Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery, Fulong, teaches the principles of Buddhism in life and Buddhism in the world of humans currently preached in Taiwan. The monastery serves as an example of the modernization and transformation of traditional Taiwanese Buddhism. It is considered to be a spiritual landmark in the Fulong area, and exerts a remarkable influence on Taiwanese society. The simple, unadorned architectural style adopted by Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery is reflective of the rocky topography of Northeast Taiwan. The monastery is a fusion of the styles of a number of Buddhist traditions, incorporating characteristics of religious architecture from Chinese, Indian, Theravāda, and Tibetan Buddhism.
Located in the scenic northeastern corner of Taiwan, Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery was founded by Abbot Hsin Tao (1948 – present) in 1984. Because the mountain was covered with rock outcroppings, many of which had the shape of eagles’ heads, the temple was dubbed Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery (eagle is pronounced jiou in Mandarin). The founding of the monastery acted as a catalyst for a series of related construction projects that have since been carried out. Shengshan Temple was established in 1990. In 1991, the Buddha Avenue leading to the monastery and connecting it to the mountain road off the coastal highway was completed, and in 2001, Taiwan’s first-ever Museum of World Religions was built in Yonghe District, New Taipei City. Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery features stunning views from the mountaintop; visitors can enjoy the spectacular scenery of Taiwan’s Pacific coast as well as the meditative daily rhythms in Sanskrit. The monastery’s name signifies the idea expressed in Buddhist scripture that without life, there would be no death; without death, there would be no life. The monastery complex is composed of four major sacred mountain retreats including the Wusheng, Guanyin, Puxian, and Earth Treasury Monasteries. These four retreats are primarily built of stone and incorporate elements found in the architectural styles of Indian, Theravāda, and Tibetan Buddhism, styles that separate them from typical Buddhist temples in Taiwan.
1The Gate of the Divine Eye
Located at the entrance of the monastery, the Divine Eye symbolizes the concept that through the eyes of emptiness, the nothingness of dharma is deciphered, as well as the Buddha and bodhisattvas’ observance and protection of all beings. The design of the Divine Eye is an example of the artistic beauty of Tibetan Buddhism, whereas the stone carvings on the columns are comprised of emblems used in the observances of major religions around the world, symbolizing human exploration and interpretations of the myriad natural phenomena of the infinite Universe.
2Eagle Head Rock
Eagle Mountain (originally called Laolan Mountain) contains numerous rock formations in the shape of birds’ beaks, while between Kaishan Hall and Zushi Hall, a huge rock outcropping in the shape of an eagle’s head towers up overhead. The formation resembles the eagle head rock of Ling Jiou Mountain of India, which is how Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery came by its name.
3The Great Relics Stupa of the Kṣitigarbha Buddha Monastery
The design of the Great Relics Stupa of Kṣitigarbha Buddha Monastery is based on the Stupa in Sarnath, a city located approximately ten kilometers north of Varanasi in northern India, and the place where Shakyamuni Buddha first delivered his teachings (Sarnath is also one of the four holy sites of Buddhism in India). The stone pillars in the Great Relics Stupa are encircled with the scriptures of the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūrvapraṇidhāna Sūtra, a feature found in Indian Buddhist architecture.
4Forest of Stupas
The forest of stupas was raised by followers of Indian Buddhism to honor the memory of Shakyamuni Buddha. There are fifty-three stupas surrounding the Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin) Buddha Monastery which extend as far as Cape Santiago, the easternmost point of the island of Taiwan. Each stupa contains objects such as likenesses of the Buddha or Buddhist relics, scriptures, and cassocks that symbolize the Three Jewels of Buddhism (the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha), bringing blessings and good fortune to the world.
5Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin) Buddha Monastery
At the Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin) Buddha Monastery stands a 12-meter tall statue of the Bodhisattva Tara. The statue, of cast bronze, features a black visage and a body covered in gold. In Sanskrit, “Tara” means being liberated from this world. Around the three sides of the statue’s triangular base are the twelve Buddha statues and inscribed Buddhist chants from the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment, along with a Guanyin Mantra prayer wheel, making it the most popular location at the monastery for followers to visit and pay their respects.
6The Golden Buddha
Upon learning that Wat Bowonniwet Vihara (a major Buddhist temple in Thailand) intended to create a golden Buddha, Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery initiated a joint movement to fund the casting work, in which the National Gallery of Thailand was entrusted with the creation of two golden Buddhas. One was subsequently presented as a gift to the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, while the other one was enshrined in Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery’s Huazanghai Hall in 2008.
Kaishan Hall, the Sea-viewing Platform, and Zushi Hall of Ling Jiou Mountain Monastery are restricted areas that are not open to visitors. It is recommended that visitors to the monastery wear light, comfortable clothing and carry a jacket. When travelling in a group, group members are asked to maintain an appropriate distance from one another to allow space for kneeling. When kneeling down and standing up, visitors are asked to follow the beat of the bell or the handheld singing bowl. Visitors are also asked to avoid banging their knees against the ground to avoid potential injury. Because the entire ritual is only considered complete upon conclusion of the performance of the Pariṇāmanā (merit transference or dedication), visitors are asked not to leave halfway through the ritual.2