Longshan Temple: The Reason Why I Travel
Longshan Temple (龍山寺) was another item on my ‘must-see’ list. I had read about it on another travel blog and in my Taiwan Lonely Planet Guidebook. Not to mention I wanted to see as many temples as possibly in Asia, since they are entirely foreign to the States. While I thought we would see the temple during the day, my boyfriend decided to take me the other night, because he said it actually has just as many visitors at night and is all lit up. Longshan Temple turned out to be the most spectacular sight I had seen in Taiwan so far.
Longshan Temple is several subway stops from where we are staying. It is surrounded by a big park and a sort-of-shady market where we were advised not to eat the food. However, when you first walk up to the temple gates, you completely forget everything else.
I could tell right away how fortunate I was to have first seen this temple at night, because surrounding the gates are hundreds of yellow Chinese lanterns that were all lit up. There were people everywhere, and the incense is so fragrant that your senses are attacked before you even make it inside. The temple is walled in so there are big gates in the front, then a small courtyard when you walk inside, that had more huge rabbit floats lit up. These floats, however, you could walk under and say a prayer for good fortune and prosperity (which, of course, I did!). Then you walk around the side of the gates to enter, and believe me when I tell you it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.
People are everywhere, all marveling, praying, lighting incense, and taking it all in. While I was there, you could climb a few steps to peer into the temple, but you could not go in it, because there were monks praying and chanting inside. The monks were kneeling on the floor, all singing so loudly in sync, that the song filled the air. The smell inside is overbearing because there is so much incense being lit, the entire experience is totally overwhelming for the senses.
The temple is so, so beautiful. It has so many colors and intricate ornate carvings, and deep inside the temple are gold covered statues, and one large gold Buddha that everyone is praying to. Surrounding the back of the temple are other smaller gated alcoves with other deities you can pray to, and towering pink columns, totally covered in candles.
As soon as I sat down in this courtyard and took the whole scene in, I became filled with so much love and light, my emotions were welling over with gratitude and happiness. This temple, is why I travel. No matter how many books or articles or blogs I read, no matter how many pictures I saw of this temple, nothing can measure up to what it is like in person. Even as I write this blog, I know that no matter how many posts I could fill with the beauty of this place, or pictures and videos I could post, I could never convey the feeling of sitting there, in front of a stunning, beautiful, colorful temple filled with monks singing prayers. I had the same feeling when I went to the Lourve in Paris, it is 360 degree view of beauty that nothing could ever prepare you for, you just have to see it.
We just sat there for a while, taking it in, and I couldn’t stop welling up with tears. I know how fortunate I am to travel the world and see all of these things, and that many people do not get these same opportunities. I am so lucky, so blessed, and so thankful for everything in my life.
On the way out we stopped by this huge corner of the courtyard that is filled with hundreds of cards, books, pamphlets, and prayers. We kept trying to figure out how much the prayer books and cards are, until someone explained to us that it is all free. Everything, all of these materials, are free. All that they ask is if you take something home, and it turns out Buddhism (or Taoism, both are worshiped here) is not for you, you bring it back. How perfectly lovely is that?
Longshan Temple, so far, is my favorite place in Taipei. It is the reason I can’t stop thinking about my next destination, why my hearts beats faster and faster when booking or even thinking about a trip, why my blood just rushes with the need to go out and see everything…because you just have to see it. I just have to see it.