Monday, March 9, 2009

The Temple of Chiang Kai-Shek (and Hsinchu food): Updated 2021!

How many Chiangs can you find? Some of the pictures and statues appear to be Sun Yat-sen so it's a harder game than it seems!

April 5, 2021: This post is an update on an earlier post, with new pictures and clarifying information (such as the temple's actual name and address, and how to get there -- thanks to a friend for that.) I've edited the old information and interspersed it with updates and new photos.

Tianhong Temple 天宏宮
#31 Jiangong First Road, East District, Hsinchu 
(Near Tsinghua University)

Transportation: not a lot, but there are several buses. Bus 182 goes to Hsinchu High Speed Rail Station, and buses 5608 and BL1 will take you downtown. Any bus headed for Tsinghua University will get you within walking distance.

We tried (and failed) to escape the unceasing rain yesterday by heading south. We went to Beipu and Xinzhu. More on Beipu later - I'm going to start by talking about the few wet hours we spent in Xinzhu, exploring the old street, the night market, the old city gate and - the most fascinating by far - the temple dedicated to the worship of the Taiwanese "deity", Chiang Kai-Shek. 


If Qingshan Wang, Grandfather Seven and Grandfather Eight, Lin Mo - that's Matsu to you - and Baosheng Dadi were all real people, and most believe that they were - then I see nothing wrong with worshipping someone whom we know to have been a real person. I wouldn't pray to him myself, mind you.)

Beam Me Up, Dr. Sun

On our first visit, we didn't linger long in the temple, partly because we aren't big Chiang fans, and partly because it was pouring outside, and we'd just come from a visit to another part of Hsinchu.

On my second visit, the temple seemed rearranged somewhat. I had had some work at Tsinghua and planned an extra hour before I had to head to the HSR just to see how this temple was getting along as it's only a short walk from the campus entrance. If you take a side alley that cuts across a parking lot to get to Jiangong 1st Road, you'll also come across a beautiful example of an iron window grille bearing the character for "long life" in a random alleyway.

Most of the original statues were there but the shrine itself had a cleaner look.


Either I didn't notice the KMT "white sun on a blue field" and pro-KMT tablet on the alter the first time, or they'd been added in the years between my visits. 


The temple isn't very big. It's more of a shrine room, filled with statues and pictures of Chiang Kai-Shek, another general whose name escapes me, and Sun Yat-sen.  Apparently, this little temple in Hsinchu, not far from the Tsinghua University campus and night market, has collecteds some of the old busts and statues of Chiang and uses them in this temple as god-idols. 

I didn't notice these memorial pictures over the entrance (turn around after you enter, and look up) until my second visit:


These guys are big Ma fans, as we could see from the Ma bobbleheads decorating the temple. The toy cranes are there because the man we spoke with also runs his own construction company and he really likes cranes. (As of 2021 Ma's bobblehead is no longer present).

We only spoke with one person, but it was clear that the people tending the temple are mostly from China. The guy we talked to was born near Shanghai and came over with his family when he was 16 (which would make him about 75 years old). Although he still remembers how to speak Shanghainese, he's picked up a Taiwanese accent in his Mandarin and can speak Taiwanese as well.

I see they got a fancy new chair

And a "Police State Fun Toy" corner for the kids, I guess?

I believe the friendly old man we met on our first visit was the founder; before my second visit someone who knows this temple better than me mentioned that it was founded by someone like this -- an old KMT refugee who started a business in Taiwan. He had been in the construction business (no surprises there) and gave me a copy of his autobiography/memoir in Mandarin, during that first visit in 2009. 

I am sure he was a fine fellow in his personal life, even though he sided with and literally built a temple to worship mass murderers. People see the world through lenses they are given and lenses they create. But I have to admit, I never read the memoir. From what I hear, he has since passed away.

Older gentleman from Shanghai. Note all the different flags surrounding the main shrine area.

 As we didn't tell them where our true political beliefs lie, they were extremely friendly and happy that we'd stopped by. As important as it is (for me, at least) to own one's own beliefs and moral code and not shrink from admitting them, maybe standing in the temple of Chiang Kai-shek is not the best place to tell people around you that you think he was a murderer and a traitor to Taiwan, especially when those around you are genuinely friendly people. 

This is where the updated section ends.

We were given some fruit and made our way, drippingly, to the night market where we had lumpia 輪餅 - those crepe rolls  stuffed with meat and vegetables which are a specialty in Hsinchu, and mba wan 肉圓. The lumpia were better than anything I've tried in Taipei, where they skimp on the meat and savory flavors and add lots of veggies or worse, rou song 肉鬆 (which I can't stand). We loved the many-textured innards of these lumpia, replete with lots of richly marinated meat, peanuts, bean sprouts, greens, carrot shavings and other tasty bits and pieces. 

 The mba wan were very different from Taipei - they're on menus as "Hsinchu Rou Yuan" and are fried rather than steamed, and filled not with regular ground pork but with purple chunks - real chewy chunks - of marinated pork and cubes of young bamboo served in a spicy, flavorful pink sauce that I normally see on vegetarian sticky rice. The bamboo reminded me of Yuanlin Rouyuan, which used to be at the Heping-Fuxing intersection in Taipei, where they served it in brown gravy with cubed bamboo and mushrooms. (The restaurant is still there but the quality has gone downhill.) 

Sesame noodles (not the cold kind) and Xinzhu fried mba wan

Then we headed into the city god temple - the most important one of these in Taiwan - where tall god costumes we haven't seen in Taipei were on display.

We've never seen this god before, and don't know who he is.

We also saw all the pinata-like decorations from Chinese New Year - identifiable because most of them involved depictions of cows - hanging from the ceiling of the temple. It was quite a sight; there were hundreds of them.

One of Hundreds of Hanging Cows

Candle in the City God Temple

We then took a quick venture through the old street - which has a few old buildings but not many, but at least one interesting place to have some tea or coffee and one good mashed-taro dessert joint, a pass by the old city gate and a stop at the old moat to feed the fish (but actually ended up feeding the geese). We passed one of the two Matsu temples along the way. I don't have photos of this part because it was dark - my camera is not up to taking good night shots.

April 2021: Because I never properly explored this area on that first visit long ago, and certainly never got any good photographs, I suppose I'm due to venture that way again soon!


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B.BarNavi said...

Thank God I'm a monotheist. The idea of deifying ANYONE, but especially a character such as Chiang, is offensive to my very being.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

Fair enough.

I just don't like Chiang.

I love the Dao temple parades where various deities come out as idols or 'big doll' costumes, with face-painted martial defenders, dragon and lion dancers, self-injuring diviners...but Chiang? Ugh.

That said, I respect all religions and if those guys believe that Chiang became a god after he died and want to worship him, well, I don't agree with them but I'm not going to make a big fuss over it. If I were "tai ke" I'd feel differently.

I'm not religious at all, but if I were religious I think I'd be polytheistic for no good reasons that I can explain.