Sweltering in the summer heat is no fun at all, so where to find a place with cool breeze and dense green foliage? Taoyuan County’s Dasi Township — named top of Taiwan’s 10 favorite small towns by the Tourism Bureau in March — has a number of historically significant buildings, one of which, the Zhai Ming Monastery, is recognized as Dasi’s oldest monastery. Its courtyard has many old trees under which visitors can find some shade, and its secluded environment is conducive to relaxing in the cool breeze. The summer evening breeze from the monastery, along with the sound of cicadas and evening chants, alone can help visitors attain a zen-like contentment.
Built in 1850, the Zhai Ming Monastery was designated a third-class national historic site by the Ministry of the Interior in 1985. In 1999, the late Buddhist Master Sheng Yen, founder of the Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) Culture and Education Foundation, took over the management of the monastery in 1999, but in the same year, the monastery was severely damaged by the 921 Earthquake. After four years of restoration, the monastery reopened in 2009.
Apart from preserving the traditional Sanheyuan courtyard format, the DDM built a new hall called the Zen Hall, a modern-style structure made entirely of fair-faced (plain) concrete, behind the Sanheyuan. The monastery’s primary religious activities have since then been held in the new hall. Separated by many of the old camphor and cypress trees, the exquisite beauty of the traditional compounds complements the more modern minimalist aesthetic of the hall, and their harmonious co-existence symbolizes the passing down of tradition from ancient times to the present.
The original structure of the Zhai Ming Monastery was preserved through meticulous restoration techiniques. In order to show respect for the historic site, the architects made sure the new building was not higher than the historic one. The monastery features displays of its rich history, including the merits of its past and present abbots, precious historical documents, and ancient calligraphic works and paintings.
Beautiful surroundings can be found in small towns too: you do not have to go out into nature to find them. The tranquil Zhai Ming Monastery is located on the banks of the Dahan River and the ancient path of the Zhai Ming Monastery was built in the Qing Dynasty and has been well preserved. It is an excellent spot for a summertime stroll through its lush growth of trees.
(Lin Ya-ti, Taipei Times)