The Gandi Temple has many names attached to it. It is also called the Guandi Temple, the Guang Shen Dui Jun Temple, the Dijun Temple, the Jioasi Temple, or the Xietian Temple. The truth is, there are several other branches of Guandi Temples around Taiwan but this particular temple is the most popular one. When one refers to the Guandi Temple, they will most probably be referring to this one.
The Gandi Temple was built in 1804 and is known to be the largest and most important temple in the northern Taiwan region. It is a temple devoted to Guangong, who is known to be the red-faced God of War. The deity’s power is evident in the legend revolving Liu Ming Deng, the general-in-charge of Taiwan during the Tongjhih reign of the Cing Dynasty in 1867. He and is troops once resided near the temple grounds during their travels through Yilan. Because of the stormy weather, his men quickly cut down the old maple tree found near the temple to use for firewood. This however angered the god. One at a time, members of his platoon succumbed to sickness. Desperate for forgiveness, Liu begged Guangong for mercy and appealed to the emperor to appoint a plague at the temple. Today, the plague still stands high over the temple doors with the inscription “Construction of the Xietian Temple by Imperial Order”.
Some of the most important activities held at this temple take place on the 13th day of the first lunar month in Spring. The Autumn event takes place during the 24th date of the sixth lunar month. The Spring event celebrates the anniversary of Guangong’s ascension and immortality while the Autumn celebration notes Guandi’s Birthday.
During such occasions, images of all the ‘branch gods’ from all over Taiwan that were consecrated in the Gandi Temple are brought back to the temple. Hundreds and even thousand of devotees flock to the temple in time for the communion with the ‘senior’ deity, Guangong. Ceremonies during the Spring and Autumn occasions involve many offerings to the god and a dance ritual performance by primary school students that act as the soldiers of the God of War.
The Ci Guei ceremony is also a famous event held at the temple where followers create “red turtles” using sticky rice and sugar known as the Ci Guei ceremony or “the begging of the turtle”. This is the way for the locals to give thanks for the god’s services or a way to plead for peace and guidance. This ceremony is held every year before the Lantern Festival.
From the THSR or TRA Taipei Station, get off the Jiaosi River Station or also known as the Jiaosi Station. The temple can be reached by walking south from the main train station along Zongshan Road. Expect to walk for about a kilometer. You can also hop on a Capital Bus headed to Luodong and get off at the Xietian Temple stop.
Followers and believers from locations all over Taiwan do their best to partake in the many events of the Gandi Temple. With the many names associated to the Gandi Temple, so are the number of people who continue to pray to Guangong for peace and guidance.