Over the years, Taiwan has taken influence from the many different nationalities that have inhabited the island, including the Indigenous Taiwanese, Dutch, Spanish, Japanese, and Han Chinese. Recently becoming more influenced by Western cultures, today Taiwan is a mixture of heavy urbanization, stunning natural scenery and an array of spiritual and cultural sites. With so much going on, we have selected some of the best places to visit.
Initially built in 1665, The Confucian Temple in Tainan City was created in order to educate intellectuals and provide a place for lectures to take place. Over 300 years old, Confucianism focused on humanism and the realization of man as inherently good, and served as one of the leading doctrines in Taiwan, while playing a pivotal role in the organization of education and spiritual rites. Architecturally representative of Southern China, today the temple serves as a place for various cultural events and is a popular visiting spot for both locals and tourists.
Testament to Taiwan’s rich history and European influence, Fort Santo Domingo was built in 1629 by the Spanish, although the site has been home to both Dutch and British since. Today it is used as a museum, and although the site is relatively small, a guide is useful in order to fully grasp its many different uses. Situated in Xinbei, the fort has been altered by both the Dutch and British, who constructed stone walls and added the British Consulate. With a view overlooking the Danshui River, the temple is a beautiful place to visit towards the end of the day.
Fort Santo Domingo, 251, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Tamsui District, +886 2 2623 1001
Gradually built in the 17th century between 1624 to 1634, Fort Zeelandia (today Anping Fort) was erected by the Dutch in the Southern area of the island off of the coast of Tainan. An interesting place to visit in order to learn about the relatively brief occupancy of this area by the Dutch, the fort is home to a museum that provides detailed insight into the rich history of Southern Taiwan. Initially named Orlande by the Dutch upon its creation, the fort acted as an important stronghold for many early settlements in the surrounding area of Anping.
A striking look into the history of Taiwan, the ruins of Longteng Bridge are evidence to some of the shattering earthquakes that have been witnessed by the country, more specifically the two major quakes occurring in 1935 and 1999, which severed the bridge and destroyed many of the buildings within Sanyi. The bridge was constructed during colonial Japanese rule of the area in 1905, and today the site is a quiet spot for visitors. The nostalgic feel of the bridge is highlighted by the famous Shengxing station, which contains several Japanese artifacts and is located near to the bridge site.
The site of Liberty Square consists of the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, the National Concert Hall and the National Theatre, which are situated either side of the square. A landmark in Taipei city, the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall was built to commemorate the former president, Chiang Kai-Shek. A striking structure of white marble walls, a contrasting roof of deep blue and a front garden of bold red flowers emanates a regal grand design and the colors of the Taiwanese flag. Surrounding the hall are the 62 acres of garden and the National Theater and Concert Halls, which host regular cultural events and shows from internationally acclaimed performers.
Evocative of Taoist temples, the Hsinchu City God Temple is a building full of color, with parts of the inside seeming dark and sometimes even menacing. Located in front of the temple is a bustling traditional market, selling an array of different foods and other mysterious goods. As you enter the temple you are greeted by a pair of colorful bluestone lions, and inside the rooms of the temple are lined with large statues with faces contorted with intimidating looks. Revered as the most superior City God temple in Taiwan, towards the rear of the building you will find educational information on its construction and history.
The headquarters of the Monastic order of Fo Guang Shan or Humanistic Buddhism, this monastery serves as the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, with over ten temples and two collages, in addition to its gardens, school and meditation rooms. There is a different feel between the old and newer parts of the monastery, which in recent years have undergone some renovation. Home to huge Buddhist statues, this 55-acre site is a place of peace and tranquility. A look into the spectacular culture and history of the fascinating religion of Buddhism, the monastery is a feast for the eyes, while the relaxing sounds of wind chimes greet you as you explore the grounds.