The Yilan Zhaoying Temple has long been a social and religious site for Yilan citizens and is the only 3rd ranking historic site found in the Yilan County. The Zhaoying Temple is devoted to the Goddess of the Sea, Mazu along with many other temples in the coastal areas of the southeast side of Taiwan. Locals living along the coastline are extremely dedicated to Mazu, many of which have fishing as their daily source of livelihood. Fishermen are then expected to brave the turbulent sea everyday in hopes of coming home with a big catch. Since ancestral times, fishermen then often turn to Mazu to ask for protection and blessings every time they go out to sea.
Traditionally, temples devoted to Mazu were constructed facing the sea so that local fishermen out to sea are able to secure help from the goddess. The Zhaoying Temple was originally constructed in a similar way. The temple’s location was the center of the Kavalan Hall during the Qing Dynasty. Since 1808 during the 13th year of Emperor Jiaqing, the Hall established itself as a center for religious and democratic activities. Besides being a meeting place for citizens, the hall also became the venue where Cultural Associations and the Taiwanese People’s Party held lectures and programs at the front square of the temple. Taiwanese opera performances were even held inside tne hall; until today, information about its past can still be seen.
However, in 1834, the temple was moved to the opposite side of the street in an effort to expand the temple into three palaces. This was also to cater to the growing number of pilgrims visiting the increasingly popular temple. Instead, the project then left the temple to be the only Mazu temple facing the mountains. Various stories have been told regarding the temple’s change of direction. Legend has it that the temple improved performances in studies of the local community. In 1896, Yilan had its first advanced imperial scholar, Yang Shi-fang. Many claim that his success was all due to the moving of the temple.
The entire length of the temple is about 60 meters and maintains the style taken from the Daoguang era. During the Japanese occupation, the Zhaoying Temple had to go through many reconstructions and repair work but to this day, its wooden and stone sculptures still maintain its original looks. Structures such as the dragon pillar, stone foundations, stone walls, stone lions and other stone sculptures then remain the most treasured elements of the temple.
The temple is easily accessible, which is why a large number of visitors pay their respects daily. Visitors who wish to visit the temple should take the train to Yilan Railway Station. From there,follow the Guangfu Road and the Zhongshan Road by foot. The Yilan Zhaoying temple is but 10-minutes away from the Yilan train station.
Today, the Yilan Zhaoying Temple remains an important religious site for the Yilan people. The continuous influx of people visiting the temple only proves the sincerity of Yilan’s religious faith and their belief to the god of their ancestors. To take part in such a deep beliefs of the Yilan people, make sure to stop by the site and witness the serenity of the temple yourself.