Friday, October 23, 2009

confucius (shidian) ceremony

taipei confucius temple (臺北市孔廟), was built on wenwu street in 1879, torn down by japanese in 1907, to make place for the taipei first girls high school, and reerected on dalong street from 1925 to 1939. the design is an example for typical fujian temple style. every year on september the 28th, the birthday of confucius, city authorities hold here the shidian ceremony (釋奠典禮). the photos are mostly from side stage as i arrived a bit too late to get a good spot.

getting ready

the hats didn't look very comfortable...

early breakfast for the organizers

it was a televised event

5 am

the final touches


the photographer and the parents

take your positions

on stage

the ceremony begins


in awe

resting. the weather was kind to the kids, not too terribly hot and mostly overcast. no one passed out this year.

the ceremony ends

i think it was a tofu pig

a group photo of participants.

after 12 years the "wisdom hair rite" was reinstated. instead of pulling the hair of sacrificial goats, pigs or cows however.....

...guest were invited to pull writing brushes from a blanket covering the fake buffalo

post ceremony entertainment. some dancing...

... and singing

some final drum roll...

and the crowd disperses. a nice panorama of the temple here.

and a bonus shot from bao-an temple (大龍峒保安宮) from across the street :-)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

matsu (nangan, beigan, dongjyu)

it's been almost one year since my last international journey and it may be another six months before a longer endeavor so i'm trying to get out more and discover taiwan on shorter trips. these shots are from a long weekend to the matsu (mazu, 馬祖列島) archipelago, about 150 kms north of the main island.

costs abt. nt$4,000 (us$ 120) return for the 50 minute plane ride. flights are often cancelled due to fog and strong winds. we were lucky, after a one hour delay off we went. (you can save some money by taking an overnight boat from keelung harbour, abt. 8 hrs)

the first stop was nangan (南竿鄉) the biggest (10 sq km) of the islands. didn't look too good on arrival but the weather changes quickly on these islets and the rain tapered off and the winds died down soon enough. as usual we opted to rent a scooter (nt$500/day) to get around.

view from nangan harbor. notice one of the many statues of the generalissimo (dissapearing from the main island) and the huge slogan on the building reading "sleeping on spears awaiting the dawn" the words of chiang kai-shek written in 1958 on a visit to the island to remind the soldiers on the mission of recapturing china...

nioujiao village (aka fuxing village 復興村). a typical village (actually one of the bigger ones) it is one of about 10 villages on nangan (all together there are 22 villages on 5 of the inhabited islands plus soldiers probably on all 19)

life is hard for on the islands, many people leave to work, study and eventually settle on the taiwanese mainland.

the temples here (most of them dedicated to the godess matsu - hence the name of the islands) have a distinctly different style.

it is similar to fujianese architecture (from fujian province on mainland china)

they seem less open, (smaller doors, thick stone walls all around)... perhaps because of the colder winters here. also less ornate than most temples you find in taiwan.

this is the "main" mazu temple in magang (aka mazu village 馬祖村). it's a more recent structure (it seems to me that in asia the material, the stone and wood doesn't matter as much as the location itself and keeping the memory alive). it houses (in the foreground) the grave of mazu, whose body - according to legend - was washed ashore here, and after whom the islands got their name.

ok. last temple shot. this one from the second biggest island beigan...

nioujiao (fuxing 復興村) village...

different architecture not just in the temples... a reflection in a traditional matsu stonehouse.

capitalizing on matsu's reputation as a frontier in the fight against communism this restaurant in furen village, nangan (gorgeous seaviews) offers visitors a chance to don and pose in military gear... as for fujiyama...??? (my enemy's enemy is my friend?)

and then there's the countless military installations all over the place, some of which (like the dahan stronghold above) are now open to the public as tourist attractions, since tensions between r.o.c. and the p.r.c. have been continuously easing in recent years.

soldiers of course are still everywhere. the distance from the rest of taiwan, the relatively harsh winters (it can get down to near freezing temperatures at night) the humidity, the fog make it an unattractive "prize" in the lottery of assigned military bases for the newly drafted. (even though military service in taiwan is now down to only 12 months, and you can't help but wonder what their chances would be against the pla)

so some of the prettiest beaches today still belong to the r.o.c. armed forces. the slogan likens the chain of command to a mountain and military rule to iron...

a short walk from the dahan stronghold is beihai tunnel. built in one year in the 70s with dynamite and mostly manual labor, at 700 m long it could harbor one hundred smaller vessels.

tunnel 88 is an abandoned military tunnel that is now used to store and age kaoliang (sorghum liquor). "tunnel 88" is a famous brand name of this beverage and you can buy a wide selection (and get a free taste) if you visit the nearby distillery. what does it taste like? it was described as "the finest paint thinner and worst wine ever invented" by the character li kao (mistakenly named so when his dying mother asked for a sip of kaoliang at childbirth) in the novel bridge of birds. i tend to concur.

on day two we took a boat to dongju island (東莒 "East Ju") in juguang township.

dongju lighthouse is a second-level national historic building built by the british in 1872.

a typical small village. the temple and some of the houses seemed to have been recently restored but the place looked mostly abandoned.

the view northward from "mysterious little bay" (couldn't quite see the mystery) you can see almost half the island from this perspective. as you can see the land is not quite suitable for farming.

after a treacherous one hour boat ride back to nangan(the winds picked up by late afternoon) we spent the evening walking the streets of pretty little fishing village; jinsha.

there was definitely some mediterranean feel to the place.

the eerie quiet was disturbed only by the familiar jingle of the taiwanese garbage trucks. it was good to see that they take recycling here just as seriously as in the rest of the country.

once the truck left, apart from another handful of tourist, he was the only local we saw for the rest of the evening.

the village from the hills, the next morning. the patch of temple roof in the bottom left corner seems to be the only clue giving away its asian location...

yet another statue of the godess mazu

not sure about the blindfold (anyone?)

day three. beigan is the second largest of the islands and has the highest point almost 400m, near the spot from where this photo was taken

there are some nice beaches and the usual military installations and another sea tunnel, but the highlight of beigan has to be a visit to cinbi [芹壁村], the most completely persevered village in matsu built in traditional fujianese style.

since matsu opened to civilians ten years ago, the government has been spending quite a bit on beautifying the islands and cinbi village (still in the works) is one of these projects.

originally 100, today the number of households is only about 20 and most houses are abandoned and in ruins. the government is encouraging owners and new buyers to repair those that can still be saved and in recent years, hostels and b&b's have opened up as the number of visitors rises bit by bit every year.

i have a feeling not many more years will see such empty streets. there were only two small tourist buses for almost half of the day we spent there.

the thick stone walls are supposed to fire-seal the buildings, while there's no mortar used for the shingles, they are kept in place by placing stones on them, making roof repair easy and the houses more breathable.

one car about every 30 minutes, the waves washing the shores of the beach below. china is about 15 kms across the strait.

a nice way to spend a lazy afternoon...

just a single dragon adorns this modest temple overlooking a bay on beigan.

village square on beigan

daoist temple on beigan