Taipei: Linji Huguo Chan Temple

Next to Yuanshan Metro Station, Linji Huguo Chan Temple is located on the banks of the Keeling River, surrounded by beautiful mountains and rivers. Linji Huguo Chan Temple, or Rinzai Zen Buddhism Temple, is one of the most ancient and best-preserved wooden temples under Japanese rule in Taipei, Taiwan.

In 1985, the island of Taiwan became a Japan’s dependency after the Japanese victory in the Sino-Japanese War. Therefore, the Japanese built works that influenced Japanese culture in Taiwan, such as Dojos, Shinto Shrines, and Buddhist temples. There were 3 Japanese-style Buddhist Temples in Taipei, including Shandao, Donghe Zen and Rinzai Zen Temple. Shandao was the largest Temple and was rebuilt as a tower block in 1981. Donghe Zen Temple was destroyed, leaving only a bell tower. Rinzai Zen is the only relatively intact Temple and still exists today.

Rinzai is one of three Zen sects in Japan. It originated in the Chinese Linji school and passed into Japan during the Tang Dynasty (China), compared with the period of the samurai’s rise to power in Japan. Rinzai emphasizes kensho, which means seeing one’s true nature. Rinzai also looks inward and promotes enlightenment through koan, anecdotes or riddles without solutions. Rinzai flourished in Japan since its introduction, but by the Meiji Restoration (1868), Shinto became the state religion, and Buddhism was forced to change to adapt to the new regime.

During Japan’s initial rule of Taiwan, monks were sent with military delegations to provide spiritual services and placate local uprisings. In 1900, Kodama Gentaro, the Governor-General of Taiwan, asked monks to come to Taiwan to promote Japanese Zen Buddhism. He preferred the Rinzai Zen school and invited his university classmate Iori Genshu, a famous Rinzai monk from Osaka, to Taiwan to become the abbot of the Rinzai Zen Buddhism Temple. This Temple was built from 1900 to 1911 under the original name Chin’nanzan Gokokuji Temple. It was the only Temple named Gokokuji in Taiwan, which means Guardian of the Nation (Defend the Southern Lands of the Japanese Empire).

Rinzai Temple has the typical architecture of Buddhist temples in Japan’s Edo period. It is also the most ancient and the most significant remaining Temple in Taipei during Japanese rule. The Main Hall is built entirely of Taiwan cypress wood, bringing extremely aromatic balm. The roof of the Main Hall brings the style of an East Asian hip-and-gable roof with double eaves. Onigawara (demon tiles) can be found at the ends of the main roof ridge. That’s a decorative element in the spiritual function to ward off evil. However, its primary duty aims to protect against weathering. The main hall’s stone pillars and railings are engraved with the deceased Japanese’s names to invoke the Buddha’s protection. Inside the main hall is a place to worship Gautama, Guanyin (Avalokitesvara), and Ksitigarbha with typical descriptions for each Buddha, including Compassionate and Kind, Transcend Beyond Time, Commandments and Longevity.

The ancient Bell Tower also has a hip-and-gable roof with double eaves, Japanese Black tiles, barrel tiles, and “Japanese ogre tiles.” The word “guard” can be found on the semi-cylindrical tiles, signifying protection against evil influences.

Along the stairs behind the Temple to go up the hill is a stone statue of Guanyin. Then nine stone statues are arranged in the square in front of Ten Thousand Souls Columbarium Tower. And finally, it is the tomb of the abbot Iori Genshu.

There is a large stone with the words “Non-attachment” in front of this Temple. It was discovered during the expansion of the Rinzai Temple in 1918. In 2007, the Rinzai Temple underwent a large-scale renovation with Black tiles, barrel tiles, semi-cylindrical titles ordered from Japan, and Taiwan Cypress wood from Cilan mountain, Yilan County. Nowadays, the Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple adds more buildings. However, the prominent architecture is still preserved in the traditional Japanese style.

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