Friday, December 25, 2015

A Christian Town in Pingtung / 屏東にあるキリシタンの町 / 在屏東天主教之鄉鎮


Continuing from last time, we're still in the town of Ooh Go.  Let's check out some more houses.





Let's call this the eagle mansion, for the cool, stone eagle on top of the roof.


A long, low house.

With tilework along the bottom.

Looking back at the eagle mansion.


Close ups of the low-slung house.

Another place with a fancy gate and a courtyard.



One of the locals.



Something was here once.



Electric wires everywhere.



Pineapple fields and mountains as we head to a town nearby called One Jean.  One Jean is the town I'm referring to in the post title.  It has a famous, historic church in it.  While Taiwan is majority Buddhist/Taoist, there is a significant percentage of the population that is Christian, especially amongst the various aboriginal people, some of whom started converting to Christianity back in the days of Dutch colonial rule.

It wasn't on purpose, but it's worked out that I finished this post just in time for Christmas!



It's noticeable that something is different in this town from the moment I arrive.  There are roadside religious monuments like anywhere in Taiwan, but instead of Gwan-In and Dee-Tsahng statues, there are statues of Mary.


And there's the church!


Some history of the church.  (Click the photo to see a bigger version that you can actually read.)  It is one of only two basilicas in Taiwan.  I never knew this until I came here and read the signage, but a basilica is a special status that a Catholic church can receive if it is has a special history or whatever.  I'm not Catholic, and I don't totally understand what the deal is, but it is at any rate special; and the Pope himself may have even signed off on it.  (I dunno, seems likely.)

I failed to take a photo of all of the explanation here, but they claim that the church here was very successful back in the day in bringing together all of the people in the area into one community, both Chinese immigrants and native people.  It was not uncommon during the Ching Dynasty, when Taiwan was still being settled by Chinese people, for the new immigrants and the native people of Taiwan to not get along.  They spoke entirely different languages and had different customs, so there were lots of chances for misunderstandings.  This particular church managed to not only get a lot of aboriginal converts, but also a fair number of Chinese converts, and this gave the people in the area something in common.  At least that's what the signs here said.
The church has been repainted pretty recently.


The stone block with Chinese letters below the cross is interesting too.  Apparently this church was a big enough a deal that it received special recognition from one of the Ching emperors back in the day.  This stone block meant that imperial soldiers who travelled in front of this church were required to dismount when they passed in front of the entrance.  (I think that was the ceremony.  There may have been more to it, but I don't remember the details.)  This kind of honor was more commonly reserved for particularly important Taoist, Confucian or Buddhist temples--in other words, for the "native" religions of China--and I think it was probably unusual for a Christian church to receive this kind of honor from the Ching government, a government that was not always friendly towards foreign missionaries.





The view from the bell tower.

Some preserved architectural features.

"The bell is for informing the community of deaths, religious events and fires.  Don't you be playing around and ringing it!"

Some religious text in Chinese.


The main hall again, but from the peanut gallery this time.

I thought it was interesting how, despite that overall western architecture of the church, it still has these fish-shaped rain gutters, which are very common on traditional buildings in Taiwan.


Mary again.  I've encountered Japanese people (Japan is a country with very few Christians) who were under the impression that the Christian god is Mary.  After visiting a Catholic church, I can see why they would think that.

Some of these photos are a little blurry, but I'm posting them anyway because I thought it was interesting to see these ideas written out in Chinese.  It's a series of 12 ideas that all start with "I believe".  While I'm not Christian myself, growing up in the US means that I was exposed to Christian thought and principles to some extent, so I actually recognize some of these ideas.  This one says "I believe in forever life.  Amen."  "Amen" is literally just a phonetic transliteration of the sounds "ah" and "men".  I guess "forever life" refers to going to heaven after death or something?  Or maybe the post-apocolyptic kingdom of God on earth? Isn't there a thing like that?

"I believe in the resurrection of the flesh."
"I believe in the forgiveness of sin."
"I believe in the church through which all that is holy passes."  I think I may have totally mistranslated this one.
8: "I believe in the holy spirit."
7: "I believe that after 'that day' there will be judgement of all people living and dead."


This is Spanish, right?  This church was originally founded by a Spanish Dominican missionary.



Saint Dominicus



There was a series of statues gruesomely depicting the whole cross story.


You can walk around a path and look at the story of Jesus being put on the cross, and when you get to this part, the path is made of lots of rocks.  I think the idea is that you can take off your shoes and walk across the rocks and experience pain while reading about Jesus being hung on the cross and suffering.  The rocks are right at the penultimate part of the story, so it's probably the part that was most painful for Jesus.  I've read about Catholic festivals in some parts of the world that involve people putting nails through their own hands and whatnot (I think the Philippines is big into this) so it seems like this kind of personal experience of pain in order to get closer to Christ must be a Catholic thing.


In the center of the photo we have "Hallelujah" in Chinese characters.  So now you know how to write it.  (Like "Amen" above, it's also a phonetic transliteration.)

"Jesus Cafe"  I imagine the menu is pretty simple.  "Lunch: Body of Christ"  "Drinks: Blood of Christ" "Dessert: Cheesecake.  But while you eat it you should think about how Jesus suffered on the cross for your sins.  Does it taste good?"


Mary at night.  At one of the entrances to town.


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