Tag Archives: temples

Year of the Snake: Lunar New Year 2013 in Taiwan

With a vacation to Korea, an apartment move, and a visiting family member, I didn’t go out to document this year’s Lunar New Year as much as in the past.

With that said, it was a great time of relaxation for me even if it was a bit busy. This time of year always sorts of reignites the spark and excitement of living in Taiwan for me and this was no exception.

Above: Mazu, goddess of the sea, at Cixian Temple, Taipei.

Above: Cherry blossoms on a (very) foggy day at Lion’s Head Mountain (獅頭山).

Above: Temples on the same foggy day at 獅頭山.

  

Above left: worshippers walk under a lantern for blessings at Longshan Temple, Taipei. Above right: temple lanterns hang at Cixian Temple, Taipei.

Above: temple worshipers gather at Longshan Temple, Taipei.

Above: lanterns hang at Longshan Temple, Taipei.

Above: an incense burner at a temple on Lion’s Head Mountain.

Above: fried noodles being prepared at Shilin Night Market, Taipei.

Above: the calm before the crowds at Liuhe Night Market, Kaohsiung.

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Temples of Lukang

Lukang, or 鹿港, literally means “deer harbor.” It’s a small town just west of Changhua City (彰化市) which was once known for the trade of deer furs and other trade goods, being situated at a point in Taiwan very close to the Chinese mainland. At one point, it was the second-largest city in Taiwan, just after Tainan.

One of the city’s features is an “old town” consisting of brick buildings dating from hundreds of years ago. Mixed into this are countless temples which have seen new life as Taiwanese tourists visit the city.

These are assorted shots from those temples – the biggest being Mazu and Longshan Temples.

  

  

  

 

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Kaohsiung Pagodas

More from Kaohsiung, this time from Lotus Lake, an area with quite a few temples surrounding the general area.

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Practicing with Panoramas

Hiking in Miaoli a few weeks ago was a great experience.  As I mentioned before (click here for the post), it was full of beautiful mountain temples and clean air.  A very idyllic place.

This panorama was taken with around 18 or so shots and processed with my newly acquired Photoshop CS5.  Click on it for a Flickr link and to see it in its full-sized version, though I’ll warn you that it’s actually TOO big for my taste.  I’ll keep this in mind next time and maybe practice by taking these shots in portrait mode next time… in order to get more sky.

I shot this at f/9 with a shutter speed of 1/320 at 18mm.  In order to keep it consistent, I locked the exposure for every shot.  This is a key thing to do when trying to create panoramas.

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Country Temples

Today’s post includes some country temples. These shots were taken while visiting Yuling’s grandparents who live in the countryside.

I was amazed at how many temples there were in such a small area – and even more, how large and intricate they were as well.

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In Hsinchu (Temples)

Yuling and I just got back from visiting Taichung, the third largest city in Taiwan, and Nantou County, a centrally-located region southeast of the city.  While I did get some photos, it’ll take a while to get them post-processed, so I’ll be covering some stuff that hasn’t yet migrated from Flickr.  As always, check the Flickr site to see these in a larger format and see some photos that either haven’t made it here or I haven’t had a chance to post.

This set of photos was taken at some temples in Hsinchu.  I hadn’t realized Hsinchu’s age until visiting these temples – the first of which was completed (if I remember correctly) in the 1730′s.

The two above photos – the first with an altar (not the temple’s main altar, actually) and the second with these light, are in the same temple.  The bottom photo is a little bit blurry, but if you were to see this in detail, you’d see what looks like a seated buddha* or god next to three Chinese characters.  The characters are a person’s name – the idea is that if they donate to the temple, they get one of these buddhas… much like a plaque.  The closer the name to the temple god, the more money they’ve paid.  If their names are engraved somewhere on the temple, they’re probably a main cornerstone of the community.

The last photo shows a market in front of Cheng Huang Temple (城隍廟).  It’s been interesting to see how some temples turn into almost social events – there was a night market nearby which has kind of turned into a sort of round-the-clock market.  I could’ve ordered one of those oyster omelets at noon instead of midnight!

*In Buddhism especially, there’s a big difference between “Buddha” and a “little-b buddha.”  The “Buddha” usually relates to Siddhartha Gautama, the Indian prince – who is seen as the figure who started what we call Buddhism today.  The “little-b buddha” could be one of a lot of bodhisattvas, or “enlightened beings” – much like saints in Christianity.  I’m not going any further with this… it gets super confusing and the Chinese system mulitiplies this confusion by 100 since they incorporate local gods into the mix.

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Only in Taiwan…

Last night, I was having dinner with my girlfriend’s family in the older section of Jhubei.

As I mentioned before, many of these Taiwanese cities tend to have “older” and “newer” sections – for a quick comparison, you’ll find most temples and “older” markets on their side of town… the type of market, that is, where your chicken is still alive when you arrive and definitely not when you leave.  The newer section of Jhubei on the other hand boasts some very nice restaurants, grocery stores, and mostly everything else to keep you from having to go across the river to Hsinchu too much.

Many young people and to be honest, foreigners (like me) live in the new sections of these cities.  We have our conveniences which, while not absent from the other side of town, are a bit easier to adjust to when moving from a foreign country.  There still might be some aspects of culture over here which are impossible to ignore – for example, the firecrackers I’ve heard going off as one of the many new buildings was opening near my apartment complex – but it is much different than just a few kilometers away (yes, I’m trying to convert myself to the metric system at least while I’m here…)

The old section on the other hand, has character.  I’ll get to that later… back to the dinner.

So there we were, eating the whole chicken her mom just got, along with the other piles of delicious food in which we were indulging.  I find my communication with the family has improved, in spite of not speaking much Chinese – though the first thing I had to etch into my brain was “Hao bao! Hao bao!” – which translates to saying that I am too full to eat any more… along with “Hao shih” – meaning that the food is very delicious.  Don’t want to offend.

Partway through my third bowl of food – this time, noodles with some soybean curd – we hear the sound of suonas coming from down the street.  If you haven’t heard these instruments before, I’ll ask you to go ahead and give this Youtube video a try:

Partway through, she uses a reed in her teeth to make the sound sans instrument – I don’t think this happened – but at least his clip gives you an idea of the unmistakable sound they make.  Check this Wikipedia article for more background information…

So I hear these instruments coming from down the street, and all playing traditional temple music.  Along with them, comes this brightly-lit… thing… seen through the blinding on the house’s large sliding doors.  I could only hear the increasing volume of the music and see this large bright thing move slowly through the street.

Yuling’s mom says that this could be a funeral procession – keep the doors closed!  Evil spirits might come through.

Of course, her curious nature just kind of did away with that – she opens the door five haunting minutes later and we see that it’s not a funeral, but something put on by the local temple… the suonas and drums and gongs and cymbals are deafening by this point, so I have to say I was sort of feeling uneasy until she actually opened the door and gave the “all clear.”

The procession stopped nearby because there is a small local altar – which is dwarfed by any other Chinese temple.  It’s set up to provide security for the neighborhood and the locals take care of it just as it’s an extension of their own property.  This procession, which included mobile altars and even some walking effigies of gods being marched through the streets, was greeting the local god on the way to the final destination.

The festival itself ended up at the local main temple.  Yuling and I hopped on a scooter as she went through some back alleys to beat the procession (and the traffic it caused as no streets were closed – it just kind of meandered through multitudes of scooters and cars…) to the temple itself where we were able to see a fireworks/firecracker/dancing spectacle.  Fascinating stuff, indeed.

This probably relates in some way to ghost month – which comes up next week.  Last night, the gods were allowed to wander through the streets that night and they were asked to return “home” to the local main temple.  During ghost month, it is believed that the spirits will be wandering the streets as they are let out of heaven and hell – so it is imperative for people to be careful as not to join them upon their return…

There are bad times to forget your camera.

This would be one of them – something that a Westerner probably wouldn’t experience even IF he/she was living in Taiwan.  The good news is that I did have the camera… I took about 450 photos, of which I used about 50 of them due to softness and low light issues… still not bad at all.  See below for some, and be sure to click on the Flickr site to see the rest of the set.

The above photo is a Chinese god who I currently forget the name of – he was on a mobile altar of sorts.  Right underneath him and blocking out the people carrying the altar is a moving car.  Interestingly, this parade went through some pretty busy streets that were never closed off.  They just kind of meandered through traffic.

Yuling was awesome enough to get me to the temple far in advance of the traveling festival so I could get more shots.  While waiting, I noticed some photographers with DSLRs going in and joined them in getting some shots of the complex.

Divination stones – blocks of wood meant to give the worshiper a way to ask the gods questions and get a response.  If the stones are thrown in a certain way and end up facing in one direction, it could mean that the prayer has been answered.  These were already lined up to take this shot – so convenient!

This is the “big multicolored thing” that I had seen moving by the house.  It was quite impending and lit up much of the room I was in as the music zoned out everything else.  This is a special altar for some sort of special god with which I am not familiar…

A man prepares firecrackers at the temple.  I had first seen firecrackers like this on public display at a Houston, TX Chinese New Year festival.  The fire warden was there.  No fire warden – or safety officers – or yellow things to tell you to stay away here… needless to say, I was extra careful.

This fire was probably being kept up by some sort of Taoist prayer sheets – and played an important role in the ceremony at the temple gate.  The gods would walk over it as part of the ceremony… and I kept a serious eye on it with all of the fireworks nearby… to make matters worse, the night grew windier as the procession came to the temple.

At first I thought this truck was out-of-place, sitting in front of the temple… it was carrying musicians, I soon realized.

These gods are actually around to represent evil, interestingly enough.  They are to be respected and reverred – but not necessarily worshiped…

…and the suonas!  They were definitely heard…

I was told that this dancer represented a man who was being attacked by an evil spirit – as he swayed to and fro, you could see this in his steps.  Apparently, the person being attacked was still protected by the gods… it would be interesting to learn more about what this represents.

Aftermath: the firecracker litter and ash created a really… colorful… area.  I was careful when taking this as to make sure the firecrackers had all been expended first… thankfully they had.

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In Houston: Teo Chew Temple

While I am not yet in Taiwan, I have taken many chances to visit the ethnic communities of Houston and see what this city has to offer.  Over the weekend, I brought my newly acquired Nikon D5000 for the ride, and here are the results.  Click on each image for a Flickr.com page and larger view.  I always label these Creative Commons – not like I’m a real photographer or anything.  I would like any comments and constructive criticism preferably here… or if it’s detailed, on the Flickr page itself – please let me know what you think.  I’m just now learning about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and the other (seriously) fun things that go into a DSLR photograph – although many of these were taken with minimal customization and “post processed” through iPhoto.

The visit itself was nothing short of amazing.  The scent of incense filled the air as I fumbled around people – trying not to get in the way of their conversations with the divine.  People were walking around gods with incense giving offerings of food (I saw some Asian-style pound cakes), incense, and money.  My girlfriend thankfully is a native Mandarin speaker – she was able to ask permission for me to take these photos… I responded with a brutal “谢谢” (Xie Xie… thank you) and smiled.

NOTE: Some of these were compressed for size, so the iPhoto/Flickr conversion ruined some sharpness on the stark blue backgrounds. Let me know if you want to see the real thing.

The rooftop of Teo Chew Temple

A gateway leading to a meeting area.

土地公 - Tu Di Gong is an ancient Chinese god worshipped in many villages.

Offerings in front of a god at Teo Chew Temple.

Lanterns and roof at Teo Chew.

Streamers and Lanterns at Teo Chew.

A focal-length focused shot on incense. Not sure who the god is... enlighten me if you do!

I should also mention the flickr photostream of kinjotx.  His photos of the temple are wonderful – especially some of the portraits.

I’ll be getting more photos of Houston before I leave.  Please give some feedback if you know more about photography than I do!

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