Tainan (Part 1) – A Temple

 Ironically, my stay in Kaoshiung offered very little of Kaoshiung. The Changs have a different way of life compared to my relatives in Taipei – the kids are shuttled around by car – partly because their parents are safety freaks and partly because up until two years ago, Kaoshiung had no metro system. The rest of the time, they study and putter about the house. They go to American school which, for some reason, means  they developed American tastes and though they eat home cooked Chinese food often enough, going out, a rarity in their family, means a Western themed restaurant with a cheesy name (e.g. Smokey Joe’s, Mama Mia). Not that I’m complaining – they wine and dine me enthusiastically, thinking that because I’m American, I must like the same places – and I do, but I wonder sometimes, of Kaoshiung’s street food…

Also on the itinerary this trip was a “long” drive up to Tainan, Taiwan’s cultural capital. If Taipei is equivalent to China’s Shanghai (it’s not equivalent, really, but in concept, perhaps) then Tainan is like Beijing, where one goes to find the island’s culture. And just like the world over, people in the south are known to be extremely friendly, especially to each other… but most people I know from Tainan, aside from their ardent and often violent belief that Taiwan and China are two separate nations, live up to their reputation.

Friends of Dr. Chang offer every year, to lead a caravan to Tainan to visit a temple followed by dinner in an old village, now a government protected historical relic. The village is composed of a group of old Chinese-style homes, with four sides and a courtyard. Families start out in one unit and as children marry and branch out, they move out into their own courtyards so that a couple generations later, the entire village might be largely one family – each courtyard representing one nuclear family and connected to other courtyards by blood and brick. This particular village belonged to the Zhuang Family – and one of the women in our group happened to be the daughter of the patriarch. We couldn’t stay for dinner though, because Jenny was waiting for us back in Kaoshiung, but it was a pleasant experience nonetheless.

The temple’s entrance – the stylish woman walking is actually 70 years old, the rather haughty mother of one of our group.
Guan Yin. Aka the Buddhist Madonna. She’s a bodhisattva, an almost Buddha, basically. She’s supposed to hear your cries and wails and offer aid.
Nun on a cell phone. This really bothers me, for some reason. Just as it bothers me when I see Buddhist nuns and monks at Disneyland or at Narita Airport in Tokyo, shopping for electronics.
Don’t know who this is, but gold plated stuff photographs beautifully.
A nun introducing us to an extremely valuable bit of calligraphy. By the tour’s end, we had the sneaking suspicion that she was trying to get us to buy some of the temple’s relics. Which made sense, considering the temple only exists because some rich people donated their religious relics for auction and built the temple with the proceeds.

A giant rock standing before the actual worship house. The giant character in black means “Buddha.”
Following a boy in yellow down the pretty path to the actual temple. The nun first took us around some warehouse of expensive relics.

The brightly dressed boy feeding even brighter fish.

Tainan Part 2 coming next week, followed by Hong Kong (if I get any photos) and Shanghai. I leave at 4 am tomorrow morning for a flight to Hong Kong to get my Chinese Visa. I’ll arrive in Shanghai at 10pm and stay until Monday morning. It’s a bit early, but a happy weekend to you all 🙂

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