Monday, October 22, 2012

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Donghe Bell Tower, Taipei

10/22/2012 Taiwan Explorer

The Donghe Bell Tower or Donghe Zen Temple Bell Tower 東和禪寺鐘樓 in Taipei's Zhongzheng District is one of those hidden gems I have not known about, despite extensively researching every bit of the city and going on several walking tours. It was my wife, who tipped me off and brought me here. This historic gem is not that hard to find, though: You exit at Shandao MRT Station Exit 2 and walk southwards along the Linsen South Road for about 10 minutes. It's relatively close to Liberty Square and East Gate. So there I was in the middle of Zhongzheng's less known Western part, that's full of schools and universities, spotting the biggest and best preserved bell tower/gate in Taipei, that dates back to the times Japanese occupation in Taiwan (a smaller gate is found near Rinzai Zen Temple). It was impressive and sad at the same time. Impressive for obvious reasons, sad, because the original temple complex was destroyed to make space for a Youth Activity Center and a junior high school.

The history of the Donghe Bell Tower

The Donghe Bell Tower was built in 1930 by the Japanese and was a part of the Donghe Zen Temple 東和禪寺, that dates back to 1908. The temple complex fell into decay after the war and big portions of the former temple were destroyed to make way for new buildings (the very common story of post-WW II Taipei). There's only one article in English, that explains the whole history of the temple very well, check it out on Culture.tw.

A historic photo of the bell tower, that served as an entrance (source).

You can also check a Taiwanese blogger's post with photos of the bell tower before the renovation and another one from 1963. You can see two photos from the temple's final demolition in 1993 here and here. These photos obviously show how filthy the whole area was at that time - it was full of illegal houses. Some of them were removed, some of them are remaining, check the photo at the bottom.

Let's see some of my photos of the Donghe Bell Tower:

It was a bit tough to take pic of the whole tower, but here it is.

The former entrance to the temple is now leading you to a coffee shop.

A side view.

The beautiful roof.

A stone lantern.

The Youth Activity Center soaring behind the gate.

The wood work is impressive.

A detail.

The backside of the gate, the stone foundation.

Walking along this fence brings you to the remains of the Donghe Zen Temple.

Remains of the Donghe Zen Temple

Read my post about the Donghe Zen Temple here>> (coming up)

This is the temple as seen from across the road.

Not sure, if this housing is illegal, but it doesn't look good. It's next to the temple.

In conclusion

Unlike most of the remaining architecture from the Japanese occupation (1895-1945), that copied and borrowed elements from European neo-classical styles such as the Guest House, the Donghe Bell Tower is one of the few examples of traditional Japanese architecture, which again is rooted in traditional Chinese architecture from the Tang Dynasty. I'm very grateful, that this old gate was preserved and I would recommend tourists to have a short walk from the Liberty Square and check this gate out (here's a map, it shows you how close is the National Concert Hall - only 6 min of walk according to Google).


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Map and useful information

▷ RELATED INFORMATION

Pinyin: Dōnghé Chánsì zhōnglóu
Related website: Homepage
My useful tips: Transportation in Taipei
Admission fee: None

▷ RELATED POSTS

Puji Temple
Rinzai Zen Temple

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