tucked away up in the hills of Hsinchu is one of the most unique places we've come across in Taiwan: the Pu Tian temple + statue gardens. the temple itself is really a series of temples and shrines, dedicated to various deities. one small area is set aside for single persons to come and pray, usually with their mothers, for a love match. another [less popular] shrine is to the god of the underworld.
the largest portion of the temple sits beneath an enormous statue of Guan Gong. according to what little I was able to find out about this place from the internet, the 120m tall statue is actually a museum. I think the entrance is inside the temple... and since I'm not entirely clear on etiquette regarding tourists and cameras... I probably won't be finding it anytime soon.
to get to the first section of the gardens, you have to cross the temple courtyard and then navigate through a warehouse-like building that is packed full of enormous wooden carvings and elaborate benches. this building also contains a shrine and another mini-temple area. [does it sound like I'm describing a video game - some new Legend of Zelda level?]
the other "gardens" are really a series of winding paths and tile stairs throughout the steep hills west of the temple. most of the statues pictured here are eastern in origin, but the gardens contain a wide variety of cultures [including a replicas of the statue of liberty, medival knights, greek goddesses, hindu deities, mythical beasts, african natives, and a stegosaurus skeleton.]
I think part of the charm is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. statues are displayed both in odd groupings - english hounds with asian lanterns and egyptian queens - or in collections by the dozen. there are piles of broken bits and pieces, and seemingly random items in storage or simply forgotten. you can wander for hours, spotting new treasures every time you visit.
the gardens go on for quite some time, though many of the paths have been closed off or have grown over with plants. there is one museum building open, and quite a few others that are blocked off. in the open museum you can find elaborate carvings and models, animal skeletons, teapots, and jade carriages. who knows what's hiding in the closed off portions?
I think at one time the gardens must have been a popular attraction, but for some reason I can't find any kind of official documentation on the internet. [even on google maps, it lists "Zhèngzàichuán Memorial Park" as the name of the site, but that term doesn't turn up anything.] it makes me wonder... where did all this stuff come from? and why has so much of it been discarded and piled up rather than preserved?
regardless of the mystery surrounding this place [or perhaps because of it] it has become one of my favorite places in Hsinchu.