Thursday, August 18, 2011

Spelling issues

The problem with romanisation, whatever version is used, is that the results sometimes resemble English words with negative connotations. There is a place in New Taipei City usually spelled Shiding (新北市石碇區), but sometimes - to the amusement of English speakers - written Shiting.

As far as I know, the inhabitants of the village featured in the photo above are hardworking and honest. The village's name, by the way, is pronounced something like HO BOR; it's in the northernmost part of Tainan. The sign would, of course, look better if 'village' had been spelled correctly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Religious parade

The celebrations a while back marking the renovation and reopening of Guangxing Temple (廣興廟) were the largest I've ever seen. This major shrine, which is dedicated to Shennong, is located in Tainan's Yongkang District (永康區).

We were invited along because it's the "mother temple" of the Shennong shrine in my wife's home village, about 15km further inland. A team from the village carried their temple's icon and banner (on the left) through the neighborhood before finally arriving at the temple.

Considering they'd been up all night - marching from one supporter's house to another's, collecting donations at each stop - the team from my wife's village (below in orange shirts and yellow baseball caps) looked remarkably fresh.

The various teams from the "daughter temples" had to wait their turn before moving in front of the "mother temple," where they performed in honor of the deity. Some had to wait well over an hour, but for photographers this was an excellent opportunity to get portraits of the pilgrims and members of the many different zhentou troupes, which included musicians, dancers, stilt-walkers and Ba Jia Jiang.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Birding in my backyard

Tainan has world-class winter birdwatching at Sicao (四草), now part of Taijiang National Park. It being the height of summer, it makes sense to look inland, so recently I spent two mornings birding in the foothills just east of my home in Xinhua (新化區), accompanied by a man who knows much more about avians than I do - Richard Foster of Barking Deer Adventures.

According to Richard, we spotted at least 18 species, including: White-rumped Munia; Black-naped Monarch; Black Drongo; Chinese Bulbul; Taiwan Barbet; Eastern Cattle Egret; Black-crowned Night Heron; Little and Intermediate egrets; Kingfisher; Taiwan Bamboo Partridge; Common Moorhen; and Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Also seen was a Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker or something very similar, and various swifts and swallows.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Little drummer boys

Religious rituals in Taiwan are invariably accompanied by drums, bells, gongs, trumpet-like instruments and firecrackers. Some of the musicians are professionals but many are amateurs. A few, like these two boys I watched drum at Shoutian Temple a few months back, are not even ten years old.
Hsieh Shih, founder of Ten Drum Art Percussion Group, started drumming at the age of three, taking part in rites at the Taoist temple his father owned.