|There are numerous
possibilities for temple layouts. Here are a few of the more
Bold-faced words are defined in
One-hall temples may be fairly traditional in appearance, often
having a utilitarian courtyard in front, entered by a simple
gate. In lieu of a central courtyard, many of these temples have
an opening in the roof of the hall, creating in effect a courtyard
within the hall. Some of these have later been enclosed with tin
or other simple material, to protect the furnishings from the
rain. In any case, these temples often have some kind of roof
opening to permit the escape of smoke from the incense.
The main statue will be on
the far wall, often surrounded by others. The usual Offering Tables,
Censers, and Kneelers will be in front of it. There may be
a door on one side or the other of the statue, leading to an office or
Along either side of the room will be counters for the sale of Oil,
Incense, and other offerings, as well as--often--a Fortune
Teller. There are also often "side
altars"--simply tables occupied by one or more statues, sometimes
with their own Offering Table and Censer.
One-hall temples are usually deeper than they are wide; they may face in
any direction, as they depend more on their urban environment than do
These small temples are often crowded, and overflowing with smoke.
One cannot help but feel the vital pulse of Belief, even in such a
Storefront temples in Hong Kong:
Open-front (left) and with a door
A variation on the One-Hall layout, many "folk" temples are
simply located in one building in a row of stores. These will
often have an open front, but may have a proper doorway. As they
are usually on the first floor of a multi-story building, there can be
no opening in the roof; the open front permits the escape of incense
A variation on the one-hall style, in which two or more halls
dedicated to different deities are located side by side, and
share a common courtyard. In most cases, at least one of
the halls will be dedicated to Guan Yin.
called "two-hall, one-courtyard." In this style, there
are simply two halls separated by a courtyard (which may
be enclosed at the ends by walls or by more utilitarian
buildings). There are often actually two more courtyards: one in
front of the first hall, and the next between the first hall and the
second hall. Often, the first hall serves as a gateway to the
second; at some temples I have simply called them "the Main Gate"
and "the Main Hall," but in this design the
first hall is more properly called the "Entrance Hall."
Two-hall temples are usually wider
than they are deep; they usually face South.
Gong Temple, Nantou
called "three-hall, two-courtyard." This is the grandest
style, common in Buddhist temples; here is an excellent
description of just such a temple. In this style, one
encounters an alternation: hall - courtyard - hall -
courtyard - hall. There are often actually two more courtyards:
one in front of the first hall, and the next between the first hall and
the second hall. As shown on the right, in some cases the halls
are not entered, but rather are walked around. In this case
visitors look into the hall through the doorway.
Three-hall temples are usually
wider than they are deep; they usually face South
Links to examples will be added as
pages are developed.