Tag Archives: temple

Uluwatu: Cliffsides in Southern Bali

Uluwatu, located along the cliffsides of southern Bali, Indonesia, is famous for a Hindu temple which is set upon a dramatic backdrop of cliffs.

 

 

 

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Prambanan, Indonesia

Not far from Borobudur is Prambanan, a similarly dated temple complex. Originally, it consisted of 240 temple structures, of which only a few remain. The largest and most important of these is devoted to the Hindu god Shiva, and roughly translates as the “Realm of Shiva.”

Architecturally, I was struck by how similar it is to Angkor Wat, which makes sense as both are Hindu temples. Like Borobudur, it also includes many bas reliefs of significant lore. Most important is probably the Ramayana, a great Hindu epic telling of a king’s daughter who is captured and rescued.

 

 

   

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A Diagram of Enlightenment: Borobudur, Indonesia

Borobudur, located in central Java, Indonesia, is the largest Buddhist temple in the world and one of the oldest and most important Buddhist structures. Lost to the jungles and the earth until the mid-19th century, it was first completed around 825 CE, when Java and much of modern-day Indonesia was predominantly Buddhist and Hindu. By the 14th century, the Hindu and Buddhist dynasties declined, giving rise to Islam in the archipelago.

Today, Borobudur and its nearby Hindu companion, Prambanan, are sources of cultural pride for the predominantly Muslim country of Indonesia. Much like Angkor Wat of Cambodia, Borobudur and Prambanan connect to a mighty and mysterious past when traders from India, the Arabic world, and East Asia converged in the region to form great dynasties.

The monument is meant to portray a sort of “diagram” of Enlightenment. From above, Borobudur represents a Buddhist mandala or map of the universe, and this is noticed when climbing the monument. As the pilgrim ascends the monument, one sees bas reliefs of different stages of  Gautama Buddha’s life as well as the law of karma. In addition, statues of the Buddha represent certain meanings with mudras, or the positions of Gautama’s hands. These seating positions take place inside and out of stupas, or places for meditation which resemble cages. As a result, the top of this monument leads to the Buddhas being commonly referred to as the “caged Buddhas” of Indonesia.

Above: Tour groups, mostly from Indonesia, descend on Indonesia’s most-visited tourist attraction. Notice the school group at bottom right. Western tourists can expect to be asked to be included in quite a few of the locals’ photos!

Above: Buddhas sit in their stupas along the exterior of the temple. Notice the missing heads of some Buddhas. As with Angkor Wat in Cambodia, many heads are missing due to treasure hunters.

Above: One of the more complete statues which has survived the elements and treasure hunters.

Above: These two shots show the extensive bas reliefs along the sides of the temple. Stories of teaching, enlightenment, and the results of karma are told. Many of these reliefs are being slowly torn apart by the elements, including the harsh monsoon rains.

 

 

Above: A Buddha sits in a half-open stupa near the top of the temple. On a clear day, Mt. Merapi, an active volcano, is present. We seemed to have had too much haze to see it clearly.

Above: Caged stupas near the top.

 

In addition to Borobudur, there are two other temples in the area. The larger and more impressive of the two is Mendut, which also consists of a Buddhist monastery. Actually older than Borobudur, it is a starting point in a yearly religious pilgrimage for local Buddhists. It is geographically located in a straight line connecting Borobudur on one end, Pawon in the middle, and Mendut on the other side.

Above: Mendut temple.

Above: Main statue in Mendut Temple.

Above: The adjacent Mendut Buddhist Monastery. Notice the Javanese architecture in the main building to the left.

Further Reading: Borobudur Wikipedia Article and Mendut Wikipedia Article

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Single Shot: Mountain Temple

OK, so I haven’t been taking any photos or posting much of anything. This post is an attempt to get back to taking photos and posting again. Life’s been busy, but I hate that I’ve neglected this blog.

Anyway, little to say about this shot. It’s a mountain Buddhist temple at Lion’s Head Mountain, Miaoli County. I’ll stick to this single shot today and hopefully there will be more to come soon!

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Single Shot: Welcoming the Ghosts

I’ll take a break from posting a recent series from my last trip to Okinawa to show off something I saw last weekend at the Hsinchu City God Temple. This is part of a ceremony allowing and welcoming spirits to roam sort of “finish business” from the earthly realms. During this month, spirits are appeased and/or kept away from homes through incense and offerings and spirit money, or ghost money, is burned as an offering. I have some more shots from last year here.

As school is about to start, this is a bit of a culture shock to many foreigners entering Taiwan for the first time. It’s hard to believe this is the start of my third year on the island!

 

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Lion Dance and Temple Ceremony, Guqifeng (古奇峰), Hsinchu

A month ago, I visited Guqifeng, or 古奇峰, a temple in Hsinchu marked with a very large statue of the god of war, Guan Gong, on top of a mountain just east of the city. Last weekend, while visiting the general area, my wife and I noticed something going on inside and saw a lion dance troupe preparing to perform. Here are some shots from this performance.

Above: the drumline beats out the rhythm for the dancers. These guys were very talented and drumming is an art of its own in Taiwanese and Chinese culture.

A performer tests the stands before the performance by jumping between them. These performers will rarely make mistakes, but an important safety procedure for this was a group of performers underneath, holing the stand steady and acting as a buffer for falling friends. This did happen – the first time I’ve seen this happen before – and the performers who fell were perfectly fine, their fall being broken as they were caught. During this time, the drums kept going and the lion dancers were back in no time.

A confetti-covered ground marks the main ceremony area before the lion dance performer took the stage.

A walking god watches as the altar of another god “visits” the temple god. The confetti canons were set up at a climax during the ceremony and I was happy for a wider angle lens here.

Lion dancers jump across. Notice the drummers yelling below.

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Nanfang’ao Mazu Temple, Yilan County

Nanfang’ao (南方澳) is a small but important fishing port in Yilan County, located on Taiwan’s eastern coast. I visited 南方澳 a few weeks ago with my wife’s family on a somewhat dreary overcast day.

One of the main draws to the town is the city’s Mazu temple. A temple for Mazu (媽祖) would be fitting here, as she is the goddess of the sea and heavily respected and loved in Taiwan.

I’m not extremely happy with this shot, but it was hard to take. I could obviously not fire a flash and the only light was the dim overcast coming in through the opening. I opened the aperture up, but this created issues with focusing everything.

Partway through the visit, a large group brought Mazu statues to have blessed at the temple.

  

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Experimenting in Lightroom

As I mentioned a few days ago, my MacBook went kaput. Thankfully, everything’s backed up and the hard drive is still alive. This did leave me, however, without a photo processing tool. I’ve always used Aperture 3 just because it was the first thing I  tried. While I’d played around with Lightroom, I hadn’t had a chance to use it for my own shots.

I think I might stick with it. It’s much more responsive to Aperture 3, for one thing. Even though it always deals with the huge amount of data in a RAW file, it’s a million times faster on a PC comparable in hardware to my  MacBook. I was also able to experiment with the different settings – which do the same basic stuff – and have some more features.

A few things I was looking for include contrast, color, and sharpness. All went extremely well. Here are three results:

The above was a bit over-saturated for my taste. I’ll keep experimenting with what to do with saturation in the future.

With how poorly Aperture 3 acts on my more-than-decent MacBook, I might just have become a convert…

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Jhubei Mazu Parade, 11/12

These shots were from a Mazu procession a week ago. The local Mazu temple was celebrating a 15th anniversary (of what, I’m not sure, as the temple has been around for much longer than that) and spared no expense in its celebration. This celebration only ended last night as the entire town could hear fireworks coming from the older section of Jhubei all evening.

I followed the parade through the full route and had a great time shooting with my friend Matt as we were welcomed by the participants. They offered us binlang, beer, and cigarettes (the last of which we politely declined) and let us take part in more ways than simply photographing the event.

  

  

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Temple Celebration Near Hsinwu

We came across this temple celebration due to backed up traffic on the way back from Hsinwu, where we were visiting Yuling’s grandparents. While I couldn’t stay for long, I was welcomed by the participants as they invited me to get into the midst of things to take photos.

  

Above right: a spirit medium walks through the streets with weapon in hand. There were many of these – all young men around the ages of 18-25. This is a pretty common occurance at these processions and involves self-flagellation.

  

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