Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Know your gods: The Jade Emperor

According to this source:

"The Yuhuang Dadi (Jade Emperor) is not only one of the supreme gods [in] Taoism, but also the god who is best known and adored among folk people in China...
He [commands] all kinds of traditional gods belonging to Buddhism and Taoism. In the Han Dynasty (AD25-220) when Taoism was just established, he was honored as a supreme god. Later, it was said he used to be a prince from a remote kingdom and cultivated himself according to religious doctrine. By the time of the Tang Dynasty (AD618-907), the Jade Emperor became the assured subject of worship. Afterwards, Taoism was respected in the Tang and Song dynasties and the story about the Jade Emperor was gradually enriched, which greatly influenced the life of common Chinese."

I took this photo in Changhua's Yuanqing Hall. Or, to be accurate, in the temporary shack next to it which currently houses all the icons as the temple is renovated after a devastating fire in the spring of 2006. The face and hands of this particular effigy remind me of the puppets in the 1960s TV series Thunderbirds.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines

On Tuesday I was shown around the Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines in Taipei. Over the years I'd heard a lot of good things about this place, and I'm glad to say it's reputation is fully deserved. It focuses on the history and culture of the high-mountain tribes (lowland or 'Pingpu' aborigines do get a few mentions, however) and displays weapons, clothing, ritual artefacts such as the double-cups of the Rukai tribe, and also tattooing implements.

Admission is a little steep at NT$150 per adult (children, students, seniors and aborigines pay NT$100), but it's possible to save a bit of money by getting a joint ticket with the National Palace Museum, which is just down the road.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Who's missing?

I took these photos this morning in the souvenir shop at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The top photo shows, from left to right, President Ma Ying-jeou, Vice President Vincent Siew, Chiang Ching-kuo (Chiang Kai-shek's son and successor) and Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

The second photo features, from left to right, Chiang Kai-shek, Madame Chiang, Chiang Kai-shek again (well, it is the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall) - this time looking tanned - and Mao Zedong. Mao is, of course, the guy who pushed Chiang out of China and onto Taiwan.

Two of Taiwan's six presidents are missing. Lee Teng-hui, president 1988-2000, and Chen Shui-bian, the man who succeeded him and held office until 2008. Chen isn't a popular figure these days (he's in jail after being convicted of money laundering) but why on Earth isn't Lee represented?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blue Skies Adventures

Mark Roche, one of the founders of Blue Skies Adventures, has set up a website for his Kaohsiung-based outfit. Among other things they organise hikes to the top of Yushan (Taiwan's tallest mountain) for English speakers, and swims across Sun Moon Lake.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Confucian temples

Taiwan's three most prominent Confucian shrines are in Tainan, Taipei and Changhua. I revisited the Taipei temple in February; it has an excellent website. Last week I hit both the Tainan and Changhua Confucius temples. Of the three, Tainan's (pictured right) remains my favourite, simply because the grounds are so atmospheric and the buildings so dignified. Taipei's shrine is fairly modern (early 20th century), and Changhua's (pictured below left) is - to be frank - a little tatty. But in an appealing way...

UPDATE AUGUST 14: A newspaper article I wrote about Changhua's Confucius Temple was published a few days ago.