Dongyue Hall (Dōngyuè Diàn 東嶽殿)
If you want to make amends for misdeeds or talk with dead relatives, Dongyue Hall is the place to go in Tainan. Many people go there to pray for the deceased and sometimes to communicate with them through spirit mediums. Dongyue Hall translates to East Mountain Temple which is a synonym for Mt. Tai, one of the five sacred mountains in China. In Chinese mythology, the East Mountain is the place where the records of the living and dead are kept, and it is the entrance to the underworld. Dongyue Hall is also often called Yuedi (Mountain Emperor) Temple because that is the name of the principal god of worship there. Most of the deities worshiped in this temple are gods of the underworld and judges of your life’s merits.
Built in 1673, Tainan’s Dongyue Hall is the oldest temple in Taiwan dedicated to the worship of Yuedi. Originally, it was a small shrine located near to what is now the Dongmen traffic circle. Zheng Jing had it moved to its current location. Over the years it has been well-kept and it was renovated many times. Road expansion resulted in a couple of demolition projects unleashed on the temple, but the temple was well-restored in 1994 with the front and rear hall being returned to their original style.
The temple is divided into three halls lined up one in back of the next. The principal deity in the main hall of this temple is Yuedi, also known as Yan Wang (Yán Wáng 閻王), the king of the underworld. The deity in the second chamber is Dizang Wang (Dìzàng Wáng Púsà 地藏王菩薩), a god of mercy who wanders through hell trying to find souls to save. He holds knowledge of reincarnation and has special authority over the dead, so his blessings can make sure your dead relatives can come back as something better. In the rear hall, the main deity is Huang Du, the Ruler of the Eighth Court of Feng Du, which is the Chinese hell. A small side hall offers worship to Guan Yin. Throughout the halls are various other deities of the underworld.
Dongyue Hall is not far from the the City God Temple, and its focus on judgment and the afterlife, as well as its layout, draw up many comparisons. They’re both creepy places, but Dongyue Hall certainly trumps City God Temple in its creepiness factor. If the statues and idols don’t send your children away crying, then check out the side murals in both the second and third halls. Their depictions of hell are enough to scare you straight.
Location: No. 110 Minquan Road (Minchuan Rd. 民權路), Section 1, West Central District, Tainan City