Hsing Tien temple

From today’s Asian Wall Street Journal
Reprinted without permission



3 Hours in … is written by readers of The Asian Wall Street Journal to share their advice on how to spend a few hours of spare time in major cities in Asia.

This Week: Making the most of your spare time in Taipei.

Your Guide: Richard R. Vuylsteke, executive director, American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.

Where He’d Go: To the Hsing Tien temple at the major intersection of Minchuan East Road and Sungchiang Road in northeast Taipei. Hsing Tien is dedicated to Kuan Kung, a red-faced, black-bearded god who is one of Taiwan’s most popular deities. His appeal comes from his soldierly exploits and loyalty in the early third century A.D. He is immortalized in a famous novel, “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” a continuing source of stories for movies, television serials and comic books.

What He’d Do There: Hsing Tien is distinguished from most of Taipei’s folk temples by its austere lines and attractive roofs that sweep upward with muscular grace. Architecture aside, this is a great place for people watching, since Kuan Kung is the patron deity of many groups, including soldiers, policemen and merchants. The temple is also a stop for many of Taipei’s working ladies, who burn incense and offer prayers before hurrying off to bars, pubs, KTV parlors, and other all-night spots. There’s always a relaxed crowd of all ages enjoying the warm communal spirit of the place.

Be sure to wander outside the temple’s walls, where there is snack food, incense and religious paraphernalia for sale. Then walk through the intersection’s underpass. There, you’ll find vendors who specialize in removing facial hair by methods that are centuries old as well as rows of fortunetellers.

Why You Should Go: It’s a congenial, safe and enjoyable mix of people, and a compelling blend of history and modernity.

Updated February 1, 2002 12:01 a.m. EST