Fahua Temple (Fǎhuá Miào 法華寺)
The great buzz of activity that surrounds many of the Taoist temples in Tainan can easily be countered by the monastic calm of Buddhist temples such as Fahua Temple in the southern part of the central district. In the early morning hours you can hear a deep chanting emanating from inside the walls of this temple, but through most of the day you could hear a pin drop. If you’re looking for something flashy and awe-inspiring, this temple will probably disappoint you. But if you are looking for a serene retreat, a place to meditate and reflect, then Fahua Temple might just be the perfect place in Tainan.
Its a very unassuming place with big trees set in a rather large, inelegant yard. Like many Buddhist temples, there is not a grand central hall with a bunch of worship idols, but rather a series of connecting rooms that service the needs of the monks that live and worship there. The front entrance does have some very large statues of the Four Heavenly Kings stomping on demons of vice, but the temple as a whole is rather iconic-free and subtle in its detail. In the back of the complex are some very nice gardens and an old wooden bridge built in classic form.
This building was first constructed in 1684, and was the first temple built under the Qing administration. It was built on the estate known as the Butterfly Garden which belonged to Li Maochun, an intellectual who came over from the mainland in 1664 at the request of Zheng Jing for all Ming loyalists to come live in an undisturbed life on a far-away island. He donated his residence for use as a temple, and after the Qing army arrived a magistrate named Jiang Yuying raised funds and converted Li Maochun’s home into Fahua Temple.
The temple was on an expansive property. Throughout much of the Zheng period and Qing dynasty, many of the monastic temples in Tainan generally supported themselves from their landholdings (nearby Zhuxi Temple held about 12 hectares), much of which was leased to farmers who worked the land. Fahua Temple had more than two hectares of land, but it was largely uncultivated. This led to a campus-like atmosphere. A pavilion, a classroom, and a large pond were built on the grounds in 1764. The pond was known as Nánhú (South Lake), or Bànyuèchí (Half-moon Pond) because it looked like a half moon. This pond was often used as a site for dragon boat races. All of these extras were bull-dozed following the Second World War.
During World War II, Fahua Temple suffered terrible damage and was virtually destroyed; however, the building was reconstructed using the exact layout as the temple before it. Without the lake and the surrounding lands, the temple is a mere shadow of what it once was, but it is still peaceful spot for spiritual reflection.
No.100 Fahua Street (法華街), West Central District, Tainan City