Jinhua Temple (Jīnhuā Fǔ 金華府)
While most temples in Tainan have the title miào (廟) or sì (寺) in reference to being temples, Jinhua Temple is has the title of fǔ (府), which has a closer meaning to house. This modest temple is indeed more like a house than a temple structure. While most temples are independent buildings, this one shares its walls with the houses on either side and has the same dimensions as the rows of houses on old Shennong Street. This is a humble structure compared to most other temples in Tainan, but it preserves its history well and shows how temples can be both commonplace and elevated in their nature.
Built in 1830 by a man named Shu, the temple services Guan Di and Ma Li. It underwent renovations in 1874 and 1888, and has very recently undergone a refreshing renovation that ended within the last month or so. The refreshment of this temple adds wonderfully to the restoration of Shennong Street.
This temple has many great subtleties about it. The wooden beams at the entrance are the first thing you notice. They are wonderfully rough and simple and have some nice designs carved into them. Inside along the walls, there is a tiger mural facing another mural of a dragon, but neither are particularly good. Just next to the tiger, however, is a lovely little painting of what I believe to be peasants. Perhaps it is a painting of Shu and his family. It’s simple enough, but from my perspective it’s one of the most intriguing little murals I’ve seen in the temples of Tainan. Above the tiger and dragon murals is one of the coolest features of this temple. The roof is not fully enclosed in the front part of the hall. It is more of a canopy running down the middle section while leaving the walls with the murals on them exposed to the elements. There are large troughs beneath the open areas that direct rainwater away from patrons’ feet. It would be cool to visit this temple on a rainy day to see the effect of the rain on the atmosphere of the temple.
While many of the newer temples in Taiwan aim towards grandeur, Jinhua Temple shows how well worship can fit into residential space. This is a unique structure that can take us back to a time when the streets of this area were packed with coolies, sailors, and the working class life along the ports in the Old Five Channels Zone. It continues to be a part of the life and history of one of Tainan’s most interesting streets.
No.71 Shennong Street (神農街), West District, Tainan City