Temple awaits official heritage status

TRADITIONAL::The temple’s ornate architecture was a major artistic and technical accomplishment and has significant aesthetic value, a committee member said

By Yeh Kuan-yu and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tue, Apr 10, 2018 - Page 4

The New Taipei City Government last month provisionally granted historical heritage status to the 251-year-old Cingshuei Zushih Temple (清水祖師廟) in the city’s Sansia District (三峽), and an official listing is expected later this month.

The move came after historical conservationists last year filed an emergency petition to block planned renovations by the temple’s private owners.

The conservationists asked the city government to step in after learning that the temple management committee was planning wide-ranging repairs, as they were concerned that the repairs could deface the temple, said Hsiao Wen-chieh (蕭文杰), who cosigned the petition.

Although the city government in 2013 listed the temple as of potential heritage interest, it had done little since then, Hsiao said.

Built in 1767, the Zushih Temple has been a center of Qingshui Zushi (清水祖師) worship.

It is known as a “palace of oriental art,” owing to its large and varied collection of art that endows it with artistic and historical value.

In addition to its antique architecture, the temple’s renovation in 1947 involved some of Taiwan’s most celebrated artists and prominent historical figures of the time.

The paintings at the temple include works by renowned modern painter Kuo Hsueh-hu (郭雪湖) and Chinese traditional painter Au Ho-nien (歐豪年), while warlord Yan Xishan’s (閻錫山) calligraphy can be seen with that of Yu Youren (于右任), a Republic of China statesman and academic.

The temple’s ornate architecture was a major artistic and technical accomplishment and has significant aesthetic value, especially the sculptures and ceramic applique, Cultural Heritage Evaluation Committee member Lee Chian-lang (李乾朗) said.

Not only were traditional elements combined with the modern art styles of the time, but the construction materials also included Guanyinshan (觀音山) andesite and Alishan (阿里山) cypress, which can no longer be used in modern buildings due to their rarity, he said.

For those reasons, the committee decided to confer heritage status on the temple to ensure its preservation, Lee said.

The Department of Cultural Affairs confirmed the decision, saying that it expects the decision to be finalized late this month, after formal approval by New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫).

There are “pluses and minuses” to the temple’s new heritage status, temple management committee head Hung Yi-chung (洪一中) said, adding that its owners would “keep an open mind” and respect the decision.