Wednesday, January 27, 2016

China Mall Update / 中国城最近の状況 / 中國城現情況


I wrote about this place once a while back, but this is an old mall in Tainan that was designed by the same architect who designed Taipei 101, the tallest building in Taiwan, and previous tallest building in the world.  It saw its heyday a couple of decades back, and has been mostly empty in recent years.

It is, however, not totally empty.  There are still some stores on the bottom floor.  However, the government of Tainan has been wanting to get rid of it for a while now, and it looks like they've finally taken the final steps to doing so.  How do we know?  There are a bunch of banners hung outside complaining that the city government is forcing people out without proper compensation, etc. The signs have evidently been hung by the remaining tenants.  I don't know enough about the situation to comment on whether or not the government's terms are fair or not, so I won't.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Wind God Temple / 風神廟




I went to the Wind God Temple a little while back.  This temple is unique in Taiwan for being the only temple in the country dedicated to the Wind God.  I'm not sure why this is.  The Wind God was a very important god back in the day when Chinese settlers were crossing the dangerous Taiwan Strait and hoping for a safe journey.  This is a major reason why Mazu, a goddess associated with safety at sea, is so popular in Taiwan.  So why is there only one temple to the Wind God?  I actually have no idea; I haven't seen any sort of explanation given in the literature I've looked at.

At any rate, this temple was built to help ensure safety at sea, and the gate in front of it actually used to face onto a canal where officials sent from the mainland would alight and give thanks to the gods for making it to Taiwan, or where they would board after praying for a safe journey back to China.  In the 1920's, while the Japanese government was modernizing the city, they filled in most of the canals, including the one in front of this temple, and they demolished the large temple complex that had been here.  The temple was rebuilt on a much smaller scale, and that's the building that we have here today.



The red building on the right is part of the temple, the gate in the back is the one I mentioned above, and the middle structure is either a bell tower, or a drum tower.  There's one of each on either side of the entrance to the temple.  Apparently there is a legend that a giant black turtle caused trouble at sea, and that in order to lock it in place and subdue it, the bell and drum towers were constructed on its two front legs, and the main gate for welcoming officials from the mainland was constructed on its head.


 The bell/drum tower up close.


 ...and inside

 Next to it is a furnace.

 And here's the main gate.


 An artist's work on the wall across from the temple.



 Where I am standing is where the canal was.  Officials would get off their boat here and pass through this gate.  The temple was in the same place it still is now, but it was much larger and stretched way back from here, whereas now it is just this one small building.



 Banana trees nearby


 The temple from the side.
 Empty space

 The gate as seen from the temple.



 Some Dutch-like figures painted on the roof beams.



 The God of Thunder


 The Goddess of Lightning.  The God of Thunder and the Goddess of Lightning are a married couple.  Before the God of Thunder strikes down evil-doers with his terrible thunder, the Goddess of Lightning flashes lightning across the sky so that he can see clearly and not mistakingly kill someone good.



 Some of the carvings on the gate seen up close.


 There's another temple just across the street.  They were having some big event on the day I visited.



 "Seven Buddhist Temples and Eight Taoist Temples"  There's a list of 15 major, historic temples in Tainan, 7 of which are Buddhist and 8 of which are Taoist.  This temple is one of them.



 A parade from the temple across the way.  Gods in Taiwan are surprisingly earthly in their tastes.  Parades in the honor sometimes feature women pole dancing on top of cars.  The reason I've heard given is "People like it, why wouldn't gods?"



 These guys also usually make an appearance in religious parades.  The people inside the costumes look out from the stomach.

That's it for now.