No.2, Zhongtai Rd., Puli Township, Nantou County 545, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
The four major Buddhist organizations based in Taiwan are Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山) in Taipei, Tzu Chi (慈濟) in Hualien, Fo Guang Shan (佛光山) in Kaohsiung, and Chung Tai Chan Monastery (中台禪寺) in Nantou. It is believed that Chung Tai Chan Monastery is the most influential in central Taiwan.
Established in 2001, Chung Tai Chan Monastery was designed by C. Y. Lee (李祖原), the prestigious architect behind Taipei 101 and Kaohsiung 85 Sky Tower. Bearing a striking resemblance to a mosque, Chung Tai Chan Monastery is in fact a Buddhist temple with the height of 136 meters, making it the world’s second tallest Buddhist architecture after Tianning Pagoda (天寧寶塔) in China. The whole construction costs were estimated to be around one billion Taiwan dollars.
First off, the gates to the monastery are massive. Each of them is 11.2 meter tall and weighs 5.5 tons. The 1,250 doornails decorated on these gates symbolize the 1,250 disciples of Gautama Buddha (釋迦摩尼佛). As you move forward, you will be greeted by the magnificent hall dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings (四大天王), whose giant statues are placed at four corners to lead the worshippers. Each heavenly king has fours heads, which allows them to possess the powers of the four. The second floor venerates Gautama Buddha as the primary deity. Normally, sculptors use marble to create timeless art pieces, which is relatively soft and easy to work, refine and polish, but here the statue of Gautama Buddha is carved out of solid granite. The rose-colored granite surprisingly offers a soft glow to the solemn hall.
Before leaving, make sure you spend some time visiting the Chung Tai World Museum (中台世界博物館) and the Wood Sculpture Gallery (木雕分館) right next to the monastery. The vast collections of religious relics are beyond imagination, mostly preserved from ancient China of up to 1,500 years ago. With an admission fee of TWD200, visitors will have access to both venues and get a deep insight into the holy world of Buddhism and what it has to offer.
There is even a garden hidden behind the museum, where hundreds of Buddhist statues are dominated by a touch of zen. If you need to escape from the stress of city life, noise and technology – take a nice stroll around the garden, which will make for one very zen afternoon for all. Don’t miss out!