Pao Hueh Temple is the most popular Buddhist temple in Taichung, located in the North District and is close to other popular attractions such as Taichung Park, Taichung Marty’s Shrine, Confucius Temple, Chungcheng Park and Folk Park. Most tour offices in Taichung offer tour package trips on these places. Also known in other romanizations as Bao-que Shi or Treasure Cognition Temple in Taichung, the temple was founded in 1927 and has since undergone several changes that have transformed the once humble Buddhist temple into a complex place of worship, attracting a huge number of tourists from different parts of the world.
Due to the influence of the Japanese colonization in Taiwan, the Pao Hueh Temple is one among the few Chan or Zen Buddhist temples in the country. It is interesting to add that there is also another temple on its ground, the Shinto shrine, which was built to pay homage to Japanese soldiers who died overseas during the World War II.
What makes this temple very popular among tourists is the huge Milefo or laughing Buddha, which is considered the fattest and the biggest in Taiwan. It stands a lofty 30 meters high or seven-storeys tall but sits against a background of ruined apartments, which sadly spoils photos. Below the statue is an inscription that translates, ‘Happiness to All’. Built during the 1970s, the huge golden Buddha was intentionally designed to smile to ‘transmit’ the feeling of joy and happiness to other people. This may be the largest Buddha of its kind and has become one of the popular iconic landmarks in Taichung and a famous destination.
Recently, the Buddhist temple and the statue itself have undergone major reconstruction; the Buddha statue received major refurbishment while Pao Hueh temple has been redeveloped into a bigger structure. When visiting the temple, the overall atmosphere is serene and quiet, following the concept of Zen spirituality. Thanks to its ideal location within the city, the temple is an ideal place to spend hours getting around, sightseeing and reflecting over the peaceful pool in one corners of the compound.
Just to add, the notable giant gold smiling Buddha is devoted to Maitreya Bodhisattva. Maitreya is popularly known as the Buddha of the Future, depicted as a priest constantly wearing a huge smile but poorly clad everywhere else, having most of his body, such as his belly, fully revealed. This is the reason he is known as the Laughing Buddha but warmly named Budai He-Shang or the Monk in the Calico Sack, since his dress was made from a sack used to store rice.
The entire place consists of Drum Tower-like temple building with Bong Buddha, Amitabha Buddha and Medicine Buddha that can be found inside the temple complex. It also has seven buildings resembling stunning pagodas as well as a clock tower. In front of the huge Buddha statue is the ‘Public Park’ with mini Huan Xifo, a Buddhist god, displayed, either sitting or reclining and each having different expressions. The Pao Hueh temple is specifically located at No. 140, Jianxing Road, Beitun in North District and is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.