Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Temples and Stages

I went to LongShan Temple today. It is very beautiful. It is tucked into a corner of the street and has been holding its own space since the 18th century. The modern buildings try to encroach on it, Japanese tried to burn it, Americans bombed it, the Earth herself tried to shake it down but the temple still occupies the space. It is topped with dragons and phoenix and miniature silver soldiers.
I bought flowers from a woman selling sweet smelling bunches of lotus looking honeysuckle scented flowers and a pink orchids tied together with wire. I walked into the temple courtyard. Many people were praying to their ancestors. Many people were preying on the scenery, shooting pictures of the altars and the offerings with their cameras. I walked passed a woman whose flesh was yellow and red in places and seemed to be falling off her body. I would be praying if I were her.
I stood amidst the hum and shuffle of the courtyard and followed the smoke of the incense skyward to the heavens, I caught a glimpse of one of the neighboring buildings with a Carrefour advertisement along the side of it and thought "Sweet!".
Then Ashley and I, hungry walked along the street. On one strip of side walk were buckets and pots of food, and a couple of stools and a table. We ate things. A big luke warm meatball. Tofu that had been stewing in a pot for some hours but was now just warm, a bowl of gelatinous rice and squash, some wilted greens. This meal which filled our bellies, and myself with fear that I would die, cost us less than $1.oo American each. As we ate, and it was very tasty, we watch a woman 5 feet from us pull live fish from a bucket, whack them in half and gut them with her bare hands.
We went to Eslite Books. This was my own kind of temple. A 24hr bookstore. I found a great book with English to Chinese phrases. In the magazine section of the store was a Buddhist Monk. I saw him grab a magazine from the shelf and sit down to read it. I caught a glimpse of what he was reading. I went and found that same magazine and picked it up. It was all in Chinese but it seemed to me to be about business and the stock market.
Tonight I went to Peace Park 228. There was a music show in the park. A little band playing Salsa and doing a comic show. Also in the park a makeshift temple had been set up. From afar it looked to us like a carnival with a ski ball booth.
I am wrong about a lot of things, my impressions change by the minute with the traffic lights.
Please forgive anything that seems to over simplify something or relegate it to something small. I am merely making notes. I am an expert in nothing and have nothing to recommend me to my new hosts. In part, I am at the mercy of the Americans who came to Taiwan before me. I will be judged not just by what I do but also by what behaviors are ascribed to Americans.


  1. the geographic borders within which you were born & grew hardly define you. though, of course they inform you. i didn't realize taiwanese are so religious...

  2. the taiwanese have temples everywhere and churches, a myriad of christian churches, baptist, catholic, 7th day adventist!, and I think taiwanese culture takes spirituality very seriously. no swimming in ghost month, and so far it seems to me they treat all religions as valid and lucky. it is lucky to believe. believe in everything that is lucky.

  3. check this out: http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2009/09/28/am-indian-travelers/

    Don't worry about being American traveller anymore!