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Transformative Travel: The Advantages of Many Gods

“What’s the most soulful place in Taipei?” I asked a Taiwanese woman whose English name is Norma.“Come with me,” she said, and she led me to the much-beloved Longshan Temple in the Manka district of Taiwan’s multifaceted and fascinating capital city.We wandered through a maze of brilliantly hued and carved architecture, past a haze of smoke from incense burners and altars laden with floral and fruit offerings, past the central shrine, where Quan Yin, the goddess of mercy, dwells.“There was an earthquake in 1815,” Norma said. “The area was destroyed but Quan Yin survived. In World War II, the Allied bombs hit the temple, but she was not damaged at all. This shows how effective the temple is. It is a special place to us.”“So it’s a temple to Quan Yin?” I asked.“She’s the central goddess, but there are many other Buddhist and Taoist gods here.”Norma then led me to a rear hall where a smorgasbord of gods had separate altars. There was the god of medicine (before there were hospitals and good medical care, people prayed to him and even got prescriptions from him); the god of literature (he’s a favorite with …

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