Taiwan Temple: Ma Dou Five Regent Kings Daitian Miao

The Dai Tian temple in Madou (麻豆代天府) is a very cool temple. What separates it from the many other temples in Taiwan are two things:

First, there is a large dome in the parking lot that houses a magnificent giant Buddha statue.

ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-8ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-170

The other is the heaven and hell indoor walking tour that is essentially the bowels of the awesome dragons at the rear of the temple complex. This tour has a lot of artwork and also mechanical scenes in hell.

ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-97

It cost NT 40 for heaven and then another NT 40 for hell. We walked through heaven fairly quickly. I enjoyed the artwork and raised face paintings on the walls. I was however abandoned by my party in hell, (I think Fili and the old lady were too scared) and spent way too long down there. It was display after display of people being tortured and killed. Everything had a phosphorescent glow, and my eyes were tweaked trying to get good photos. Not having a tripod didn’t help but I made do with several of the crooked ledges that helped give the place an uneven atmosphere.

Here is a short video from the depths of Daoist hell.

There were tour buses full of people coming to pay their respects and even live, old style Chinese music to be enjoyed (or not).

ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-186ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-190

Here is about 15 minutes of the music (I recorded this with my digital camera if you can believe it)

[audio:Ancient Chinese Music.mp3]

Click to see the Daoist Heaven And Hell Temple Slideshow

Here is a great article about the Dai Tian Daoist Temple.

Heaven and Hell – Daoist Style

by Scott Habkirk

The countryside of Taiwan is full of surprises. You never know when you will come across something monumental like a mountain of salt, a giant mango or a beautifully decorated temple. On a ride out through Tainan County I was blown away by a colossal structure whose innards taught me that Heaven and Hell are not reserved for Christians alone. Daoists also have their own version of Heaven and Hell. In Madou, about 40 min north of Tainan on HW 19, giant dragons have been erected, within which reside robotic, motion sensor activated representations of Heaven and Hell.

ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-96

The giant Dragons stand guard over the famed Dragon Spring. The story behind the spring goes back over a hundred years. During the Qin dynasty Emperor Kang Xi (1662 – 1722) heard about a pool with great geomantic powers (Feng Shui). It was said that the powers of the pool would one day produce a great emperor (some joke that since Chen Shui Bian comes from the area he is the emperor they have been waiting for). In fear of a forthcoming rival the Emperor had the pool sealed with fallen Ming dynasty officials’ seals, camphor logs and other things, and for 200 years the dragons of the Dragon Spring slept. According to the laws of Feng Shui the sealing away of such powerful geomantic forces can only last for 180 years, but it wasn’t until 1956 that a jitong (spirit medium) ordered the people of Madou to build a temple, revive the spring and to release the trapped geomantic forces back into the world. Now, standing guard over the spring, there are some giant dragons that, for the low price of 40nt, you can travel inside of to visit Daoist Heaven and Hell.

It is your choice whether you want to go to Heaven or Hell first. In Heaven you will be greeted by Qi Tien Da Shen (aka the Monkey God or Hanuman). As far as gods go he is a well traveled one. In the epic Indian tale, Ramayana, he is well known for helping Rama rescue his wife from the demon king of Lanka. He is also famous for helping the Chinese Buddhist monk, Xuan Cang, travel to India and back in an epic Chinese tale, Journey to the West. Moving on you will encounter Wu Huang Da Di (aka the Jade Emperor) being venerated by his followers. He is stands at the top of the pantheon of Daoist gods as the Ruler of Heaven. As you continue you will see the many the joys that Heaven has to offer to those who are worthy (dancing girls, good eats, great music, etc). Also, you will encounter the story of Niu Lang and Zi Nu, a tale of two lovers, one a daughter of the Goddess of Heaven and the other a shepherd. The story goes that while the 7 heavenly sisters were on earth for a visit Niu Lang, deciding to play a joke on them, stole their clothes when they were bathing in a river. Zhi Nu was sent to retrieve the clothes and since Niu Lang saw her naked they had to be married. The Goddess of Heaven eventually called her daughter back to Heaven but, out of sympathy for their love, allowed her daughter to return on the 7th day of the 7th month in the lunar calendar (aka Chinese Valentine’s day).

ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-42ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-43ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-48ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-50

With many Taiwanese people being separated from their lovers by things like work in China or study abroad this is a traditional story with modern implications. As you continue to the dragons head you will reach the pinnacle of Heaven. Here resides many dancing Buddhist monks and, in the back, Shakamuni Buddha chillin with his followers in Nirvana.
Having enjoyed the bliss of Heaven I encourage you to explore the depths of Hell.

ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-106ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-107

Here you will encounter various judges proclaiming punishments and the demons who carry out those punishments. I don’t want to give away all the hardships of Hell but to name a few: got no job and bully people – prepare to be run over by stream rollers; committed adultery – you will burn in Hell, particular parts being more burned than others; guilty of corruption – you will have dogs and snakes snapping at you for their meals. These are just some of the pains that Hell has to offer and in Madou they are graphically represented by the motion sensor activated robots.

ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-118ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-120ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-124ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-125

Though sinners must pay for their particular evil doings, there is still hope. Unlike Christian Hell, where you are condemned for eternity (or until Jesus comes to save your ass), in Daoist Hell there is a way out. Once you have paid your proper dues you can be reincarnated into an appropriate form. And from what I saw, even being reincarnated as a cockroach is better than being a guest in Hell.

ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-126ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-127ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-129ma dou dai tian temple 5 kings-139

So, if you are interested in seeing how the Daoists of Taiwan do Heaven and Hell I highly recommend you go to Madou and ask around for a temple called Dai Tien Fu. Once you are in the general area you can’t miss the giant dragons of the infamous Dragon Spring of Madou.

About the Author

I am a cultural geographer by nature, and now a photographer, videographer, musician, and webmaster.

Leave a Reply

You can use these XHTML tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <strong>