So Icon, did you go? I just got back from touring temples on the SE Coast, concluding with a visit to Beigang’s Chao Tian Gong (Mazu temple) and it’s rival Mazu in nearby Xigang.
Found Beigang much improved from years ago. Fairly ordering and cleanish: not much trash around but the road to the temple was stained nastily. The row of shops leading to the temple have been cleaned up and most of them are surprising quite nice looking (Japanese era?) though they of course have covered them with signs. Oh and they’ve even built a nice bike path on the dikes along the river. But still overall a bit nasty and grim though the tipping point to a liveable pleasant place wouldn’t be that hard to reach.
Temple has been renovated but not all the work is very tasteful. It’s not that glaringly obvious (and given most westerners think Wenwu temple at Sun Moon lake is great, I doubt most would notice at all) but I was looking carefully. Still an impressive amount of beautiful carvings on the brackets, painting on the beams, and stone work. Cheap work or coloring on the roof tiles (the very back wall and swallowtail eave roof was not restored and looks best imo) and not good quality work on replacing the ceramic pieces on the rooftop figurines.
The temple is impressive though architecturally. So open and spacious for a temple. More like a house or palace. But that also means the noise from outside gets in and it doesn’t feel like a santuary from the outside world the way many others do.
I enjoyed the Xigang Mazu temple maybe a bit more. Kinder feel to it, and they nicely had English explanations of the temple history, structure and the various gods you see indoors.
I went to the Yimin temple and am not sure how Steve could have found it better than the Mazu. Smaller, architecturally not that interesting except maybe the roof and front gate, and very little good carving or painting.
All this said, I really wouldn’t make a special trip to Beigang unless I had a deep interest in Mazu, or I was going during Mazu’s birthday.
Also visited the Ciji temple in Tainan County today. The temple has a lot of koji ceramic figurines and tableaux from Master Ye Wang, the originator of the koji tradtion inTaiwan. Now that was a great little temple. Very fine expressive ceramic figurines, lots of local worshippers and a group of chanting lay nuns.