Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Trip to Lukang/鹿港への日帰り

The Mandarin Center sponsored a trip to Lukang for us a couple of weeks back.  Lukang was historically a major port on the island of Taiwan, dating back to the Dutch period.  One theory on the origin of the name is that because the Dutch bought so many deer pelts there, and because of the large harbor, it was named Lu(deer)kang(port).  The town was the second largest city on Taiwan after Tainan during the Qing period, but it lost importance after that, and thanks to it being a slightly out of the way small town, the historical architecture of the city is really well preserved.  Like most old cities that predate cars, it's also very compact, so it's perfect for walking around in.
We stopped at a rest stop on the way up and saw a bunch of pigs headed for slaughter.

The statue above is of Mazu (or maybe Gwanyin?)  The combination of that statue, the two body guards around her, and the stone lion in the front is all very Taiwan.
(After posting this, a Taiwanese friend of mine told me that the statue in the middle is definitely Mazu.  The bodyguards are gods who often accompany Mazu.  Their names are Qianliyan and Shunfenger.)
The eye of a lion dance mask.

Lots of the streets in Lukang are like this.  You can really tell that the city was built back in the days when people mostly walked wherever they were going.
This well is well-known because half of it is open on the street side of the wall (in this picture) and the other half is on the house side of the wall.  Apparently, some rich guy decided to be nice and build his well so that his neighbors could use it as well.  Of course, while his efforts are appreciated, he didn't address the root causes of poverty and lack of access to basic necessities in his society--probably because it would have required him to reexamine his entire life of privilege--so he's still bourgeois scum.

I wrote in a previous post about a marker in front of the Tainan Confucius temple showing where one should dismount from one's horse.  This is the same thing in front of a Mazu temple.  The little squirly letters on the left are Qing script.  Modern-day China likes to play down this fact since they base a lot of their territorial claims on Qing-era maps, but the Qing Dynasty wasn't Chinese, it was Manchurian.

Mazu Temple
You see these animals all over in front of temples in Taiwan.  They're called "Bishi".  They're the children of dragons, and they're supposed to be very strong, so they're always seen carrying big stone tablets.
The guide told us that there are 23 of these gray stones leading up to the temple.  This is because the goddess Mazu was originally an actual person, and her birthday was on March 23rd.  I'll admit, when I heard the question "Why are there 23 stones here?" I immediately had a flashback to highschool and remember a friend talking about how the number 23 was some significant illuminati number.  The birthday explanation was a bit of a letdown.
Ripley's knock-off
It's like the guy got tired of laying stones and just left with the job half done.
After exploring the central town, we went to this mansion next.  It belonged to another member of the bourgeois, parasite class back in the day, and has been transformed into a museum of folk culture.  It mostly exhibits items from daily life in Taiwan from the Qing period onwards.

This is an eyeglasses case with adorable crabs on it.


I've forgotten what this was, but I liked the I-Ching design on it.
Amongst the instruments was a Sanxian.  The neck had really pretty mother-of-pearl inlaid into it.
Japanese period maps of Taiwan.


While we should never forget that this building was built thanks to the forced extraction of wealth from the laboring class, it is admittedly really pretty.

After the mansion, we also visited a nearby temple.  I wasn't paying much attention to the guide at this point, so I kind of don't know what the significance of this particular temple was.

From the ceiling of the temple.  I liked the placement of the florescent.

Amazingly enough, in the middle of this district of historic houses was this spaceship-esque monstrosity.  I don't know exactly what the situation is with Taiwan's historic preservation laws, but it looks like the law's not quite strict enough.


Everyone saw this sign and immediately thought it was some racist, exclusionary thing, but actually this is an English school, so I think it just means "Don't use Chinese past this point."
Some people might remember the Anping Tree House in Tainan.  This is like that, except not a tourist attraction and just run-down.

I asked her what the instrument is called, but I forgot the name already.
That's Lukang!