Taiwan 101: Part 3. Aspects of Taiwan

In Chiayi County, Chunghua County, Cultural relics, Day hikes, Geological curiosities, History, Hsinchu County, Kaohsiung City, Keelung City, Miaoli County, Natural history, New Taipei City, Photo Collections, Taichung City, Tainan City, Taipei City, Temples and local religious beliefs, Traditional festivals by Richard0 Comments

Museum of Marine Biology, Pingtung County

Museum of Marine Biology, Pingtung County

Guardian at the Zheng Chong-he Tomb , Miaoli County

Guardian at the Zheng Chong-he Tomb , Miaoli County

On the 8-day-long Longde Temple Matsu Pilgrimage, which starts in Taoyuan City and heads all the way down to Yunlin County and back

On the 8-day-long Longde Temple Matsu Pilgrimage

Salt fields at Jingzaijiao, Tainan County

Salt fields at Jingzaijiao, Tainan County

 

These places are all described in detail in Taiwan 101: volume 1, which is either available direct from me by mail-order, or from English language bookshops in Taiwan.

While the natural beauty of Taiwan will always be its greatest allure for me personally, the island also has an extraordinary wealth of cultural, historic and industrial attractions. Salt harvesting has been carried out on Taiwan for hundreds of years (with a history of eight centuries on the ROC-controlled island of Kinmen). Today salt production is a very minor industry here, but some of the salt fields (and a pair of unusual salt ‘mountains’) remain; the best have a strange beauty that’s quite unlike anything else on the island. Sugar, one of Taiwan’s biggest industries in the 1950s and 60s is now produced at only two sites on Taiwan, but some of the old (mostly Japanese-built) sugar factories have been opened to the public, and it’s fascinating to explore the factory workings, and, at one, even ride on an old sugar train!

All over Taiwan, reminders of the Japanese occupation can be found in the form of Western-style buildings and Shinto shrines (all but one now in a ruined state), and (from an earlier age) over forty monuments to chastity and tombs of Qing dynasty figures, plus a trio of beautiful Qing-era gardens, all of which can be found along the western plains and in cities. Down the eastern side of the island vastly older monuments to Taiwan’s prehistoric past can be found in the form of carved rocks and standing stones.

Taiwan is home to several of the world’s rarer and stranger natural phenomenon. Natural eternal flames, pockets of natural gas that seep through cracks to the surface and ignite, can be found in at least eight spots around the island. Taiwan is one of around twenty countries around the world to have mud volcanoes, and is the only place on earth where strange badlands formations are found in a wet, tropical climate.

Finally Taiwan’s traditional Chinese (and Taiwanese) culture is far more intact and authentic than on Mainland China, thanks to the brutal excesses of the Cultural Revolution, which,  of course, never reached the island. Chinese opera is regularly performed at several venues in Taipei, the uniquely Taiwanese form of budaixi (Taiwanese glove puppetry) is displayed at two museums, and, among many traditional festivals and events celebrated around the island each year, there’s the Ghost Month, celebrated with eye-opening events in Keelung and Yilan County. Best of all, there’s the incomparable set of Mazu Pilgrimages (considered one of the world’s largest regular religious events), held (usually) over seven or eight days, starting at several temples around the island (and on outlying Penghu too), and  covering up to 400 or more kilometers – all on foot!

 

 

 

Sugar train at Qiaotou Sugar Factory, Kaohsiung City

Sugar train at Qiaotou Sugar Factory, Kaohsiung City

Mud Volcano at Tianliao, Tainan County

Mud Volcano at Tianliao, Tainan County

The Saoba Stone Pillars, the visible part of a prehistoric site over 3,000 years old, Hualien County

The Saoba Stone Pillars, the visible part of a prehistoric site over 3,000 years old, Hualien County

The Sloping House at Jiufenershan, devastated by the great earthquake of September 21st 1999

The Sloping House at Jiufenershan, devastated by the great earthquake of September 21st 1999

Ovens at Qiaotou Sugar Factory, Kaohsiung County

Ovens at Qiaotou Sugar Factory, Kaohsiung County

Celebrating during the Longde Temple Matsu Procession, the largest in northern Taiwan and the longest of all Matsu pilgrimages in Taiwan, covering over 400 kilometers - all on foot! - during its 7-8 days.

Celebrating during the Longde Temple Matsu Procession, the largest in northern Taiwan and the longest of all Matsu pilgrimages in Taiwan, covering over 400 kilometers – all on foot! – during its 7-8 days.

Fire Water Spring at Guanziling, Chiayi County

Fire Water Spring at Guanziling, Chiayi County

Museum of Marine Biology, Pingtung county

Museum of Marine Biology, Pingtung county

Monument to the Ryukyuan islanders killed in 1871 by Paiwan aborigines, setting off the Mudan Incident, which eventually led to the invasion of Taiwan by Japan

Monument to the Ryukyuan islanders killed in 1871 by Paiwan aborigines, setting off the Mudan Incident, which eventually led to the invasion of Taiwan by Japan

Eternal Youth Spring, a Japanese-era reservoir at Changua

Eternal Youth Spring, a Japanese-era reservoir at Changua

Offerings at the Grappling with the Ghosts Festival in Toucheng, Yilan County

Offerings at the Grappling with the Ghosts Festival in Toucheng, Yilan County

Zhongxing Guesthose (later renamed Yangmingshuwu), the last residence of President Chiang Kai-shek

Zhongxing Guesthose (later renamed Yangmingshuwu), the last residence of President Chiang Kai-shek

Chinese opera at Taipei Eye, Taipei City

Chinese opera at Taipei Eye, Taipei City

Water pipe bent by the force of the great 921 Earthquake, at Shigang, near Taichung City

Water pipe bent by the force of the great 921 Earthquake, at Shigang, near Taichung City

Museum of Marine Science, Keelung

Museum of Marine Science, Keelung

Ghost lantern (about to be burned) at the annual Releasing of the Water Lanterns festival during Ghost Month in Keelung

Ghost lantern (about to be burned) at the annual Releasing of the Water Lanterns festival during Ghost Month in Keelung

The Sarcophagus, a prehistoric site in Taitung County

The Sarcophagus, a prehistoric site in Taitung County

Taiwanese Budaixi (glove puppets) at Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum in Taipei City

Taiwanese Budaixi (glove puppets) at Taiyuan Asian Puppet Theatre Museum in Taipei City

Inside the brick chimney at Yuemei Sugar Factory, Taichung City

Inside the brick chimney at Yuemei Sugar Factory, Taichung City

Badlands formations at the Grand Canyon, Caoshan, Tainan City

Badlands formations at the Grand Canyon, Caoshan, Tainan City

Salt fields in Tainan City

Salt fields in Tainan City

The Japanese-era Land Bank building, Taipei City

The Japanese-era Land Bank building, Taipei City

One of Chiang Kaishek's cars, at his Sizihwan Bay Villa in Kaohsiung city

One of Chiang Kaishek’s cars, at his Sizihwan Bay Villa in Kaohsiung city

Museum of Marine Science, Keelung

Museum of Marine Science, Keelung

The Grand Canyon of the Dahan River, on the border between Taichung City and Miaoli County, created by the great 921 earthquake of 1999

The Grand Canyon of the Dahan River, on the border between Taichung City and Miaoli County, created by the great 921 earthquake of 1999

Matsu Pilgrimage celebrations

Matsu Pilgrimage celebrations

Japanese-era Wude Hall (used for martial arts training during colonial times), Tainan City

Japanese-era Wude Hall (used for martial arts training during colonial times), Tainan City

Fire Mountain, Miaoli County

Fire Mountain, Miaoli County

Yangnu Mud Pond, Kaohsiung City

Yangnu Mud Pond, Kaohsiung City

Lin Family Garde, one of Taiwan's 'Four Great Qing Gardens'

Lin Family Garde, one of Taiwan’s ‘Four Great Qing Gardens’

Ruined Shinto shrine at Jinguashi, New Taipei City

Ruined Shinto shrine at Jinguashi, New Taipei City

Wushanding Mud Volcano, Kaohsiung County

Wushanding Mud Volcano, Kaohsiung County

Grappling with Ghosts at Toucheng, Yilan County, during the annual Ghost Month

Grappling with Ghosts at Toucheng, Yilan County, during the annual Ghost Month

Chastity Memorial Arch on Kinmen island

Chastity Memorial Arch on Kinmen island

Jenn Lann Temple on the first night of the annual 7-8 day Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage, the largest and most famous of Taiwan's Mazu pilgrimages

Jenn Lann Temple on the first night of the annual 7-8 day Dajia Mazu Pilgrimage, the largest and most famous of Taiwan’s Mazu pilgrimages

 

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