Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day Trip To Xizhi II

End of a rally for Tsai Ying-wen ("English Tsai"!) in Xizhi on Sunday

Building on this post about "climbing" Da Jian Mountain in Xizhi (汐止), this is about our return to Xizhi this past Sunday.

I know, Xizhi. I told my students that I went there on Sunday and they returned with..."Why?"

"I don't know," I replied honestly, with a smile.

There are things, however, to do in Xizhi. I know. I know. But there are. When we arrived, we grabbed a taxi to a waterfall right by the road up Dajian Mountain. We'd been to the other well-known falls down a path near the temple up there (the one with gorgeous rocks with water flowing over them like a sculpture in a fancy office building) - but this one was to the left of the main road, down another road that no bus goes down, and is quite literally right by the road, up a few easy stairs.

One of the waterfalls on the slopes of Da Jian Mountain in Xizhi

We took a taxi because I have a problem with my right foot (inflamed tendon) and can't walk for long distance, and it is about a 1km walk down the road off the main road, which is fronted by a gate with a pubescent security guard. I forget the name of the waterfall but will try to find out and come back and post it, or the friend who came with us could comment here!

The falls are quite pretty and worth a quick visit - one pool looks swimmable though we didn't try, and there are several tables for lovely picnics, and it's easy to get to. There are several layers of falls, meaning there's a lot to see, and there is theoretically a path up to the very top but thanks to the recent rains it was all mud and unwalkable (I didn't even try with my foot in the condition it's in, but our friend and my husband did).

We then took the taxi down to 慈航紀念堂 (not sure about those characters - it's "Ci Hang Ji Nian Tang"), a temple and monastery on the lower slopes of the mountain. We started at a small temple with a huge Buddha and a very peaceful altar room, which had these little statues outside that I seem to see whenever there is a preserved monk body around.

This complex has the gold-covered body of a preserved monk (金身 - literally "gold body") - the actual corpse of a monk who died in meditation as a result of a fast and who is then worshipped as a deity and idol. This is the second preserved monk we've seen, the first being at Peaceful Country Temple (安國寺 or "An Guo Si") on the slopes of, I think, Datun Mountain near Xinbeitou.

I have no good photos of that because, honestly, it felt weird to take photos of the body itself. I did snap one from a distance but it just didn't feel proper or right so I won't post it.

"Oh, Buddha, teach me more!"

The lower level temple, which is white and looks old from the outside, has an exhibition room on the preserved monk's life and material possessions, including this lovely display of his washing apparatus - I love that they kept his ancient tube of toothpaste. Total class. They had lots of fascinating old pictures from the a Buddhist society that the monk (called "大師" which is not very helpful, it just means "great teacher") was involved in, his old identification papers, and lots of personal items. The big Buddha upstairs is also worth a look.

Then we left that and climbed to the huge formidable monastery above it - easy to find because it's really huge - which had fine views down over Xizhi and even over to Taipei City. That's where the actual monk body is located, in the pagoda at the very top. You have to enter, go up the flight of stairs to a large building at the right, then keep going up until you come to the uppermost structure.

"Hi ho, Hi ho, it's off to fast and meditate until death I go!"

Around the pagoda, the monastery landscape architects clearly thought that some pearlized plaster gnomes were just the thing that it needed for a solemn, meditative atmosphere. From the top you can see Taipei... well as a fine view down the monastery rooftops to Xizhi and surrounding hills.

The monastery itself is a new complex, but it's very well done. Someone put a lot of thought into designing something that had a timeless, antique-but-modern look that mimics traditional buildings quite well. From here it could almost pass for a real historic site.

A snail crawled across the grass near the pagoda.

"Look what I plucked!"
"Look what I plucked!"

After coming back down from the preserved monk, we ate a late lunch in the dark little lanes of downtown Xizhi, passing this lovely scene along the way.

Then we checked out "Xizhi Old Street" which honestly, was kind of not worth it. Apparently there used to be some great buildings there, but they've all been recently torn down and now only a few shophouses and one genuine old residence remain. I love the painting of the boy and his tiny pet elephant on the patio side wall of the one old residence:

That street does turn into an interesting looking market which is worth a look-see if it's going on, and if you follow the lanes behind it you'll get to a lovely bike path with a wall on one side, blocking the river view, and skeletons of old brick buildings fronted by in-use urban gardens on the other, growing all sorts of vegetables and herbs. We also found this awesome old shop selling records, cassettes, CDs and vintage phonographs. Dude. So cool. Not sure what the demand for antique phonographs is in Xizhi, but still. Cooooool.

We stopped to rest for awhile, thanks to my foot, by a temple behind the old street somewhere which was a bit boring from the front but very interesting from behind:

While resting there a man with two buckets of brown goo on either end of a shoulder-stick walked by, and from the stench we could tell it was poopy fertilizer for the urban gardens out back along the bike trail.

"I'm comin' ter git you!"

Oh, and we saw another snail.

All in all it was a pleasant afternoon - not something tourists would want to rush out and see but definitely fun for an overcast Sunday, seeing stuff most people wouldn't think to go find. I do recommend a trip just for Dajian Mountain and the preserved monk, however. Totally worth it.

Next (and probably final) Xizhi trip will be Hsinshan (新山 -New Mountain) and Dream Lake, outlined in Taipei Day Trips.


J said...

That was Jiadong Waterfall(s), and you did get the name of the temple right.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

Thanks - perfect!