Spiritually motivated travel is perhaps the oldest form of tourism. In Greater China, Taiwan remains the most vibrant religious culture centre, where centuries-old folk temples, especially in Tainan and Lugang, add colour and beauty to urban landscapes.
Taiwan's tourist industry is booming - international arrivals more
than doubled to 7.31 million from 2006 until last year - and religious
sites have reported growing numbers of visitors from Hong Kong, the
mainland and Singapore.
The monastic and educational complex at Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM),
23km northeast of central Taipei, received about 12,000 non-Taiwanese
visitors last year, says Bhikkhuni Guo-jiann Shih, director of DDM's
department of international relations and development. DDM is also the
global headquarters of a Buddhist foundation with affiliates in North
America, Britain and Hong Kong. According to Bhikkhuni Guo-jiann Shih,
non-Taiwanese visitors are especially interested in tours of the
complex, retreats and how the Chan form of Buddhism is practised.
At the end of 2011, another of Taiwan's major Buddhist organisations
opened to the public what is perhaps the island's most striking
religious monument. Fo Guang Shan's Buddha Memorial Centre houses a
tooth, which the faithful believe was retrieved from the ashes after
Buddha was cremated in 543BC. The centre, which cost an estimated US$300
million to build, welcomed 8 million visitors last year. At the
original monastery next to the centre, monks, nuns and volunteers gave
guided tours to more than 240,000 people last year, including more than
150,000 from the mainland...
This article appeared last Friday in a special report on Taiwan published by the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's leading English-language newspaper. To read the whole article, click here. The photo above was taken at dawn recently at Henan Temple, Hualien County.
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