Exploring a Buddhist Sanctuary
The Lukang Longshan temple is the most well-preserved building dating from the Qing Dynasty in all of Taiwan and is also the largest temple in Lukang, a coastal city located in the western Changhua county. The temple was first built in the 17th Century near the location of the historic port canal but was moved south to its current location in the 18th Century. The complex is recognized as an important national heritage site by the Taiwanese Ministry of Culture and remains popular with the Buddhist faithful as well as many tourists. Covering over 9,600 square feet, the complex consists of four principal structures; the Main Gate, Hall of the Five Gates, Main Hall and Rear hall along with two enclosed yards.
The Spread of Buddhism to Taiwan
Buddhism first arrived to Taiwan in the mid 17th Century when settlers from the Fujian and Guangdong provinces of mainland China began to settle in Taiwan.In 1683 the Qing Dynasty annexed Taiwan and following the takeover, large numbers of monks from mainland china traveled to the island to establish temples. The Lukang Longshan Temple was established during this period and is dedicated to the bodhisattva of Guanyin, a female spiritual figure of mercy who is venerated by Mahayana Buddhists. A bodhissitava is a person who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so in order to help others. A shrine dedicated to Guanyin is located at the back of the worship hall at the complex. An incense burner is located at the entrance to the main hall and followers of Buddhism leave offerings of incense. The burning of incense is believed to create positive energy, help people develop qualities like respect and gratitude and reminds people of different teachings of the Buddha.
An Architectural Masterpiece
The temple exhibits several impressive architectural elements that include incredibly intricate painted murals, carved stone, woodcarvings and a caisson or spider web ceiling. At the West entrance to the Hall of Five Gates, two granite columns exhibit some of the most famous carved dragons in all of Taiwan.
A large caisson or spider web ceiling is located at the rear of the Hall of the Five Gates above the stage. A feature of traditional East Asian architecture, Caisson ceilings are built of decorated interlocking wooden beams that are raised above the level of the roof. The system is supported by dougongs, interlocking wooden brackets that are held together without the use of nails. Caisson ceilings are believed to ward off evil but its location above the main stage also acts to enhance the acoustics during performances and traditional plays.
Earthquake and Reconstruction Efforts
The temple was affected by a large earthquake in September of 1999 and suffered extensive structural damage to the roof, several walls and decorated pillars. Following the catastrophe, community members, local and national governments institutions as well as several prominent business came together to help rebuild the complex. The principal reconstruction efforts were completed in 2008 and the successful completion was celebrated by the key stakeholders.
The site remains vulnerable to future tectonic activity and is threateened by heavy tourism and airborne pollutants. The smog is especially concerning as it can damage and sensitive painted surfaces and obscure carved surfaces. Routine maintenance activities and conservation programs continue until the present day and are carried out by the Bureau of Cultural Heritage.
Digital Preservation for the Future
With the help of Iron Mountain, CyArk worked with the Taiwanese Bureau of Cultual Heritage to document important features at the complex. This data complements existing digital documentation and conservation efforts and advances the capability for planning future preservation efforts. By using the latest in data capture and storage technologies and ensuring the data is routinely updated we can ensure the data remains useful for years into the future.