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Religious Buildings (5) Other contemporary places of worship

Religious Buildings (5) Other contemporary places of worship

This chapter will finish the presentation of contemporary religions with a look at Shinto, Tao, Hindu and Jewish places of worship.



Shintoism is the indigenous religion or spirituality of Japan. It is estimated that between 80-90 % of the Japanese are Shintoist. However, the number of practioners may not be that high. Shintoism, the way of the spirits (kami), dates back to 8th century. The kami may be ancestral spirits, but also animals and some kind of deities. A kami is an elevated being.


Japan - Tokyo - Meiji Shrine

Meiji Shinto Shrine altar. The park and the buildings are dedicated to the Meiji Emperor who started the modernisation process in Japan, in the middle of the 19th century.


Shinto temples are usually called shrines. Private homes have small shrines or altars called kamidanas. The shrine’s most important building is generally used to house (enshrine) the sacred objects of kami. There may be other structures next to the main shrine as well. Worshipping is not taking place at this central building.


Japan - Kyoto - Heian Shinto Shrine

Heian Shinto Shrine, Kyoto


Read about my visit to Japan.


Taoism and Confucianism

Confucianism and Taoism are both ancient Chinese styles of living (source).

Confucianism believes in setting good examples for others to follow primarily in five key relationships: ruler & subject, wife & husband, older & younger sibling, friend & friend, father & son.


China - Beijing - Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven in Beijing, recognized as belonging to Taoism even though the temple is actually older.


Taoism, aka daoism, was a way of living in which there were not many rules and believes in the dialectical philosophy of inaction.Through nature and harmony you can be happy. This is where yin and yang come from. Taoism is a religious-philosophical system developed by a special understanding of Tao (meaning Way). Taoism is about the fundamental nature of the universe.

 A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. (Lao Tzu) 

Visiting the Taoist Temple of Heaven in Beijing I noticed how some followers would perform Chinese calligraphy with water on stone. The symbols would evaporate and disappear in a matter of seconds, evoking the ephemeral nature of physical reality.



Fire God Taoist Temple in Beijing


 Walking ten thousand miles of the world is better than reading ten thousand scrolls. (Chinese Proverb) 



This religion is the dominant religion of India and Nepal. Due to Indian emigration, there are a number of other temples outside the Indian subcontinent. I cannot remember ever being inside an active Hindu temple, but I have seen the beautifully adorned gates on the outside, in Singapore and Yangon.


Myanmar - Yangon - Sri Kali Hindu Temple

Sri Kali Hindu Temple in Yangon


Hinduism is a very complex religion with a complex background. It has not a unified structure, and there are a number of gods and goddesses. A temple is usually dedicated to one presiding deity and other deities associated with the main deity. This deity is often represented by a statue (murti).

The huge and magnificent Angkor temple complex in Cambodia was actually built as Hindu temples, but later changed into a Buddhist place of worship.



Mythical Hindu figure at the Terrace of the Elephants, Angkor



This series about religious buildings has one important limitation. I am including only pictures of places of worship I have been to myself. Judaism, one of three Abrahamic religions, exercises its worshop of God in synagogues. My experience of visiting a synagogue is limited to Krakow and Yangon.



Inside the Remuh Synagogue in Kazimierz, Krakow


On the other hand I have also visited the perhaps most important place of worship in Judaism, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. This is the only remaining part of King Herod’s ancient temple on Temple Mount.



The Western Wall (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem


Further reading

Articles about religious buildings:

(1) Introduction

Theme I, Places of worship:

(2) Christian places of worship

(3) Muslim places of worship

(4) Buddhist places of worship

(5) Other contemporary places of worship

(6) Places of worship for extinct religions

Theme II, Monasteries and educational institutions (chapter 7) Read

Theme III, Housing for the deity itself or its premier representatives (chapter 8) Read

Theme IV, After death (chapters 9-12) Read the first


Watch my images from the aforementioned places of worship:


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