Tag Archives: worship

Festival at Dajia Mazu Temple, Taichung

Part of the Mazu Pilgrimage, which I recently posted about, was an ongoing celebration at a Mazu temple in Taichung. This celebration was going on at the same time the pilgrimage made its way to Changhua just south of the city.

Mazu Festival: Dajia Mazu Temple, Taichung San Tai Zi 2

These gods represent Ne Zha San Tai Zi, or 莲花三太子. He is known as a trickster god, usually represented as a boy, and is seen as playful and mischievous.  You’ll see him even on Taiwanese television, as he has sort of melded into a pop culture symbol.

Mazu Festival: Dajia Mazu Temple, Taichung

These mobile altars were common through the day, as certain gods “visited” Mazu. The man on the left was dressed in traditional clothing and I’m regretting every time that I missed taking his portrait.

Mazu Festival: Dajia Mazu Temple, Taichung

Mazu Festival: Dajia Mazu Temple, Taichung San Tai Zi 3

This man is pulling a San Tai Zi costume off the line, presumably to give the dancer a break. Later, I had a chance to get an image of the three costumes lined up as the dancers rested at the temple.

Mazu Festival: Dajia Mazu Temple, Taichung Gods Lined Up

Mazu Festival: Dajia Mazu Temple, Taichung Offerings

Offerings are given to the temple gods. Notice the pile of burning “ghost money” on the ground at their feet.

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Goddess of the Sea

Before I begin, I should mention and thank GigGuide.tw, a primarily English music site in Taiwan which chronicles music on the island. They featured some of my photos in a Spring Scream guide – check them out here.

Instead of covering more bands, as I planned, I’ll switch back to Taoism after some incredible events last weekend.

One of the largest pilgrimages in the world is underway. While many people think of the Muslim Hajj in Mecca or the various festivals in India which draw millions when it comes to these events, a festival currently underway in Taiwan is drawing huge crowds for Mazu, goddess of the sea.

Mazu is worshiped across East and Southeast Asia – especially by seagoing people as in Taiwan. Her blessing is seen as so powerful that people all over Taiwan and some outside of Taiwan will be sure to visit her as she makes her way through various cities.

Last weekend, I went with Yuling to witness such an event in Changhua, a city just south of Taichung.

This festival is indeed a pilgrimage – and a large one at that. It snakes around Taiwan, through various cities which are all excited at the presence of one of the most important gods in Taiwan. The parade processions include costumes, banners, fireworks, horns, and as said earlier, massive crowds. A perfect day for a camera. With the crowds and smoke, my 35mm f/1.8 never left the camera body.

Participants, like these seen above, wear simple clothing and are fed by people while making the trek throughout the island. I was offered food and drink multiple times by complete strangers, testament to the attitude of giving throughout the day. Many temples set out vegetarian food which was free in exchange for a small temple donation.

These scooters were caught up in the endless traffic. We actually left Changhua before it got even worse, with thousands filling the streets at night.

The people kneeling above are prostrating themselves so Mazu’s altar will pass over them. It is said to bring blessings if she visits you – even more if she passes directly overhead.

This man looked over his shoulder at me as the sparklers coming from the sky rained down – the parade had to stop multiple times for fireworks, sparklers, and other things which purposely try to keep the goddess in the town as long as possible so she will bless the residents.

These men were carrying banners and large spears ahead of Mazu as a sort of honor guard. It was great to spend time with the parade in the evening as we got some beautiful light from the setting sun.

   

Left: The crowds in the above photo are waiting for Mazu to arrive as fireworks are laid out before her altar moves through. Right: …and some fireworks to finish off this post. I’ll be back later with another post about this huge event, I’m sure.

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Revisiting Longshan

Longshan Temple is one of the most popular tourist spots in Taipei City and the most popular temple to visit.  I’ve blogged about it before, but with my family visiting, I knew we couldn’t miss this site during Chinese New Year.

While I focused on architecture and getting a “perfect HDR” last time (this never happened), I tried to look at the people this time around with the trusty 35mm.

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At the Temple

Since I finally have time off from work, I’m spending my day cleaning the apartment and later will be welcoming some family members to Taiwan to wander around the island with me as we celebrate Chinese New Year.  I’ll try to post, but won’t be writing heavily – though I’ll be taking lots of photos during this time.

Here’s a wish for everyone to have a prosperous year – 新年快樂!

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Tainan Temple Dedication

Last weekend, Yuling and I visited Tainan, a city in the south.  While it was very similar to cities like Hsinchu and Jhubei, there were a few different quirks such as a vibrant art district and some historical sites.  One thing that I wandered upon on Saturday was yet another temple parade, which was a great experience to take in – even though I’ve seen these before.

While following the parade as it visited temples around Tainan, I was offered beer, tea, binlang, and cigarettes from complete strangers.  I politely denied the cigarettes and binlang (also known as betel nut or areca nut) but was amazed and impressed by the hospitality of the people taking part.

The first thing I noticed about this crowd was that it was a mix.  Young and old, male and female.  While the parade in Jhubei was very much like this, it seemed more diverse than that group.  Another thing I noticed was the presence of robes – signifying a sense of at least a little more formality… though these things are never “too” formal (e.g. guys are drinking beer and smoking cigarettes while in the parade and banging on drums!).

You’ll notice a few more Chinese generals to start off with.  These guys were pretty impressive-looking, and I’m glad I had more light, unlike last time.

   

One of the more interesting aspects of this day was the presence of robed officiants.  It was much easier to figure out who was “in charge.”  They would go through the process of blessing idols by putting them through incense smoke and painting them – something I hadn’t seen before.

The couple below was quite fascinating to me – that lady looks a little annoyed at me or perhaps just a bit serious :)

 

 v

The spinning thing below was fascinating.  I had never seen one before, but it works as a sort of banner with the name of a god on the front.  When the parade came to a new altar/temple, the man would dance with the tassels moving through the air.  This is another new thing to me – this man was very animated and good at what he did.

The photo below shows some gifts being given to a passing god.  Gifts would be exchanged between temples as they moved through the city streets.

See the Flickr Photoset for the rest of the shots from that day.

EDIT 2010/2/22: A few edits were made to this post after consulting my girlfriend about the “8 generals.”  I think I had them confused as vampires at one point!

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More from Hong Kong

Last August, I went to Hong Kong with Yuling and posted about it quite a few times.  You can see my previous posts here:

This was taken at a pretty famous temple and I just got around to processing it with an Aperture 3 filter I thought brought out the photo best.  I like how it seems to texture the smoke and tries to capture the mood.

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Around the Apartment

OK – to straighten things out first, only the first three photos are new.  It amazes me… whenever I have time to shoot photos outside, it rains.  When I don’t (and end up not getting home until after-dark), it’s… well… dark.  This has been annoying as of late.

I do have good news, though.  Over the summer, I entered an HDR image of Sri Meenakshi Temple in Pearland, Texas (click on the title for that post/photo) to Harvard University’s Pluralism Project.  The Pluralism Project exists to educate people about America’s growing religious diversity and I was excited when they had a call for photos.  Well, I am one of the winners, but I can’t say that I got the grand prize.  That’s OK – the grand prize definitely kicked everyone’s butt… it’s a beautiful shot of floating lanterns.  My shot wasn’t bad, but looking back, I realize that I still need to keep working on framing.  I liked the dramatic perspective this one had and will try to improve on it in the future.

Anyway, as for tonight’s shots – the first three come from a quick jaunt out for some rice and pork at a Japanese-Taiwanese restaurant.  It was pretty good and cheap… nutritious, too… so no complaints here.  The first shot is a nearby restaurant’s paper lantern:

After dinner, Yuling and I walked around the neighborhood.  We came across this temple which was located right next to a park – the first shot includes some bokeh in the background as I was trying to get the obligatory temple incense shot:

I had mixed feelings once I was done with the following shot.  Since these were taken at night, I was playing around with ISO settings on my camera.  I set the ISO on the following shot a little too low/slow (OK, “a lot” too low/slow) and it came out a bit blurry.  At the same time, I like the effect on the colors and think the blurriness might work for the photo…

The following photos were taken and recently re-touched.  The first was on this blog earlier – I decided to lighten the photo some in order to make it “pop” out more:

…followed by a Taipei photo I dug out of the neglected batch:

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Ghost Festival (Post 1)

I know I’ve been posting a lot (you definitely know if you subscribe!) – but I wanted to get these photos up before the ghost festival starts again this weekend.  The festival comes to a climax – first with Tuesday’s display of food and other offerings as well as the burning of “ghost money” and setting off of firecrackers.  The ghost money mentioned involves these Taoist prayer sheets… meant to bring protection and good luck.  This protection and good luck is implied because you are in a way giving money to the ancestors – as well as providing them with food and drink.  Many of these tables – as you’ll see below – had food, beer, incense, and other items… sometimes a whole chicken with a head on – common in Chinese rituals.

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Po Lin Monastery (Hong Kong Post 5)

This is ACTUALLY the last Hong Kong post… these photos come from Po Lin Monastery, which is located right next to the Tian Tan Buddha.

The monastery was interestingly void of most foreign tourists, as I was the only non-Asian I noticed inside the actual temple complex.  In what I noticed as a Hong Kong fashion for temples, there was a place to grab a bite at a vegetarian restaurant – which I’m guessing is directly connected to the temple as opposed to the Starbucks and Subway less than a kilometer away.

One of the first things I noticed were these GIANT incense sticks.  Yuling actually took one and compared it – they were bigger than her arm… while she doesn’t have huge arms, this is still impressive for an incense stick.  If I remember right, they were for sale for about $35 USD, which makes the following photo NOT cheap for the people who placed these…

As you may/may not have noticed through my photos, I’ve always been intrigued by this temple incense.  It really draws you in to this world that is outside the hustle and bustle of daily life and more focused.  I have visited a lot of temples between here and the US, and I can’t count how many people I’ve accidentally run into who were carrying this around some altar.  Something about it fascinates me as being very similar – but very different – from the Christianity I know.

In addition, they provide the perfect subject for a photographer – something still yet moving… something you can focus on… something that is both not too colorful and full of character.  You’ll see more of these in my blog.

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Longshan Temple (Taipei Post 1)

As I mentioned before, I did a LOT in Taipei.  It’s a great city with a lot to see – some districts are newer, and others older.  While I stayed in the newer parts of the city for things like food and entertainment, the older parts beckon those who want to experience Chinese history, religion, and culture.

Longshan Temple could be called “interdenominational,” as my Lonely Planet guide suggests, but I think that’s glossing over the fact that Chinese religion is super-confusing to most Westerners as it is.  Since most people practice a plethora of belief systems, we see most temples “serving out” all or most of these in an almost cafeteria format.  Longshan is no different – much like Teo Chew or Pien Hou in Houston, we’ve got Chinese gods, boddhavistas, and Taoist prayer buildings sitting alongside each other.

As usual, click on each for the full Flickr photo.

There are, as usual, a few more on the Flickr stream.  I’ll be updating this with shots from Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, Taipei 101, and other Taipei sights within the coming days.

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