You reach Tin How Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in San Francisco (founded 1852) by climbing three flights of steep and ... More
Tin How Temple
You reach Tin How Temple, the oldest Chinese temple in San Francisco (founded 1852) by climbing three flights of steep and narrow stairs in the heart of Chinatown. Once there, after catching your breath, your breath may very well be taken away again. The west wall of this tiny temple is an expanse of intricately carved gilded wood housing the shrine to Tin How, the goddess of Heaven. From the ceiling hang hundreds of paper lanterns, each bearing the name (in Chinese characters) of the person for whom it is intended to bring long life and happiness.
I am a National Geographic photographer and I can tell you this is one of the most photogenic temples in Chinatown. Inside is hugely atmospheric, with red red red decor and a huge altar, and incense, and old world atmosphere. Outside, you can get an amazing view of the temple itself and the street. I got a double page spread last week.
I thought it would be nice to check out "San Francisco's Oldest Chinese Temple" because I read the advice of the other review that was written. Trust me, it was nothing remarkable. The temple was in an alley way, and the entrance is just a door. The walk up the many flights of stairs was not worth what I got to see. The temple is so small that it only took a few steps to see the whole temple, you can't take any photos, and you can't understand what is going on because no one speaks English. The view is horrible because there's another big building right in front of the balcony!! I could've spent more time shopping in China Town instead of wasted my time here!
This wonderful temple requires about 3 or 4 flights of stairs to walk, but go for it as it's worth the hike/workout. The alter with it's ornate artifacts, the history and story behind this temple, the view of the city out the back deck, the mystical experience in lighting the incense, the wonderful women who greet you (but do not speak English), make for a magical and unique experience which is truly a one of a kind, "only in San Francisco" opportunity. It's free to enter but donations are very much appreciated and generally customary. This is one place I always make sure to bring anyone who is visiting SF., but I don't need out of town visitors for an excuse to go. Enjoy!!
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