Located in the coastal township of Sanzhi (northern Taiwan), the shelled temple was built by believers of the Taipei-based Foofu Hilltop Temple Organization in 1996. After years of construction, the shrine is mainly used to worship Ji Gong, a legendary monk, and 18 legendary arhats (holy disciples of Buddha).
Unlike other monks, Ji Gong ate meat and drank wine, often over-indulging on the latter. He is often depicted with a smile on his face, carrying a magical fan and a bottle of wine (as shown in the first picture below). Though a flawed deity, he is very popular in the Taoist community for his compassionate nature. With his mischief-making, he was sentenced at one point to serve 360 years in the undersea Dragon King’s palace.
With a revelation from Ji Gong, a Taiwanese believer of the organization named Lee Shu-tsong, along with other believers, began collecting shells, coral and agate to build a temple simulating the underwater palace to recreate his imprisonment.
The shelled temple seems to offer solace to worshipers seeking advice from worries about health, wealth, education or business. Today, a large number of worshippers and tourists visit the temple daily, so much so that the owners are considering relocating it elsewhere since the space has outgrown the daily influx of visitors arriving on tour buses.
The following photos were taken by Tao Bing-hua, a Taiwanese amateur photographer. He said, “I admire the sincere mind of the religious believers who built the temple by taking advantage of nature’s raw materials and innovative designs. This makes the Shelled Temple a museum of shells.”
The temple is located at No. 69, Erpingding, Yuan-shan Village, Sanzhi Township, New Taipei City, Taiwan.