Guanshan Tianho Temple

Guanshan Tianho Temple

Chinese name: 關山天后宮

Located in: Guanshan Township, Taitung County

Located in Guanshan Township in Taitung County, the Tianho Temple, founded in 1895, has been a center of faith for the Hakka, Hoklo, Mainlanders, Plains indigenous and Amis people of Taitung’s East Rift Valley. As this is a place where all share common faith and life circles, many Taitung Hakka people speak indigenous languages and indigenous people speak Hakka, and even in lifestyle and food customs people have long learned from each other and influenced each other and this has interwoven into the harmonious coexistence and development of the diverse ethnic groups in Taitung today. Guanshan Tianho Temple is like everyone’s family god, and all those living in Guanshan are of a family.

The entrance of Guanshan Tianho Temple

Guanshan, one of 70 Hakka townships in Taiwan, is home to the largest temple devoted to Mazu in the East Rift Valley area, the Tianho Temple. Many residents of the nearby townships of Chishang (池上), Haiduan (海端), Luye (鹿野) and Yanping (延平) townships make pilgrimages to attend the temple’s three ceremonies over the course of the year, from the Lunar Festival at Lunar New Year, to the Mazu plays of March and the end-of-winter opera in October, with people regardless of ethnicity joining the crowds to celebrate the events. This is especially the case at the time of Mazu’s birthday, March 23 of the lunar calendar, when each of Guanshan’s seven neighborhood associations take it in turns to hold a ceremony to celebrate Mazu’s birthday, during the course of which Mazu goes around all seven neighborhoods.

As Mazu passes by, residents along the way set off firecrackers and make their prayers to the gods. But whereas in the past each neighborhood would stage a Mazu play, these days it is only the neighborhood of Degao that keeps this traditional Hakka custom, celebrating Mazu’s birthday with a puppet show; and the chanting of the benediction of the Hakka traditional Three Consecrations in the Hailu accent of Hakka has come to play an indispensable part in the diversity of Taitung’s culture.

Guanshan Tianho Temple

(Photo: Taitung County Government)

Furthermore, Tianho Temple each year selects one person in Guanshan's seven neighborhoods to serve as that year's “Censor Master,” who is responsible for hosting the ceremonial event. Unlike other temples in Hakka townships, where it is mostly Hakka people who is chosen to be the censer master, Guanshan Tianho Temple rotates this honor among the various ethnic groups, for example in 2018 when it was Yang Ching-shun (楊清順) from the Amis indigenous people group. In Guanshan, the different ethnic groups take part together in the lively celebrations, praying for local people’s well-being and safety.

Occupying an area of 400 ping (1,300 square meters), the temple has over a hundred years of history, and what has not changed through the passing of generations is its power to settle people’s hearts. After you go through the majestic arch of the temple plaza, before you go into the temple you observe that its backdrop is an unbroken line of emerald green mountains; after entering the temple you will see the approximately 1.2 meter statue of Mazu in the main hall. So if you want to experience Hakka culture that is different to what you would find in the west of Taiwan, or to meet people of other ethnicities and languages, pay a visit to the Guanshan Tianho Temple as the best place to get to know the lives and faith of local residents.