Finding my inner calm at Longshan temple

Wrestling through the crowds I finally reach the square in front of Longshan Temple. A woman with a cart full of fish heads walks past me. Welcome to Tawain. Longshan Temple is original a Buddhist temple, but has evolved to a temple of different faiths including Taoism.

People come to the temple to pray and celebrate the new year.

People come to the temple to pray and celebrate the new year.

From the square I see the big gates. People walk in and out. I am not sure if just anyone can go in or if there are certain rules, so I proceed cautiously. Within the gates is another square, dressed with decorations for the new year. A bunch of people are waiting in front of a few lanterns. This is the passage through the lanterns, a new year’s ritual.

After that I see the temple, a complex of different buildings. In the center is the building used for mass. There is a big golden cauldron on the plateau in front of it. It’s like a big sugar pot with a roof on it. People walk towards it with scented sticks. A plume of smoke is coming from the cauldron. Also in other places of the temple I see the smoking sticks. People bow with them in different directions. A little boy, maybe 4 years old, cheerfully walks with his smoking stick. All those sticks eventually disappear in the smoking cauldrons.

I also see big tables full of offers; food, flowers, even plates with cookies. It is a busy place and seems much more open than the churches I am used to. Suddenly lots of people grab a small book. It turns out it is the song book for mass. The gong sounds and I hear drums. Religious people dressed in brown sit inside the temple. People in normal clothes sit on the ground or stand around the altar. A loud chanting with a repetitive rhythm starts. Everyone joins in.

The calming sounds work very relaxing, so I take a seat somewhere and enjoy watching what is happening around me. People are still walking to the big sugar pot. People are still talking. Tourists are taking photos. Sometimes someone’s mobile phone rings. Like I said, nothing like the churches I know. Then a woman approaches me and offers me a piece of bread. After 45 minutes of chanting I decide to leave. This is hardcore praying, not of the weak. I still haven’t heard a break. My head is cleared. I am relaxed and ready for new impressions, which I know this city has plenty of.

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