoramic views in the city!
The temple sits on the spot of a stone shrine dating back to 1751. Like many other temples in Taipei, it has also been rebuilt and expanded many times. Bishan Temple is also the biggest temple in Taiwan dedicated to Kaizhang Sheng Wang, a popular folk deity worshipped by the Hokkien people of Taiwan.
Yuan Dao Guanyin Temple
Up in the hills of Danshui, the Yuan Dao Guanyin Temple is by far the most modern temple in Taipei, only being built in 2000! Its present-day design is highlighted can be its flashing lights stars and other state-of-the-art religious art installations.
As the name suggests, the temple is dedicated to the goddess Guanyin. If that was in doubt, then the world’s largest statue of the Thousand-Armed Guanyin should definitely stand out!
Thank You for Reading! Check Out These Other Helpful Links!
Thank you so much for reading The 25 Best Temples to Visit in Taipei! Check out these other helpful articles!
A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.