Kaohsiung in Taiwan is world famous for its very progressive and highly modernized port. Millions of shipments make their way to Kaohsiung harbor, making it the 6th busiest cargo port in the world. However, despite the fact that this Taiwanese city is more popular for its trade and industry than tourism, its many tourist attractions and activities are getting much international attention. One of the city’s impressive attractions is TianHou Temple in Cijin District. Below are three reasons why you should visit this temple when in Kaohsiung.
First, the island of Cijin itself is an amazing tourist draw. It is a slender island that is conveniently situated off the shore of Kaohsiung and therefore functioning as a natural breakwater. Other than TianHou Temple, the two major structures in the island are the ChiHou Lighthouse built by the British in 1883 and the ChiHou Fort on Chi-Xia Lane. The fort was originally built by British engineers as a battery and converted into a military base by the Chinese when the Qing Dynasty annexed Taiwan. It was abandoned during the Japanese Occupation only to be revived in 1988 as tourist attraction. Its modern restoration was finally completed in 1992. Visiting the Lighthouse and Fort makes every viewer reminisce about the past and wonder how the Taiwanese lived back then.
Taiwan today has one of the most stable and fast rising economies in Asia, thanks largely to the international trade activities in Kaohsiung. Located in the southwestern region of Taiwan, Kaohsiung is home to high-tech facilities, modern infrastructures, upscale hotels, a diversity of museum, and inviting parks and landmarks such as the Urban Spotlight Arcade, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Love River. This bustling metropolis also boasts of an efficient transportation system including the high-speed Metro Rapid Transit (MRT) that allows commuters from Taipei to reach Kaohsiung in only 90 minutes.
Inexpensive ferries regularly take tourists from Kaohsiung Harbor to the island of Cijin District. Although they are connected with underground tunnels, the best way to travel is by boat for a fare of only NT$15 (plus another NT$15 if passengers are traveling with their scooters). The Cijin port is alive with a number of food stalls, seafood restaurants and a plaza. The island is quite crowded with locals and families visiting for the weekend.
The second reason why you should visit TianHou Temple is its place in history. It is the oldest temple in Kaohsiung, built in 1673 during the reign of Emperor Yongli of the Southern Ming Dynasty. According to folk traditions, a Chinese fisherman from Fujian Province accidentally reached Cijin Island due to a typhoon. The fisherman fell in love with the island, went back home, convinced his friends and family to move to the island, and together they settled in Cijin. He brought along a statue of Goddess Matsu from the island of Meizhou and then raised funds to build a temple for the goddess, which in later years became TianHou Temple. Kaohsiung was a simple fishing village, which is why Matsu, goddess of the sea and patron saint of fishermen, is well loved. Taiwan annually celebrates the birthday of the goddess in March.
Finally, visit this ancient temple for its architectural beauty. Set on the hilly Miao-Chen Road, TianHou Temple has two main halls and two side halls with magnificent religious carvings, sculptures and ceramics. A large number of followers and devotees of Matsu regularly come to the temple to worship. In 1979, this beautiful, ancient structure was declared as a Third-Class Historical Site by the city government of Kaohsiung.