Saturday, May 10, 2014


I saw this pretty Paifang (arch) the other day and took a photo.  I liked how it turned out with the sun just behind it.

I don't know much about these arches--I didn't even know the name for them until I looked it up on Wikipedia just now--but you can see them all over the place in Taiwan.  They remind me of Japanese Torii.  Japanese torii may or may not have been brought over to Japan with the introduction of Buddhism, but they're actually more commonly associated with Shinto shrines than with Buddhist temples.

There may be a historical connection between Chinese paifang and Japanese torii (or maybe not) but in Taiwan there often is a connection.  When the Chinese Nationalists took over Taiwan in 1945, they were just finishing up an 8-year war with Japan.  Taiwan had been under Japanese administration as a colony for 50 years at that point and was fairly Nipponified in many ways.  The government of the island, like the rest of the empire, had set up Shinto shrines in every neighborhood of the island.  As a result, there were also torii all over Taiwan.  The Chinese Nationalists--having just fought a war with Japan and having no love for anything Japanese, and also in an effort to Sinicize Taiwan and legitimize their rule--set about dismantling and destroying anything that they deemed to be too Japanese.  This included a lot of Shinto shrines and their accompanying torii.  However, there are some interesting cases were shrines remained and became Taoist shrines, or where torii remained and had additions attached to them to make them look a little more Chinese so that they could pass as paifang.

That's not to say that this particular arch is one of those.  It looks pretty new to me, so I don't think it dates back to the Japanese period.  But I thought it was an interesting story nonetheless.





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