Kaiji Matsu Temple (Kāijī Tiānhòu Gōng 開基天后宮)
While the Grand Matsu Temple was the first to be dedicated as an “Official Rights Tianhou Temple,” the first temple in the historic Chikan area devoted to Matsu is the nearby Kaiji Matsu Temple. Kaiji means inaugural, which makes one think this is the oldest Matsu temple in Taiwan. It’s possible that it is. A caretaker of this temple told me this very thing (They’re always so proud of their temples, aren’t they?). For most people, the old Matsu temple in the Penghu Archipelago is generally considered the first Matsu temple in Taiwan. Some debates remain about which is the first one on Taiwan’s main island, and even which is the first in Tainan. Most government literature simply calls the Kaiji Matsu Temple the “Smaller Matsu Temple.” Regardless of its actual significance, it is a second class national historic site and a great little temple.
This temple was built in 1662 and underwent renovations during the Qing dynasty and Japanese colonial period. It was badly damaged during bombing in World War II, and thus underwent a complete renovation in 1948 that brought it to its current form. It is a small, thin temple with a fore hall and a rear hall dedicated to Matsu and Guanyin respectively. While many temples have a courtyard between the gate and the sanctum, in this temple, the central procession is covered and sides of the procession are open to the sky. This gives you a straighter approach to the Matsu statue. Alongside Matsu are her typical companions: Qianli Yuan, whose eyes see a thousand miles, and Xufong Er, whose ears hear through the wind. In the rear hall is a rather comforting idol of Guanyin. She is flanked by her 18 nobles.
The temple has many unique features and treasures. The most famous of these is the main statue of Matsu. It was created in 1619, predating the actual temple. Recently, the statue’s merciful and majestic face was painted gold to show its distinction as one of the oldest idols in Taiwan. Another historic treasure in this temple is the twin stone dragon columns at the temple’s gate. They are known for their craftsmanship, their rare depiction of a three-toed dragon’s claw, and their significance as the oldest such columns in Tainan. Another unique feature of this temple is the sculptured panorama lining the tops of the walls. These colorful figures are a signature of this temple and well worth careful examination.
This temple is part of the Zhenbeifang Cultural Zone to the north of Chikan. Many historic temples are situated in the back streets here. You may have to do some wandering to find them. Kaiji Matsu Temple is in the alleys to the north of Chenggong Road between Chikan Street and Ximen Road. Look for a small street called Ziqiang Street.
Location: No. 12 Ziqiang Street (Zihciang St. 自強街), North District, Tainan City