Huoshan Biyun Temple
Huoshan Biyun Temple Introduction
Bicyclists face a steep climb up Pillow Mountain to get to Huoshan Biyun Temple, but if you can make it up to the hill, you will be treated to phenomenal views out across the Chianan Plain to the Taiwan Strait. Time your visit for the late afternoon, and you’ll get to see the sunset into the sea. Stay into the night and you can watch the lights of the city blink on and view the moon as it illuminates the landscape.
Huoshan Biyun Temple is located about halfway up Pillow Mountain, not far from Guanziling Hot Spring. Founded in 1798, the temple gets its name—Huoshan means ‘volcano’—from the natural fire-geyser known as Fire and Water Grotto that’s a short walk across the mountain from here. The temple is classed as a grade 3 historic landmark. Visitors would do well to plan on spending two or three hours exploring the temple area along with Fire and Water Grotto before settling in to view the sunset.
Huoshan Biyun is essentially a Buddhist temple, but it also caters to a lot of local folk religious traditions and beliefs. This mixing of religions leaves visitors with an entirely different feeling from Daxian Temple, the large and well-funded Buddhist temple and monastery situated at the foot of the same mountain. Less planned and more organic in its design, Huoshan Biyun Temple has that great mix of kitsch and beautiful antique artwork that makes Taiwanese temples such fantastic places to visit.
When you reach the courtyard area in front of the temple gate, you’ll find that you can go in two directions: up to the temple and down to the park. Visitors who make it down to the Guanyin statue at the base of the park will discover a series of pavilions behind the statue built one behind the other up the slope in a long line that points directly at the peak of the mountain. Although they can’t be seen from this vantage point, the main temple buildings are lined up on the same axis. In Feng Shui terms, this alignment is extremely powerful, particularly on Pillow Mountain with its pronounced geothermal properties that are reminiscent of dragons and Chi Lins.
Back up at the entrance to the temple, visitors are greeted by two blue-painted guardian lions. Unlike your average Taiwan guardian lion, these guys are smiling, and if you look around, you’ll find that this is true of most of the lion statues here.
The temple’s Main Hall is quite old, with gorgeous woodwork. The carpenters, carvers, and painters who built this hall were true artists. Look overhead and you will see a myriad of beautiful details, from the enormous hanging oil lantern to the carved and decorated barrel vault ceiling to the winged warriors holding up the main crossbeam, and more. The hall contains several notable artifacts, including a burner for lighting incense that is fueled by the mountain’s own natural gas reserves.
A second hall to the right features a large effigy of Buddha that blinks, and the hillside behind the Main Hall is studded with a pretty wild array of statues depicting the Eighteen Immortals flanking a huge Guanyin. At the top of the stairs behind them, you’ll find the path to the Fire and Water Grotto. This is an easy and enjoyable 1300 meter walk through the woods and highly recommended, although bug spray may be in order. Before you go, fill up your water bottle from the natural spring that gushes out of the dragon’s mouth in the wall behind the temple. The water has been tested and certified as pure and clean for drinking, and like the rest of the temple, it has great Feng Shui.
An Introduction to Huoshan Biyun Temple
Biyun Temple is located halfway up Guanziling and sits east to west. Behind it rises the peak of Pillow Mountain. Ahead the Chianan Plain stretches out into the distance. The temple is surround by lush, green vegetation and at times is cloaked by beguiling mists.
Biyun Temple sits on same mountain vein that feeds the nearby Fire and Water Grotto. Underneath, abundant natural gas deposits can be found, hence the name Huoshan (volcano) Biyun Temple. The temple exudes a solemn religious atmosphere; however, its buildings and grounds are also pleasing to the eye and poetically picturesque. Biyun Temple is one of Taiwan’s most spiritual locations, a place for religious adherents to participate in meditation in the search for enlightenment.
時光荏冉，歲月如梭，如此過了數年，由於應祥師通徹孔孟之學及勘輿之術，發現於枕頭山南麓半山腰有一處「半壁吊燈火」之靈穴更適合靈修參禪；應祥師遂獨自帶著觀音佛祖上山，披荊斬棘，草建茅堂，現今正殿是處「鳳穴」，後山南北兩側山脈是為鳳翅；「半壁吊燈火」靈穴即今三寶殿前香爐位置，兩穴互為文集；相互共構營造成三百餘年之靈山古剎。由於碧雲寺財力拮据歷經嘉慶、咸豐及光緒等年間次第興建完成，本寺右側豎立一塊嘉慶十六年（ 一八一一 ） 的「玉枕火山碧雲寺募為緣業碑記」，以資佐證，碑記內容大意如下：碧雲寺為嘉邑名勝，觀音大士英靈遠庇早已膾炙人口，然而寺無緣業，僧家難為無米之炊。嘉慶十六年，張士輝等二十善信，計鳩銀三百二十六圓，買糞箕湖山腳墾田，大武龍派社番目荒埔園，永為寺中香煙，以迓神庥。
In the 40th year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1701), the temple’s founder, Master Ying-xiang brought a Guanyin Bodhisattva statue to Taiwan from the famous Kaiyuan Temple in Fujian’s Quanzhou Prefecture. He arrived in Zhuzigang (today’s Yongan District in Kaohsiung City) before residing in Ahgongdian (today’s Gangshan District in Kaohsiung City). After a period of time, looking for a more suitable location for meditation, Master Ying-xiang carried the statue south, deep into the wilds, before deciding on a resting place at the foot of Pillow Mountain (today’s Siancao Village in Baihe District, Tainan City).
Months later, thanks to his study of works of Confucius and Mencius and his skill in the art of fengshui (geomancy), Master Ying-xiang discovered a point halfway up the southern foot of the Pillow Mountain that had the markings of a place suitable for spiritual practice. Master Ying-xiang braved the dense vegetation to carry the Guanyin statue up the mountain. At the location, he built a thatched hut in which to house the statue. Today the central incense burner of the Tree Treasures Hall stands at this exact spot.
Master Ying-xiang discovered other auspicious locations, including a “phoenix point” lying in-between the northern and southern ranges of the nearby mountains which formed attendant “phoenix wings.” Today, the temple’s main hall is located on top of this phoenix point. Prior to the construction of the Three Treasures Hall and the main hall, scholars gathered to study at the phoenix point and next to the Guanyin statue in its thatched hut.
Due to financial constraints, construction of the temple extended through the reigns of Emperor Jiaqing, Emperor Xianfeng, and Emperor Guangxu. On the right side of the temple a stele was erected in the 16th year of Emperor Jiaqing (1811) titled: A Record of Donations to Huoshan Biyun Temple on Pillow Mountain. Listing a record of financial assistance to the temple, the stele states:
Biyun Temple is a famous temple of the city of Chiayi. Its statue of Guanyin is known far and wide. However the temple was poor and its monks unable to add to its facilities. In the 16th year of Emperor Jiaqing, Zhang Shi-hui and 20 other believers gathered 326 silver taels to purchase the area of Fenqi Lake at the foot of Pillow Mountain, land that once belonged to the Tevorang. Here the believers constructed a temple to invite the eternal protection and blessing of the gods.
In 1997, the Ministry of the Interior declared Biyun Temple as a Class 3 Historic Site. In 2000, the county government formulated a plan to repair major parts of the temple. Work started on the temple’s Guanyin Hall, Mountain Gate, and courtyard—all listed as historic sites—in May of 2001 before finishing in January of 2005.
Rice Gushing Hole
One of the most popular legends of Biyun Temple is the famous “rice-gushing hole.” The hole is located on the southern side of the Mountain Gate’s outer wall. Among the wall’s stones, a small crevasse can be seen. Legend has it that just enough rice for the temple’s inhabitants to eat would gush out of the hole every day. One night, a greedy monk dug into the hole and took the rice as his own. After that, the hole never produced rice again. The story is a reminder for all not to be greedy in life.
Biyun Temple sits east to west. At its rear lies Pillow Mountain upon which the temple sits. To the front, unobstructed views of the Chianan Plain below can be had. Far to the west, the waters of the Taiwan Strait can be seen. Due to its elevation, the temple is an excellent place to enjoy sunset views. During sunset, the sun shines onto the far-away waters, reflecting off the waves as it bathes the entire landscape in a brilliant red glow. It’s a sight that nurtures the soul and warms the heart. At night, the same location affords visitors the sight of thousands of lights glimmering in the city below.
Three Treasures Hall
The Three Treasures Hall is a Buddhist hall built in the northern architectural style of China. Construction started in 1970 and was completed in 1975 at a cost of $10 million NTD. The Hall adds to the overall grandeur of the temple complex and has become a top tourist draw for Guanziling.
Qingxu Shrine was originally known as Tiangong Temple and is built in the southern architectural style of China. During the first year of the reign of Emperor Xianfeng (1851), Chiayi County Military Camp Commander Hong Zhi-gao, moved by the compassion of the Buddha, donated 1000 taels, with another 1000 taels being raised by other believers. These 2000 taels were donated to Biyun Temple which built Tiangong Temple. Today, at the original location of the Tiangong Temple, stands a shrine to Namo Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva. In 1950, temple officers including Chen Cheng-yi and the temple’s abbot, Master Lin Jing, with the help of the temple’s supporters, moved Tiangong Temple piece by piece. The relocation was finished in 1954 at a cost of over $60,000 NTD. After its relocation, the temple was renamed Qingxu Shrine.
Jeweled Lotus Courtyard
This courtyard is located behind the temple’s main hall and in front of the Tree Treasures Hall. Dominating the courtyard is a long stone wall in which 18 arhats have been embedded. In front of the wall is a lotus pool in which stands a towering statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva. To the left and right of the pool are shaded pavilions for visitors. This place of religious succor offers opportunities for prayer, as well as spectacular views. Whether one’s reason for visiting is spiritual or touristic in nature, a visit to the courtyard is a moving experience all the same.
Pillow Mountain Hiking Trail
Behind Biyun Temple, the hillside offers visitors a large stretch of elegant scenery. On the south side of the Three Treasures Hall begins a trail from which visitors can hike up Pillow Mountain (also called Yu-an Mountain or Jade Mountain). The trail takes visitors through a relaxing forest terrain and, at the mountain’s peak, visitors can enjoy the sight of verdant forests stretching far below.
Fire and Water Spring
Also called Fire and Water Grotto, this popular tourist site is located 1km east of Biyun Temple and can be reached by following marked trails. Visitors marvel at the geological miracle of water and fire appearing in the same location, making it a must-see destination for any visitor to Biyun Temple.
Farther down the mountain, visitors will find Biyun Park and park’s two famous large boulders. The eastern-most boulder is called Lotus Rock, while the one to the west is known as Place of Study. Lotus Rock is distinguishable from its brother by a large crevasse at its center. In the past, the crevasse was home to a stone lotus always on the verge of blooming. Today the plant is gone. On top of the boulders are centuries-old Banyan trees whose maze of roots are slowly engulfing the boulders.
Place of Study
According to legend, in admiration of Zen Master Ying-xiang’s moral ethics, Qing Dynasty Confucian scholar Lin Qi-bang, along with eight other scholars and a young assistant, visited to the Zen master. They built a thatched hut on top this large boulder and there they assiduously studied under Master Ying-xiang. In the 11th year of Emperor Jiaqing (1806), Lin Qi-bang and the others descend the mountain to return to Fuzhou to take the provincial level state exam. All of them, including the young assistant, passed the difficult examination. Therefore, in years following, the boulder became known as Place of Study or, more colloquially, School Boy Rock.
Following a wooden boardwalk down from Biyun Temple, visitors will come to Biyun Park. In the park stands a statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva in a lotus pond. Scattered throughout the park are also shaded pavilions and trails for the visitor to enjoy, making it an excellent place to relax.
No. 1, Huoshan, Xiancao Vil., Baihe Dist., Tainan City
+886 6 6852811