No.976, Kunjiang, Beimen Dist., Tainan City 727, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Having a history of more than 300 years, Nankunshen Temple has been built in Tainan since the Ming dynasty, but it was moved to its current location in Beimen, Tainan, because of a flood. Although foreign tourists do not find the temple more famous than Kaohsiung's Foguangshan, nor is it as grand as Taichung's Chung Tai Chan Monastery, Nankunshen Temple dwarfs the other temples with the large area it covers, the art design of its architecture, and the number of visitors. The temple worships five royal lords. During their birthdays - especially from April 26 to 27 on the lunar calendar, believers coming from various places as well as pilgrimage groups and jitongs (a kind of psychics, 乩童) all flock into the temple. Stand in front of the gate, you can witness almost every traditional folk custom in Taiwanese religions. Qi Ye and Ba Ye (the subordinate deities Seventh Lord and Eighth Lord, 七爺八爺) proceed as firecrackers explode and make huge sounds. Jitongs, who are armed with miraculous powers when deities descend on them, hurt themselves with weapons to prove the power of deities. Crowds shouldering a palanquin escort a deity into the temple. Believers lining up to cross over a fire pit. Even at the intervals between these activities, you can see Ba Jia Jiang (originated from the Chinese folk beliefs and myths, usually referred to a few members of God, 八家將), who dress in bright costumes and wear frightening makeup to cosplay the eight folk deities, waiting by the venue. The lively atmosphere resembles that of a carnival—just a little bit too violent—and attracts tens of thousands of people to join.
The magnificent building can be seen from the five-gate and six-post pailou (Chinese ancient archway, 牌樓) at the entrance, which is said to be the biggest wooden one in Asia. Pass the square, walk through the front temple Daitian Fu (代天府), and reach the latter part Lingxiao Main Hall (凌霄寶殿). Here you see guardian lions stand neatly in line. Cornices in various colors, elaborate Bagua caisson ceiling (八卦藻井), and magnificent relief murals make a feast for the eyes. Walk into the hall, in addition to the solemn statues of Shunfenger (a diety in Chinese legend who can hear voices a long way off, 順風耳) and Qianliyan (a deity who can see things thousands of miles off, 千里眼), the biggest bright spot is the golden tablet in the middle. With a height of 6.6 meters, a width of 2 meters, and a thickness of 0.6 meters, the huge tablet is made of pure gold. To build the tablet, the temple spent the fund it had raised in the past hundred years plus some believers' donations in the past dozen years. The estimated value of the tablet is more than six hundred million Taiwan dollars.
The trip to Nankunshen Temple has not finished yet! On the north side lies Dakun Garden (大鯤園), a Jiangnan-style landscape garden that took twenty years to build. Circle the pond and climb the rockery, you can wander inside the elegant red-brick building, take a look on the past stories of Nankunshen Temple, and read an introduction to the lives of Tainan citizens. Among the noises made by firecrackers and shouting crowds, Dakun Garden offers extraordinarily tranquility. At last, if you get tired and want to find some snacks and beverages to satisfy your appetite, there is an indoor market inside the temple, which provides family-style dishes, yugeng (fish soup, 魚羹), shaved ice, etc. Bring along the fare you buy and sit under a shade to quench your thirst.