Today I went with my fiance’s family to a temple in Bali on guī mă shān 龜馬山(Turtle-Horse Mountain) called zhēn qìng gōng 真慶宮. My fiancé’s brother will be joining the military for his obligatory year at the end of the month, so the family went to the temple to bài bài 拜拜, or pray. It is not uncommon for people to go to temples seeking guidance or to ask for help with their business or to look after their wellbeing.Taiwan is a peaceful country, and generally serving in the military is not very dangerous, but with political tension between Taiwan and the mainland being what it is, you never know what could happen, so we asked for her brother’s year in the service to pass safely.
(Outside the temple from the bottom of the mountain, and up close and personal views)
This temple has been in construction for a long time, and besides the giant plot of land it is on, many Taiwanese families have donated millions of dollars in local currency to see it completed. It is also the largest temple in Taiwan to the God xuán tiān shàng dì 玄天上帝.
(The money for each of these pillars was donated by devout families…they weren’t cheap either!)
The first thing we did upon arriving was to place incense sticks into the three giant incense holders. There are three at this particular temple. At each incense holder, we say a silent prayer, bow three times and place the incense stick with the others already burning to ashes. This is called shāo xiāng 燒香, burn incense, in Mandarin Chinese.
When you enter the shén diàn 神殿, the innermost portion of the temple, it is customary to use a branch with leaves to sprinkle blessed water on your head and two shoulders to keep you safe and protect you from bad spirits. The reason you put water on these three points, is because in Chinese Taoism/Buddhism these three points are believed to hold fires on them that protect you from evil.
(Me cleansing myself to enter the inner temple)
In the inner sanctum of the temple, which is decorated heavily in gold ornamentation (gold is a lucky color in Chinese culture) lies a large table in front of giant statues depicting various Gods. here you can donate money and take a píng ān fú 平安符, an amulet, for luck and protection. The 平安符 are separated by color and animal of the 12 year cycle. I was born in the year of the rat.
(We all got a new 平安符. Take a closer look at mine.)
After taking an amulet, you can make wishes or ask questions to the Gods with the jiăo bēi筊杯. Kneel on the knee-rest, hold the two wooden halves together in your hands, tell the Gods your name and address (so they can find you) and make your request. Then bow three times and throw the two halves to the ground. If the two pieces are showing opposite sides, then the answer is yes, if they are the same, it is no, so ask again!
Before going, we revisited one of the incense pots and “super-charged” our 平安符. It is customary to hold your amulet and circle it clock-wise three times over the incense smoke, and then to cup your hands and place the smoke over your head (again, because of the protective fires).
(Bathing my 平安符 in the incense smoke, and a little on myself for good measure)
I love the feeling inside temples here in Taiwan. The smell of the incense and being surrounded by the beautiful carvings and architecture fill me with a sense of peace and contentment. I can’t wait to see what this place looks like when it’s finished!
(Some cool carvings from the temple walls, and an image of what the temple will eventually look like when it is finished)
How To Get There:
The temple is located near Dansui in Bali. If you don’t have a car, the best way to get there would be by bus or taxi. You can take the MRT to Luzhou station on the orange line and then either find a taxi to take you there or you could take bus number 928. Here is the address in Chinese, so you can just show a cab driver, as well as the contact information. The temple is open from 6am-9pm.
Chinese phrases of the day:
燒香= burn incense
神殿= the inner sanctum of a temple
平安符= a safety talisman
筊杯(pronounced ba-bwei in Taiwanese, and this is how it is usually called in Taiwan)= a pair of crescent shaped wooden tools, rounded on one side and flat on the other which are used for divination