Nature Loving Wonderland is co-managed by two organizations—a recently established religious movement, Maitreya Great Tao, and the secular International Nature Loving Federation. Maitreya Great Tao is one of the very few religious movements that have been exported abroad from the Chinese community. This new organization is an excellent example of how traditional folk religions have evolved and developed in modern Taiwan. The design of Nature Loving Wonderland infuses cultural and aesthetic elements from a variety of architectural styles—traditional, modern, organic, and environmentally friendly designs—with religious significance. It is also home to the world’s tallest bronze statue of Maitreya Buddha. With its seventy-two meter tall statue, Nature Loving Wonderland is a modern Hsinchu landmark rich in cultural and artistic value.
Maitreya Great Tao worships the God of Enlightenment (míngmíng shàngdì) and Maitreya Buddha. In 1987, Wang Hao-te founded the organization and set up the Providence Maitreya Buddha Institute near the Hsinchu Science and Industrial Park. He began spreading his message both at home and abroad under the name of “Xiantian Great Tao,” meaning the origin and way of all things. After Wang passed away, his successors, Miao-Ru Yan and Ci-Guang Wang, renamed his school of thought “Maitreya Great Tao” and in the year 2000, registered the Maitreya Great Tao Foundation with the Ministry of the Interior. At the end of that year, they moved their religious center to Emei Township in Hsinchu County and began planning the construction of Nature Loving Wonderland of Maitreya Great Tao. After eleven years of construction, it was completed in 2011 on the lakeside of Emei Lake. The gateway unveiling ceremony of the magnificent entrance into the site took place in the same year, immediately making it a local landmark and a holy place among believers. Nature Loving Wonderland is now the main administrative building for the Maitreya Great Tao Foundation, the Providence Maitreya Buddha Institute, and the secular International Nature Loving Federation.
The gateway (sānmén) is located in front of the complex’s Fortune Square. It is known as the Gateway of the Universal Family, and its three openings are called the Entrance of Happiness, the Entrance of Good Fortune, and the Entrance of Joy. A pair of bronze hands holds a replica of the planet Earth on the top of the twenty-two meter tall gate. The gate structure is twenty-eight meters tall and nearly ten meters in depth. Unlike most heavily decorated traditional temple complex gates, the Gateway is solid and simple in design to express the spirit and concept of a return to nature and environmental consciousness. On each side of the gate is a “Universal Fortune Clock” with the twelve numbers replaced by the words “fortunate”, “joyful”, “cheerful”, “casual elegant”, “delightful”, “amicable”, “bright”, “lucky”, “guileless”, “faithful”, “free” and “actualized.” It is a “clock” that hopes to engender a sense of happiness and well-being every hour of the day.
Passing through the Gateway of the Universal Family is a broad avenue known as Fortune Boulevard. Various bluestone or bronze smiling statues of Maitreya Buddha, Guanyin, and Mazu line either side, welcoming visiting guests. The boulevard leads into Fortune Square, which has a capacity of twenty thousand people for large-scale events. The square is surrounded by hundreds of native Taiwanese white pine trees, seen as symbols of longevity, prosperity, and perseverance.
The architectural designs of the main shrine and the Hall of Holy Antecedents which stands behind it are a combination of both Chinese and Western architecture. The roof eaves, for example, follow a traditional Chinese design based on the character “人” (rénzìyán) while the columns are a stylized version of Greek Corinthian columns. A large amount of glass tile and bronze latticework is also used to engender both cultural and artistic beauty. Unlike the complicated decorations of traditional Buddhist and Taoist temple architecture, Nature Loving Wonderland uses simple lines to express harmony and unity with nature. It integrates the essential elements of a variety of architectural styles and combines traditional, modern, organic, and environmentally friendly design with religious concepts and the culture of Maitreya Great Tao.
4The Statue of Maitreya Buddha
Standing above the Universal Family Cultural Exhibition Center is a large statue of Maitreya Buddha, a landmark of Emei Township in Hsinchu County. The statue measures 56.7 meters tall with a 15.3-meter-tall base, totaling 72 meters in all. The pure bronze statue is the tallest bronze statue of a Buddha not only in the country, but also in the whole world. He holds the planet Earth in his right hand and prayer beads in his left hand. The medallion on his necklace is inscribed with the word “kindness” (cí) as a reminder to everyone to love and protect the Earth, and to respect and value all living things. The Universal Family Cultural Exhibition Center housed in the building beneath the statue contains a “nature-loving choir”—eleven lovely small bronze statues of Maitreya Buddha singing out their love of nature. The statues, including an elegant horse-riding Maitreya Buddha and another one playing an instrument, form an interesting tableau.
5The Main Shrine
Inside the main hall is a fifteen meter tall statue of a sitting Maitreya Buddha. The wall behind it is made of beige-colored Egyptian stone to symbolize the widespread kindliness of the Maitreya Buddha. The high ceiling and stylized Corinthian columns create a spectacular feeling of space and magnificence. On top of the main hall is a transparent conical dome, nearly fifty meters above ground. An ancient Chinese character, “柬” (jiǎn), cast in bronze, measures seven meters in length. During the Shang Dynasty (1558 BCE – 1046 BCE), this character represented the God of Enlightenment (míngmíng shàngdì), believed to be the origin of all life and the heavenly mother of all human beings.
6The Maitreya Hall of Varied Portrayals
Nature Loving Wonderland mainly worships Maitreya Buddha. In order to ensure that each visitor can experience the special joy one feels when seeing Maitreya Buddha, there are hundreds of sculptures of Maitreya Buddha made from Chinese yew, teak, and camphor inside the Maitreya Hall of Varied Portrayals. Some are paired with words of advice or warning. The multitudinous sculptures of the Maitreya Buddha impart a sense of joy to visitors to the hall.
Nature Loving Wonderland is closed on Mondays. Groups of fifteen or more should plan to visit between Tuesday and Friday, and book in advance by phone. Individual visitors and small groups are welcome on weekends as well. Visitors are required to follow a dress code which prohibits the wearing of slippers, high heels, shorts, short skirts, tank tops, or other revealing outfits. Visitors are not permitted to bring non-vegetarian food or alcohol. Freeing/abandoning of animals and holding wedding photo shoots are also prohibited at Nature Loving Wonderland.