Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Taiwan Travelogue: Wen Wu Temple (Sun Moon Lake)

Sun Moon Lake is not all about the lake; well, it is, to a certain extent as there is no spot where the lake is not in sight. One can easily explore the area with the option of renting a vehicle; of either a bicycle or motorcycle to get you around the entire area.
It is not difficult at all, with the map provided to you of the routes around the Sun Moon Lake area and with clear indications of the location of each of the local attractions.

One of the local attractions is the Wen Wu Temple (文武廟), literally translates to the 'literature and martial arts temple' is the largest temple in the area, located in the northern part and is the first stop if you are traveling from town.

The ornate Imperial-style slated archways made up a magnificent entrance into the temple.
From the name of the temple, it is popular among the students (schooling crowd).
The practice dates back to the earlier days in China, to the origin of the Imperial Examinations in the Zhou Dynasty where many strive to excel in the examinations to prove their capabilities in the hopes of bringing pride to their families and hometowns, and gaining importance in the government, with an official position to serve the Emperor. An official position at that time promises a bright future with good returns and better living and is seen as an honor to the civilians, or anyone who holds that position. It would bring glory to their family name and themselves as well, if a scholar/official is produced in the family or even in the same village/town.
The Imperial Examinations hold utmost importance and was regarded as one of the qualification examination for the country to select the finest to serve the Emperor of China at that time, and is set at high standards to test the true capabilities of the scholars admitted to the exams.

While the Imperial Examinations is by nature, more of a test of the literature knowledge, there was also another which tests the physical capabilities, or rather, the martial arts of the students. The ideal case would be to have the best of both worlds; where one would be capable in both literature and martial arts to serve a higher position, and as one would put it, 'Wen Wu Shuang Quan' (to be a master in both literature and martial arts).
High standards are set, and even the royal princes are not spared as they are in line for the throne, and most of the royal princes (particularly the potential ones to be crown prince or future emperor) are expected to master both to rule the country better.

Wen Wu Temple was a combination of both, and the tradition continues until today where students are continuously urged to excel in both their literature knowledge and also their physical capabilities (not necessarily martial arts these days, but extra curricular activities such as sports and leadership) to ensure a well-balanced learning.

If you were to think that the temple is separated into both of these sections to pay tribute to both Wen (literature) and Wu(martial arts), you are not wrong.

However, the temple, built in the year 1938 was more than just two sections attributed to deities responsible for the different arenas. In fact, Wen Wu Temple was a combination of two temples; the Longfeng Temple and Ihuatang of Shuihotsun.
The temple was in fact built to appease the anxiety of the locals over the possibility of the water overflowing from Sun Moon Lake over the the two temples mentioned, and as such, Wen Wu Temple combined both temples in one.
The temple was originally built in the year 1938 and then rebuilt in the year 1969, and to this day, continuous renovations and works of maintenance are still ongoing in the temple.

The temple is dedicated to Confucius for the (Wen)literary section and the God of War, or Guan Gong who was a military warrior for the Wu section.

The detailed stone carvings forming part of the walls of the temple

The elaborate and ornate ceilings of the temple

Prayer paraphernalia

Unique little lanterns with plated messages of prayers on them hanging around the temple

There is another building in construction at the time I was there, and it looked pretty impressive with the gray stone carvings on the pillared archways.

Climb up the pavilion to enjoy a view of Sun Moon Lake from the Wen Wu Temple

The orange roofs just remind me of the Imperial Palace of China
A top view of the Wen Wu Temple, and a glimpse of the Sun Moon Lake in the background.

Whether you are a student preparing for your examinations or just a tourist, the Wen Wu Temple deserves a spot in the itinerary for one to take in the splendor of the beautiful temple which the local residents of Sun Moon Lake take pride in and work hard to maintain.
After all, as the Chinese saying goes, it does not hurt to visit more religious places, believer or not....

The ravishing beauty of the temple and the view over the lake are reasons enough to visit the Wen Wu Temple in Sun Moon Lake.

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