After visiting Fo Guang Shan I thought there is little left to surprise me in how Buddhism is practiced in Taiwan, but Chung Tai Chan Monastery near Pui in Nan Tou County succeeded in shocking both my mother and I. The little I’ve heard about Chung Tai Chan prior to that didn’t do enough to prepare me for what I saw. It was incredibly out of proportion with anything else I’ve seen related to Buddhism.
How big is it? it’s gigantic. This is what it looks like from a 2-3km away.
And a closer look…
To bring it into scale for you…
Here’s a bit from Wiki to tell the story :
Chung Tai Shan 中台山 is a Taiwan-based Buddhist monastic order founded by the Venerable Master Wei Chueh in 1987. The headquarters monastery itself, Chung Tai Chan Monastery 中台禪寺, completed on September 2001, is one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in Taiwan. Widely admired as an architectural masterpiece because of the mountain monastery’s more modern look, the temple is second only to Fo Guang Shan’s monastery in physical size and in the number of ordained disciples. The temple is situated in Puli in Central Taiwan.
The temple follows traditional Chinese Ch’an, emphasizing on teachings based on sudden enlightenment and gradual cultivation. Chung Tai Chan Monastery now has established more than 90 meditation centers and branches in Taiwan and abroad, including six branches in the United States: three in Northern California–Buddha Gate Monastery in Lafayette, Chung Tai Zen Center in Sunnyvale and Pure Mind Zen Center in San Francisco, one in Southern California, one in the state of Texas and one in the state of Oklahoma.
40 something floors tall, all marble and glorification of Buddha and his, well, friends and bodyguards…
We were extremely lucky as usually tours are limited and booked 2-3 weeks in advance, but Buddha was with us that day as we saw a small group walking around with a German monk showing them around in English and so after asking permission to join we followed them up the building into the unknown (where photos are forbidden).
The views from high up are spectacular with Betelnut trees overtaking the landscape.
I think we’ve learned alot about their practice of Buddhism and realized how little we know or understand religion on this side of the world. The Taipei Taiwanese in our small tour group, speaking near perfect English, shared some of his thoughts with me – "It’s all very impressive, ofcourse, but being a Buddhist and having been raised on the message of humility I find it very difficult to relate to all this wealth".
Either way, it’s a must visit and a fascinating look at Buddhism in Taiwan. Book well ahead in advance to see the real important things inside. My mother also really enjoyed the fancy veggie restaurant nearby.