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Beigang Chaotian Temple

  • Date:2024-05-02
Chaotian Temple

Chinese Name: 北港朝天宮

Address: No. 178, Zhongshan Rd., Beigang Township, Yunlin County

Establishment: 1694

Official Website:


Did You Know That…?

In 2024, the Beigang Mazu pilgrimage was approved as one of the important national folk customs, and Beigang Chaotian Temple was recognized as the custom’s preserver.



Legend has it that a monk called Shu-pi (樹璧和尚) introduced the statue of Mazu (媽祖), the Goddess of Sea, to Taiwan from Chaotian Temple in Fujian Province, China. He established a temple for the deity in the Bengang (笨港) area, now known as the Beigang Township (北港鎮) of Yunlin County (雲林縣). According to the local record Chuluo County Annals (諸羅縣志) in 1717, the temple enshrining Mazu was named “Tian-fei (天妃).” In 1730, the temple was renovated and renamed Tianhuo Temple (天后宮), which literally means “the temple of the Queen from Heaven.”


In 1775, local officials worked with other temple committee members to launch a refurbishment project. The fundamental layout of the temple was completed at that time, and the stone-carved dragon pillar people see today was the product during the renovation. In 1812, an abbot changed the temple’s name to “Chaotian (literally meaning towards Heaven),” paying respect to the origin of the Sea Goddess.


During Japanese rule, Chaotian Temple underwent revamp several times. Affected by earthquakes in 1904 and 1906, parts of the temple’s brick wall were damaged. In 1907, Beigang’s subprefecture director Yasutake Masao (安武昌夫) initiated the repair of the building, working with the local district chief Tsai Jan-piao (蔡然標) to organize a fundraising event and hire a master carpenter/temple restorer Chen Ying-pin (陳應彬, 1864-1944) to preside over the renovation project. In 1912, the temple’s reconstruction was completed. Because of its glamour, the revamped temple was even hailed by Taiwan Daily News as Taiwan’s Nikko Toshogu Shrine (now one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan). From 1918 to 1922, Chaotian Temple expanded its spaces on account of urban reconstruction and the widening of surrounding roads, allowing itself to be devoted to other gods except for Mazu. The general layout of the present-day temple was established at that time. 


Minor renovations of the temple continued. In 1928 and 1929, the temple got two new front doors: Dragon Door (龍門) and Tiger Door (虎門). It had the ceramic figurines on the roof repaired, its interior painted, and its stone pillars renewed. During the period of Japanese colonization, the temple had been through strict regulations and oppression. From 1937 to 1940, burning spiritual money (joss paper) for deities of the temple was prohibited, and the joss paper furnace was removed from the temple. Because of Japanization in those days, some statues of deities were destroyed and others were hidden by temple authorities.


In 1985, the Chaotian Temple was registered as a Grade 2 historic site and classified as one of the national monuments in 1994 due to its architectural significance and cultural values. Because of its widespread reputation, Chaotian Temple has become the head temple for more than 300 branch temples worshipping Mazu across Taiwan. Regarded as the epitome of Taiwan’s temple architecture, the beam structure and wood carvings in the temple were all made by eminent craftsmen. The most representative work inside Chaotian Temple is the octagon-shaped caisson, an architectural feature typically found in the ceiling of temples. It is generally a sunken panel set into the ceiling, often layered and richly decorated. The caisson was built through the use of the complicated dougong (斗栱) structure. Dougong is a structural element of interlocking wooden brackets. The pieces are fitted together by joints alone without glue or fasteners, requiring precise carpentry. Chaotian Temple’s caisson is the first of its kind to appear in Taiwan and therefore has very high academic value in architectural history.


Chaotian Temple is commonly filled with many worshippers all year round. Two popular celebratory events that the temple holds take place annually on the 15th day of the first lunar month (also known as Lantern Festival) and on the 23rd day of the third lunar month (Mazu’s birthday). Especially on the birthday of the goddess, throngs of devotees pour into Beigang to participate in a grand religious procession, which is a long-standing tradition renowned as the Beigang Mazu Pilgrimage.