A huge noise resounded through the neighborhood around Guandi Temple, one of the four major old temples of Penghu County, early Wednesday morning, as the left side of the temple’s bell tower collapsed, spreading rubble across Wenlin Street below. Yeh Ching-hung, head of the Magong City Civil Administration section, happened to be passing on this motocycle at the time. He immediately notified Chaoyang Borough Warden Yen Ming-ching and instructed him to accompany local police to the site and cordon it off as a safety precaution.
It is understood that the roof of the fourth floor at the left side of the Guandi Temple’s bell tower had not had any maintenance work for many years, and that the steel reinforcing bars were rusted. The sudden partial collapse of the structure at 6:30am on Wednesday sent jagged rubble cascading down onto a stretch of road along Wenlin Street. Fortunately, no pedestrians or vehicles were passing at the time, otherwise the rocks falling at high velocity from such a height would have led to serious injuries. As the tower was continuing to crumble, Hsu Huan-ming, head of the religious affairs section of the Penghu County Civic Administration Office, rushed to the scene to inspect the situation, and discussed with the temple management the best way to proceed.
The Chronicles of Penghu have little information about Guandi Temple — also known as the Wusheng (War Sage) Temple — and only record that it was built after the island became part of China’s territory during the Qing Dynasty in 1684, the 23rd year of the Kangxi reign. It was initially built to the west of the Magong Cove military academy (to the east of the present day Penghu Defense Command), but was relocated in the first year of the Guangxu reign (1875) to its current site at then-Hongmu Cheng (present day Beichen Market). Since then, the building has been renovated several times, the last time being in 1973 when it was completely rebuilt. It was then that the bell tower was added.
Photo: Liu Yu-ching, Liberty Times
Concerning the corner collapse of the bell tower, the temple management says that when it was built there was a lack of building materials in Penghu, and in some cases sand from the sea shore was used, and that this has not withstood the test of time. More recently, a series of renovations and maintenance work, including the construction of a decorated archway, has been carried out on the temple. As the bell tower is so tall, however, scaffolding needs to be erected before the tower can be thoroughly inspected, and the management had already instructed the contractor to begin work that afternoon, which involved dismantling the top two floors of the structure. As there had been an accident a few years previously, in which a temple roof decoration had fallen from the rear of the temple and struck a car below, Yen also asked the department to carry out a full inspection.
(Translated by Paul Cooper, Taipei Times)
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