Monday, June 23, 2014

Shinto shrine in Taiwan - Taoyuan Martyrs' Shrine (桃園忠烈祠) [Taiwan Day 295: Shinto 101 - June 22, 2014]


I never thought that I could visit a Shinto shrine in Taiwan. “Shinto” or the way of the Gods is the religion of Japan. When the Japanese made Taiwan their colony, they also brought in their religion and culture.  The Taoyuan jinja or Taoyuan Martyr’s Shrine was one of the “jinja” or Shinto shrines that were built during the last period of Taiwan’s Japanese colonization (1895-1945). In Shintoism, nature is worshiped as well as the people’s ancestors. One of the gods worshiped here is “Amaterasu” or the celestial sun goddess which is considered as an ancestor of the Japanese royal family.

“nagare-zukuri” architecture in the temizuya


“nagare-zukuri” in the honden


The shrine was designed by Haruta Naonobu and was built in 1938. The architecture of the buildings follows the flowing style or “nagare-zukuri” which is very evident in the curves and slopes of the roofs. “Nagare-zukuri” is a traditional Shinto shrine architecture. The buildings are made of cypress and I was amazed with the woodworks especially the areas underneath the roofs and the connections of the roofs to the pillars. 

The entrance to the Taoyuan Martyrs' Shrine

I made a research on the internet about this historical site. News articles and bloggers who had been here already posted a story about this place. A fellow blogger said that there was a time that the Taiwanese government ordered the destruction of Shinto shrines. It was either the shrines were totally destroyed or were converted to suit Taiwanese religions. It was said that the Taoyuan County government never heard of such rule to destroy Shinto shrines and that could be the reason why this shrine was preserved. Today, it is the most intact and completely preserved Shinto shrine in Taiwan and it houses the memorial tablets of Taiwan’s heroes.

I was walking in Section 3, Chenggong Road until I found this staircase.



The stone lanterns or the “ishi-doro

a large ishi-doro

Even this smaller version is too tall for me. Haha!

“torii” gate

Entering the gate means going to the realm of the Shinto

I boarded a local train from Nangang Station to Taoyuan Station and then transferred to Bus 105 at Tonlin Department Store.  After ten to fifteen minutes, I alighted Taoyuan Veteran’s General Hospital. I walked for about 5 minutes until I found a Chinese marker for the Taoyuan Martyr’s Shrine. I climbed the stairs until I was greeted by the “torii” or shrine gate and stone lanterns or “ishi-doro”. There were four small similar stone lanterns and two large ones near the “torii”. It was my first time to see such structures. The “torii” is not only a gate. It also represents the boundary of the ‘human world’ to the ‘spirit world’. Entering the gate means that I just entered the world of the deity being worshiped for. 

"temizuya"



Cleanse your soul in the temizuya


The roof of the temizuya

"shamusho"
The roof of the facade 





The whole structure looks like a helmet of a samurai.

The pathway I was walking is called the visiting road or “sando” and in visiting a Shinto shrine in Japan, one must cleanse himself by going to the “temizuya” or the water-house. The act of cleansing the mouth and hands will purify the mind and soul of the worshipper. It was located on the left side upon entering the “torii”. Walking straight, I passed by the shrine’s administration building or the “shamusho”. The building’s roof structure is very similar to what I see on Shinto shrines in Japan on the internet. 

bronze horse

sitting on the "sando" staircase

lion-dog or "komainu"






"mizugaki"


The Main Hall or the "haiden"


The Imperial Seal of Japan or the Chrysanthemum Seal



inside the Main Hall

This side room contain tablets for Taiwan's heroes.

The view from the tablet room

From the tablet room, you can see "honden".

The Main Hall as seen from the tablet room

The "honden" or the Deity Hall

A "tamagaki" prevents visitors from going inside the honden.

free-flowing style architecture 

I was really impressed by the design of the building.


The "kami" or the Shinto god is housed in the honden. But when I zoomed my camera, what I saw were tablets.

design on the door


I climbed again another staircase and I noticed two lion-dogs or “komainu” that acts as guardians of the shrine. A middle door with a “suigai” on both sides and a see-through fence called “mizugaki” acts as a fence of the Shinto shrine. The Main Hall or “haiden” is the place where people worship the gods while the Deity Hall or “honden” is the heart and soul of a Shinto shrine and contains the “kami” or the Shinto gods. It is constructed higher than the “haiden” and one must climb the stairs. I could not enter the “honden” as it was protected by a wooden fence called a “tamagaki”. In Shinto shrines, only certain people can enter the “honden” and most people worship in the “haiden”. 


Exploring the Taoyuan Martyr’s Shrine place was like taking some units in Asian History specifically in Asian Religions. There are still other surviving Shinto shrines in Taiwan and I will visit and explore them someday. Until the next lectures of Shinto 101, "Class dismissed".
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