December 27, 2009

Wandering in Confucius Temple

During a Christmas party, a lovely couple shared with me about the impression of their first time visiting Taiwan during summer last year. They both said that teachers in Taiwan “are placed in the highest level”. I was so pleased to hear this since I grew up in an educators’ family in Taiwan. This very simple comment of theirs would be a good start for this post to share a bit of background information of the Confucius Temple in Tainan. Confucius is the greatest educator in ancient China and his teaching has influenced many Asian cultures.

It was a pleasant and quiet weekday afternoon when we visited this beautiful ancient architecture in Tainan. There were not many people in the temple. We felt very relaxed and would like to spend time in reading in this environment. This temple was built in 1665 and is the oldest Confucius Temple in Taiwan. From then on, Confucianism has gradually spread island wide. The temple served as a center for education and culture. It also became the first class historical site on December 28, 1983 and a famous tourist destination.

Let me show you around based on the tourist map.

Two places in the Tainan Confucius Temple are named with the word “Pan” (泮). “Pan Gao” (泮宮) Stone Arch (Stone Arch of Higher Learning Institution Arch) is in the east and ‘Pan Pond’ (泮池) in the south. “Pan Gao Stone Arch” is the school for princes. In the past, after the Pan Gao Arch, it was the territory of the Confucius Temple. “Pan Pond” is a semi-circular water pool outside. It used to be a gathering place on campus to honor Confucius and other scholars while conducting ceremonial rituals.

There are 3 places using the name “Ta Cheng” ( 大成): East Ta Cheng Arch (東大成坊) ,West Ta Cheng Arch (西大成坊) and Ta Cheng Palace (大成殿). The East Ta Cheng Arch is the main entrance of the temple (picture on the left), and the West Ta Cheng Arch the exit.(picture on the right). The East Ta Cheng Arch is the landmark of the temple, representing the origins of Taiwan’s education. It has the Chinese characters of “The first academy of Taiwan” on the top of the Arch. In the past, people were required to get off from their horses in order to go through the Arch to show their respect to Confucius.

In the past, all the students needed to go through two access gates to enter the Ta Cheng palace where the center of the temple is located. On the east side of gate named Li Gate (禮門), and the west Yi Path (義路). Li, Yi are the main disciplines of the Confucianism. There used to be a wall connected to Ta Cheng Palace, so there were keys needed for these two gates. Now only the gates still remain and the wall has deteriorated.

Ta Cheng Palace (大成殿) is the tallest building in the middle level representing the highest respect. This is also the place where the Confucius Ceremony is held on September 28 yearly on the birthday of Confucius. This is also an official holiday for Teachers in Taiwan. The roots of Confucius Ceremony can be traced back to Zhou dynasty. Inside the Ta Cheng Palace, there are shrines, ritual implements, musical instrument storeroom, and books storeroom… etc.

The stone lion is carved in granite which decorates the railings of the Hall for the Great Achievement. The bells around the neck represent the good luck and restraint.

The head of the sea dragon is the draining pipe when the rain falls. It will appear as if the sea dragon is spewing forth water from its mouth. The head of the sea dragon symbolizes the first honorable rank in examinations.

Gorgeous and vivid colored wood sculptures can be seen on the edge or top of the roof.

To show the respect to the greatest teacher Confucius, emperors from the imperial dynasties as well as the present time presidents have submitted plaques with their own hand writings which are displayed in the hall.

Unlike other red brick walls, the Entrance for Morality Training (入德之門) is made with the white walls with three stone framed doors. The center door is larger than the side doors. The Entrance for Morality Training is the symbolic entrance to the Minglun Hall (明倫堂).

The Hall of Edification is also known as Minglun Hall (明倫堂). Beautiful Chinese calligraphy on the walls can be seen once you enter the Hall. It describes the discipline philosophy and the relationship among person, family, and nation. This text is from the “Four Books” of Confucius.

A 3- story pavilion is next to the Minglun Hall that is the Pavilion for Literature Deity (Wen Chang Pavilion, 文昌閣). Each story is built in a different shape: the first floor the square shape, the second floor the round shape, and the third floor the octagon shape. In the past, before taking the civil service examination, many scholars came to burn incense and prayed in front of the pavilion for a good luck.

The red color is the symbol of elegance since the Zhou dynasty. That is why all the walls were built with red walls.

It is very interesting in knowing a bit of information for each architecture piece in the temple. As you can see now, they are all related to school disciplines, moral standards, and respect to educators. That is why teachers are highly respected in most of the Asian cultures. By the time we left the temple, I felt so proud that I was raised in an educators’ family! Read More

4 comments:

1ondoncalling said...

I have been to the one in Nanjing, many many years ago...
I can't recall much now.
But I remember I bought some bean snacks there.
Hmm... Don't remember their name either.
I am getting older, apparently. ;-p

micki and kristen said...

Apparently, beside the temples in Taiwan, and China, there are temples also in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and Malaysia! :)

1ondoncalling said...

Happy New Year!

micki and kristen said...

~~~Happy New Year ~~~~

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