It’s been a few days since I returned from my 4-day trip to Taiwan, and I’m finally getting around to editing and uploading photos. Although we took a guided trip and didn’t have a lot of freedom in choosing where to go or what to eat, the experience as a whole was still quite enjoyable, as it was our first time going to Taiwan. I hope you enjoy vicariously as well!
Our first stop after arriving at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport was the Manka Longshan Temple. Built in the mid-18th century by settlers from Fujian, the temple is dedicated to numerous Chinese folk deities, such as Guanyin, Mazu, and Guan Yu.
The vastly intricate and gold-gilded wooden carvings on the pillars and the ceilings were a little too much for me, but it was impossible to deny the level of craftsmanship and expertise that went into their creation.
Unfortunately, due to numerous earthquakes, fires, and conflicts, much of the temple is not original. In fact, the vast majority of the temple as it stands now was rebuilt in the early 1900’s. However, the rebuilding of the temple was done so that it resembled the original as closely as possible. Nowadays, many people still visit to pray to the many deities worshiped here, and the temple grounds were thick with the smell of fragrant incense.
Our next destination was the National Palace Museum. Housing a permanent collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks, it is the largest collection of its type. I was surprised to learn that not even China houses a collection of this scale! The many artifacts housed here include those from the Neolithic age to the late Qing Dynasty. Security was extremely tight; visitors are required to pass through a metal detector, leave any cameras and backpacks at the entrance, and have their smaller purses examined thoroughly by stern-looking staff. As such, I was unable to take any photos of the wonderful artifacts on display, to my disappointment. Also, as we were on a guided tour, we were only here for about 2 hours, following our guide around the entire time. While she was extremely knowledgeable about the displays and I enjoyed the explanations, I honestly could have spent an entire week pouring over everything. As I was not able to take any photos, here are some interesting factoids that I gathered from our tour:
- Jade is considered a “living” rock or gem by the Chinese, because of its tendency to become more polished with wear, and change color depending on its condition. For example, jade pieces excavated from burial sites are brown, because of the iron absorbed from the corpses (i.e.: blood).
- Jade axes were carried by prehistoric chiefs of villages not as weapons, but as symbols of power. This eventually evolved into rectangular identification tags that were carried by Qing Dynasty government officials. Their ranks and regions could be identified by the quality of the jade, as well as the overall shape of the tag.
- Red and yellow were colors reserved for the Qing Emperor as they represented the sun. Additionally, phoenix motifs were reserved for the Emperor and Empress, and the numbers 9 and 8 were also reserved for the Emperor and Empress, respectively.
- The importance of dragons and eagles in the Qing Dynasty has shamanistic roots. Later, consorts of the Emperor would adorn themselves with richly decorated talons on their pinky fingers, which were reminiscent of eagle talons.
There was so much more that I learned, and I hope to be able to return to the museum in the future and spend a whole lot more time there.
Our last stop for the day was the Shilin Night Market. Regarded as the largest and most famous night market in Taiwan, it was honestly just an overwhelmingly crowded cacophony of cheap goods, street foods, and games scattered in narrow alleyways behind another Chinese temple.
At least I bought some adorable knock-off luggage tags for about $1 USD each (3 for 100 New Taiwan Dollars). There were also small game stalls where people could go fishing for goldfish to take home, or shrimp to cook right there on the spot, which was kind of cool.
Oodles of cheap and cute knock-off goods on sale! Perfect as gifts for my friends~ 🙂
Next we’ll visit the gorgeous geological marvel that is the Yehliu Geo Park, metropolitan Taipei 101, and more!