Wong Tai Sin Temple is located at 586 6th Avenue, in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, Northwestern San Francisco, state California. This temple is considered to be Buddhist, although it is related, actually, to several religions, particularly Daoism (also known as Taoism) and Buddhism. Being two leading ones in the Orient, Daoism and Buddhism have different founders but a lot in common. For example, both of them do not have any Messiah, a savior or a creator of the world.
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Both Taoism and Buddhism include elements of religion and philosophy. Taoism pursues living in harmony with nature and the great Tao, which is the reason, the beginning and the ending of everything: “all things are produced by the Tao” (Lao Tzu and Bradshaw-Jones 73). According to Taoism, all people are good by nature, so, all we should do is to allow ourselves to be good. Buddhism understands the concept of the highest happiness as the achieving of enlightenment and so-called Nirvana (Weeraperuma 169).
Besides, while Taoism perceives our existence as something basically good, Buddhism “adopt an attitude to life… which sees it as suffering, as the result of desire, and as something from which to escape” in order to attach Nirvana (Cooper 142).
Still, both Taoism and Buddhism use the same statues and pictures. The visitors of Wong Tai Sin Temple can find out that it belongs to Daoism and Buddhism since it has particular symbols and images, as well as the form of worship, which convey its unique religious character. In the temple, you can find pictures of Wong Tai Sin (translated as “the Great Immortal Sage Wong”), a Chinese deity whom this temple is dedicated to (Leeming, Madden, and Marlan 981).
There are also pictures and statues of other famous figures, such as Guan Yin (deity of mercy), Guan Gung, different faces of Buddha, etc. Visitors can pray to them using peculiar kneeling pads and burning traditional incense sticks. There is also a possibility to buy particular Buddhist items blessed by monks, which are aimed to protect a person whom they belong to.
As for the architecture, this temple is not so beautifully ornamented as the one in Hong Kong, but interior design is still impressive. Besides, the structure of Taoist temple buildings is preserved: there is a reception room, a divine hall, a place for reading scriptures and an altar (“Taoist Architecture” par. 1).
At the end of my report, I would like to mention that there are several sacred details at the temple, which I have found to be personally appealing. Firstly, although this temple is rather small, it is very authentic. Secondly, besides worshipping and praying to different deities, visitors of Wong Tai Sin Temple can also ask for their fortune. This practice is widely spread in Taoist and Buddhist temples and usually called kau cim (“Kau Cim” par. 1).
Frankly speaking, kau cim predictions seemed very accurate and precise to me. Finally, I like how Taoism and Buddhism do not disclaim each other, and how the pictures of Wong Tai Sin can be placed just next to Buddha’s statues. I like that after visiting this temple and after the worship, my mind somehow clears. Besides, I have also admired the way visitors are treated there, how open and helpful the staff is. They will always give a piece of advice, tell you how to pray and so on. I would probably come there again in the future.
Cooper, Jean C. An Illustrated Introduction to Taoism: The Wisdom of the Sages, Bloomington, Indiana: World Wisdom, 2010. Print. Kau Cim n.d.
Lao Tzu and Colin Bradshaw-Jones. The Tao Te Ching, Eighty-one Maxims from the Father of Taoism, Maesteg, Wales: Infinity Café, 2006. Print.
Leeming, David A., Kathryn Madden, and Stanton Marlan. Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion: L-Z, New York, New York: Springer Science & Business Media, 2010. Print.
Taoist Architecture n.d.
Weeraperuma, Susunaga. Nirvana: The Highest Happiness, New Delhi, India: Vedams eBooks Private Limited, 2003. Print.