Bao’an Temple (保安宮) in Taipei’s Datong District
The first nucleus of Bao’an Temple was built in the 7th year of Emperor Qianlong (1742) by Han settlers from Tong’an, in Fujian Province. The temple is devoted to Baosheng Dadi (保生大帝, literally “Life Protector Great Emperor”), a deity of the Chinese pantheon worshipped in Fujian Province and Taiwan. As is often the case in Chinese folk religion, Baosheng Dadi is a deified historical figure, a doctor and Daoist practitioner surnamed Wu (吳), born in the village of Baoliao, near Xiamen, in Fujian Province. He is said to have performed medical miracles, and after his death in 1036 he began to be worshipped as a god. He was subsequently deified by emperors of the Song and Ming dynasties.
During the reign of Emperor Qianlong, colonists from Tong’an migrated to Taiwan and settled down in Dalongtong, a village which is now part of Datong District. Between the reign of Qianlong and the reign of Jiaqing (1760-1820), a few families from Tong’an began to build a commercial street on present-day Hami Street. The families raised money and constructed 22 shops on each side, so that the area became known as “Forty-four Shops” (四十四坎). Each family obtained a number of shops proportional to the amount of capital they had contributed.
The social life of the thriving merchant community revolved around the Bao’an Temple, which was renovated and rebuilt several times in the 19th century with private funds from wealthy families. The name of the temple,”保安” (Bǎo’ān), is a short form for “保佑同安人” (Bǎoyòu tóng’ānrén), which means “Bless and protect the people of Tong’an”.
Ba’an Temple is one of my favourite temples in Taipei. Unlike Longshan Temple, which is often very crowded and is located in an area that’s not exactly famous for its cleanliness and orderliness, Bao’an is a very quiet temple. Its structure reminds of one that of a Christian monastery, with various buildings and a courtyard. The peacefulness of the temple makes it possible to calmly enjoy its beautiful architecture, wonderful decorations, statues and frescoes. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Taiwan’s religions in order to understand the meaning of the statues, the altars, and especially the frescoes and high reliefs, which depict scenes from Chinese myths.
Located in the middle of one of Taipei’s most historic areas, I believe that Bao’an Temple is a must-see for all travellers and foreign residents interested in the city’s culture and history.
If you want to see more pictures of the temple, click here.
趙莒玲: 台北古街漫遊. 台北 1999.