Sliding Down the Mountainside

Lingxiao Temple 凌霄殿

The ruins of the former Língxiāo Temple 凌霄殿 can be found in the foothills of the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 in Pǔlǐ 埔里, Nántóu 南投. Likely named after the Chinese trumpet creeper, Campsis grandiflora (中文), it was founded in 1983 by local philanthropist Chen Chou 陳綢, famous across Taiwan for her charity work. The temple is quite remote, more than 10 kilometers down an old forestry road with no other exit, perched on the hillside at an elevation of 1,300 meters (for reference, the Puli Basin 埔里盆地 is around 500 meters above sea level).

Lingxiao Temple was damaged beyond repair in the catastrophic 921 Earthquake that struck central Taiwan 台灣 in 1999. Slope failure caused parts of the temple to slide down the hillside—and what remains more or less intact has settled at a disconcerting angle, rendering the entire complex unfit for human use. Nobody was harmed in the collapse, insofar as I know, and the ruins of the former temple were sealed after the disaster, presumably because the cost of demolition would be prohibitively expensive this far into the mountains.

There were no problems raising money to rebuild the temple—but the parent organization, presumably the Liang Hsien Tang Welfare Foundation 良顯堂社會福利基金會, directed those funds toward other relief efforts in the aftermath of the earthquake. Only in 2007 was the new temple consecrated about 50 meters uphill from the wreckage of the old temple. Nowadays it attracts nature-lovers, mountain bikers, and pilgrims willing to make the long trek up the disaster-prone mountain access road.

I visited the site of the former Lingxiao Temple in the summer of 2017 after hearing rumours of an earthquake-damaged temple in the mountains surrounding Puli. Nobody warned me about how dangerous it would be so I’ll be blunt: this is not a place for casual exploration and I take no responsibility for anyone who might visit. You’d be foolish not to bring proper safety gear or a drone if you go check it out—but again, I do not recommend it. If you’re interested in seeing something similar I strongly suggest visiting Wuchang Temple in nearby Jíjí 集集.