Temples to Confucius are a concrete symbol of Chinese Confucian culture. As everyone knows, the Confucius Temple of Qu Fu, Shantung, is the largest and most ancient of China's Confucius temples. Located at the original site of Confucius’ residence, it has grown over the course of some 2,000 years to a magnificent scale, and has also served as a blueprint for Confucius temples in every province of China. By the Ming and Ching Dynasties, most counties and municipalities in China had built Confucius temples, which were called Confucian schools, to serve as centers for Confucian study and education in general. The origins of the Confucius Temple of Taipei can be traced back to 1875 when the Qing court established Taipei as a prefecture city for Northern Taiwan. In 1879, construction began in Taipei City, including the literary and martial temples which were to be built inside the southern gate of the city. Both temples faced south, with the Literary Temple on the left and the Martial Temple on the right.
Taiwan military commissioner Xia Xian Lun and Taipei prefect Chen Xing Ju oversaw the construction of the Taipei Confucius Temple. In 1881 the Da Cheng Temple, Yi Gate and Chong Sheng Shrine were finished. In the second year, the gentry of Taipei suggested asking for donations, and work began on the Li Gate, the Yi Path, the Ling Xing Gate, the Pangong Pond and the Wan Rengon Wall. The magnificent Taipei Confucius Temple was finally completed in 1884.
During the time when Liu Ming-chuan was the governor of Taiwan, the temple would hold a major ceremony every year, an important event for the literati. In 1891, after Shao You Lian was appointed as governor, additional ceremonial objects were imported from Fu Jian, and musicians and performers who understood the rites were hired to come to Taipei to teach.
However, in 1894, war broke out between China and Japan, and Taiwan was ceded to the Japanese. The following year, Japanese troops occupied Taiwan and the period of Japanese occupation began. During the first few years of Japanese occupation, resistance was strong. The Japanese military occupied the Taipei Confucius Temple, and damaged and destroyed most of the memorial tablets of Confucius and of other ancient saints and sages. Many of the ceremonial objects and musical instruments were also lost, and the buildings gradually fell into a state of disrepair. The Confucius ceremonies ceased.
In 1907, the Japanese tore down the temple to build the Taipei First Girls High School. Not long after, they built a pavilion within the Japanese school, and put inside it the carved memorial tablets of Confucius and other ancient saints and sages. Every year on Confucius birthday, the pavilion would be opened up so that the students and teachers at the school could worship.
In January 1917, the Ocean Society of Poets and the Da Zheng Association organized the Chong Sheng Society. Kimura Tadashi, Japanese, was made President, and two members of the Taipei gentry, Yen Yun-nien and Li Ching-sheng, were made Vice Presidents. Every year, on Confucius birthday (the 27th day of the eight month of the lunar calendar) the tablets were respectfully taken out of the pavilion of the Japanese school and sent to the Tataocheng Public school, the Penglai Public school, the Lungshan Temple at Mengchia or the Paoan Temple at Da Longdong for worship ceremonies to be held. Although the organizers of these ceremonies wanted to rebuild the Confucius Temple, their wish could not be realized because of the lack of money.
In January 1925, Huang Tsan-chun, Chen Pei-ken and Koo Hsien-jung, three members of the Taipei gentry, joined forces and invited about 200 officials, gentry, and businessmen to a discussion meeting to decide how to collect donations. In February, the Taipei Confucius Temple Construction Preparation Office was established to handle all matters regarding fund-raising and construction. At last, after ten years, the Taipei Confucius Temple was to be rebuilt. In March, Chen Pei-ken donated 72,000 square feet of farm land, Koo Hsien-jung bought and donated 36,000 square feet of land, and the preparation office used the collected donations to buy another 36,000 square feet of land. This total of more than 180,000 square feet of land was to be the site for the new Confucius Temple.
After the problems with land and finances were solved, the next step was to find an architect. At that time, no one in Taiwan had much experience in building Confucius temples; therefore they decided to hire someone from the mainland. Back in 1920, famous craftsman Wang Yi-shun came to Taipei to repair the Lungshan temple, Mengchia Temples and the city God Temple. His designs were widely admired, and so they decided to hire him as the chief engineer for the Confucius Temple, to be responsible for design and construction.
Wang Yi-shun was from Xiti Village, Huian County, Quan Zhou, and was the most famous carpenter during the late Qing Dynasty, known for building temples in Fu Jian Province. He took many of the best features of Southern Chinese architecture and displayed them in the Taipei Confucius Temple. Thus, the Taipei Confucius Temple can be described as a typical example of Southern Fu Jianese architecture. At the beginning of the construction, a professional was hired to check on the geomancy of the site. Construction began in 1927, and in April 1928 a ceremony was held for laying the main beam of the Da Cheng Temple, and work began on the Yi Gate. By 1930, the Chong Sheng Shrine, theYi Gate and the two small rooms to the east and west of the main building were already completed, as was the carving of the tablets of the ancient saints and sages. On August 27, 1930, Confucius birthday was celebrated in Taipei for the first time in over thirty years.
After the three main halls (the Da Cheng Temple, the Yi Gate and the Chong Sheng Shrine) and the two small rooms of the main hall were completed, the construction was temporarily halted because of a sudden drop in donations. By 1935, Huang Tsan-chun and Koo Hsien-jung began urging for the construction to be resumed, and went out to collect more donations. Materials were bought and workers were hired to continue the construction. But by this time, the original designer, Wang Yi-shun, had already returned to Quan Zhou (where he died), and so the construction was finished by Taiwan craftsmen. The Ling Xing Gate was the first to be completed, followed by the Li Gate, Yi Path, Hong Gate, Pan School, Pan Pond and Wan Ren Palace Wall. Construction was finished in 1939, resulting in the impressive architecture we now see today. Altogether, two different fund-raising campaigns were held, collecting a total of NT$260,000. The entire temple compound covers an area of 148,285 square feet and the buildings cover an area of 43,75 square feet.
The newly completed temple had only been in use for a few years when World War II broke out. The Japanese ordered an end to traditional Chinese ceremonies, and Japanese Shinto ritual music was played in the temple for a brief period until 1945 when Taiwan was returned to the Republic of China (R.O.C.).
After the war, there were so many things to be done, and the ceremonies were temporarily suspended. In 1946, in order to restore the Confucius ceremonies, it was decided that the Taipei Chong Sheng Association should be restored. The mayor of Taipei City, Yu Mi-chien, was appointed as chairman of the committee. Huang Chi-jui, the minister of education, and Koo Chen-fu were selected as vice chairmen. The committee was to be responsible for the yearly Confucius ceremony. In 1950, to celebrate Confucius 2,500th birthday, a special worship ceremony was held, and R.O.C. President Chiang Kai-shek gave the temple an inscribed wooden tablet on which he personally wrote Education for All.
In 1951, the Taipei Confucius Temple Administration Committee was established, and Taipei mayor Wu San-lien was selected as the chairman. This committee was to be responsible for taking care of day-to-day operations and yearly ceremonies. In 1971, on behalf of all those who had contributed to building of the temple, Koo Chen-fu and Chen His-ching (descendants of Koo Hsien-jung and Chen Pei-ken), gave the temple to the government in the belief that respecting the ways of Confucius should be an important priority for the nation. The Executive Yuan approved the donation of the temple and transferred authority over it to the Taipei City Government. In July 1972, the Taipei Confucius Temple Administration Committee was formally established and placed under the authority of the Civil Affairs Bureau.