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!
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
This temple is located near the water in Hsinwu, a mixed farming-fishing town. It represents the very-important Mazu, goddess of the sea, and is mostly known through its giant bronze statue of the deity.
These shots include the statue from Mazu Temple, which I recently posted about. This statue is apparently the largest in Taiwan of Mazu and is quite an intimidating sight when you first approach the temple. It sits on a platform behind the temple itself – the platform actually acts like a sort of second temple with three levels and rooftop access at the base of the statue.
One of the most beautiful parts is on the second building’s roof. You can see the ornate decorations on the temple and they work beautifully together as they’re so colorful.
These shots of the statue were from the roof at the base of the statue.
This tries to give you an idea of the scale of the statue compared to the very regular-sized temple in front of it. It was a hard shot to take as the dynamic range of the very dark interior mixed with the very bright sunset – try to excuse the mix of over and underexposure in the same photo!
On Monday, I posted about the Big Buddha of Baguashan (八卦山), a large Buddhist monument near Changhua City (彰化巿) which sits atop a small mountain overlooking the city. Here are some more shots from that trip:
Above: A visit to this statue includes a beautiful panoramic view of Changhua City. I didn’t even try to capture it all – but the viewing platform gives a good view of about 180 degrees.
Inside the statue is a large amount of varied Buddhist art, which is narrated in English and Chinese by conveniently-located plaques near each display. While the bottom floor is a temple proper, the upper levels include areas to learn about the stages in Buddha’s life and important moments in Chinese Buddhist history.
Above right: behind the statue is a large temple dedicated to Confucius (孔夫子) and Guan Gong (關公), the Chinese god of war. I’m not sure what was on the top level as I didn’t have time to look, but you can certainly see a melting of Buddhist and Chinese culture in this temple complex.
On the way up to the temple is a line of about 50 Chinese gods. They make for some interesting photography as each has a different personality, expression, and look.