Friday, November 14, 2014

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, Botanical Gardens, and Longshan Temple

We have been home for a week now, so I thought it was time to get caught up on blogging about the rest of our trip to Taiwan. What a great trip: a successful conference for Bob, great weather, cheap and delicious food, and beautiful sights. One of the things we visited was the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, pictured here.

After ascending the 88 steps (one for each year of his life), you reach the inside of the memorial where you see a huge statue of former leader Chiang Kai-shek. The Taiwanese are a divided on the legacy of Chiang Kai-shek, 'president' of Taiwan from 1950 to his death in 1975. Chiang was the former leader of China for nearly 20 years before losing control to the Communists and Mao. He then moved to Taiwan, where he established the Republic of China (not to be confused with mainland China's People's Republic of China) and ruled with an iron fist as the leader of the only party despite a democratic constitution.

Whatever one's views of Chiang Kai-shek and his tenure as the first president of Taiwan, you can't argue that his memorial is huge (you can definitely argue about its tastefulness, though).

While visiting the memorial we got to see the changing of the guards, which happens hourly. There were all the classics of a guard change: inspection, funny walks, lots of waving around giant guns, and some very serious faces.

Looking from the memorial you can see two beautiful buildings flanking the large boulevard. On the left is the National Theatre; on the right is the National Concert Hall.

The two halls are quite large, colorful, and well maintained.

Surrounding the memorial and halls are quiet gardens. These gardens, complete with ponds, fish, and bridges, and peaceful spots in the middle of the huge city of Taipei.

Close to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial is the Taipei Botanical Gardens. It is a very lovely place with many well-maintained gardens that showcase the natural plants, trees, bushes, and flowers of the island of Taiwan (and  a great place to visit to see how allergic you are to Taiwanese flora and fauna!).

The tropical flowers were lovely. The hibiscus plants were giant!

There is also a large lily pond inside the gardens.

We also visited the Longshan Temple in Taipei. First built in 1738, the temple was unfortunately burned down or destroyed in the many fires and earthquakes that have plagued Taipei. The building was also destroyed by American bombs during WW2, when Taiwan was occupied by Japan.

The temple is dedicated to the Buddhist god of mercy, Guanyin, but over 100 other gods are worshipped here as well.

One of the gods worshipped here is the god of literature, Wenchang Dijun. Our guide book said that if you visit the temple during exam times, you will see many offerings near Wenchang Dijun. The god of war (who, oddly enough, is the patron god to both policemen and gangsters), Guan Gong, is also worshipped here. I like the offerings of flowers, fruits, and sweets, though we also saw offerings of cigarettes and bottle of bad beer. I guess the gods also have their vices.

This large incense holder at Longshan Temple is rather unique. The 'fool holding up the sky' is a common motif in Buddhism, but the purposefully Western styling of the fool is unusual. It is thought that this 'fool' is stylized after the 17th century Dutch occupiers of Taiwan.

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