Showing posts with label guiyang_street. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guiyang_street. Show all posts

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Taipei Love: Guiyang Street

The weather yesterday was beautiful - one nice day out of 11 days (for me) off - so before some friends came over, we went to the Longshan Temple area to wander and take some photos on and around Guiyang Street.

Guiyang Street is one of my favorite overlooked streets in old Taipei - it's not as fancy or lengthy as Dihua Street nor as renovated and promoted as Bopiliao, but also usually not as crowded. It really only gets going once a year for 青山王's birthday festival  and otherwise a quiet, lovely place to take a quick stroll, see some old architecture, eat a few snacks, visit two historic temples and have a cup of coffee. The shophouses here aren't as "wealthy" as Dihua's, but that almost makes them more charming in their slightly decrepit way. My not-so-secret: deep down I was hoping I would have the chance to live in this area, and rent a renovated apartment in an old shophouse. That didn't happen - I ended up on the other side of the spectrum completely - but it really would be my Taipei dream come true.

Crab for sale!
First we wandered up Guangzhou Street, which is the non-touristy branch of the popular Huaxi Night Market (this part is often called Guangzhou St. Night market). At one end is Longshan Temple. Midway through you reach Huaxi Street, and if you keep going you'll hit Naruwan Indigenous People's Market and Xuehai Academy (also mentioned in the previous link). You'll also pass Mangka Gate  - worthy of a quick bite of history and also shown in a scene in the Taiwanese movie Monga. We had some food, did some people watching and walked north a bit.

I prefer the Guangzhou Street part of this market to Huaxi - the dingy, mostly-for-the-tourists sex shops (although the area does contain brothels) and mediocre food in the covered market keep me away, but Guangzhou Street is packed with good food, people to watch and interesting stuff to buy.

For Chinese New Year, the entire street was open during the day as it would be at night on other days -  rather like the area around Anping Fort outside Tainan. In fact the entire neighborhood was one big outdoor market that has been running for most of the week.

Shredded savory pancakes on Guangzhou Street
 Then, if you take Xiyuan Road north, up the left side of Longshan Temple (if coming from the MRT station), you'll pass lots of stores selling idols. Some are Buddhist, some are Dao/folk religion, some are for home shrines, other supplies are for actual temples. There's usually a bit of decent people-watching - and dog-watching - to do up this way as well.

I particularly like this one

One thing I really love about this neighborhood isn't just the old shophouses - it's the mid-century architecture of note (some of the stuff from that era is godawful - some is charming, though, and some give Taipei a special "look" that I really haven't seen in other Asian cities.

Other than living in a well-renovated shophouse, which is next to impossible (if not actually impossible) to pull off, though, living options in this colorful neighborhood tend to be run-down and cramped, and probably very much roach-infested (because the whole city is, and this area is a lot older and in many ways not well maintained). For example, I wouldn't want to live here and hang my clothes out to dry directly over a busy street, to pick up all sorts of grime and exhaust fumes:

 But then you make it up to Guiyang Street and more charming buildings come into view. I love this one and hope it can be more fully restored - the outside looks fine, but it seems to be unused, and possibly uninhabitable. I'd love to see that change - I've never seen any sign of life on the upper story, although there is some use made of the first floor.

Turn left and you reach Qingshan Temple - it is said that it was built here when settlers from Fujian carried Qingshan's idol up what is now Guiyang Street (it's that old, yo) and the idol suddenly grew heavy and immovable on that site. The carriers knew this was a sign that the Lord of Green Mountain wanted his temple placed there, so there they built it (interestingly, this story of idols becoming too heavy to move when they don't wish to be moved is not limited to China and Taiwan - Amitav Ghosh mentions similar stories in North Africa, the Middle East and India in his book, In An Antique Land, which I highly recommend).

I tell the story of Qingshan in the link to his birthday festival above.

Of course, these days kids just check their cell phones outside.

One thing I really love about this neighborhood is that it's not all shiny and perfect - that you get lovely little details such as these roof decorations on temples, right next to apartment buildings, many of which are older and downright ugly. There's a strangely pleasing contrast in that.

 Much of the ceiling work in this temple was put in without nails, by the way. Some master craftsmanship, that.

Some more photos of Qingshan Temple:

We didn't visit Qingshui Temple on this walk, because I actually sprained my ankle slightly at Qingshan, and we had to get back to Da'an to greet guests who were coming over (and who showed up five minutes early - a first for people I invite over). It's at the other end of this section of Guiyang Street and well worth a visit (photos in the link above, with some background and photos of Guiyang Street during festivals).

Guiyang Street is quite charming
Other than shophouse architecture and old temples, Guiyang Street is also home to an old incense shop, at least one Pu'er tea shop and a jade store. Many of the shops on this street are also historic, some dating back at least a century.

This is basically my dream apartment - maybe with nicer windows with wooden Chinese screens. It's hard to find something like this, though, to rent in Taipei.

Next door is a coffeeshop, kind of decrepit and ancient with an old cat (who may or may not still be alive) - tables for that shop and the street stand shown are positioned to take advantage of the pleasant street atmosphere. The coffee's dark and bitter, but the neighborhood makes up for it.

Walking back towards Longshan Temple MRT via Kangding Street, you pass a lot of this:

I feel like this is 50 years' worth of hardware, machinery and junk buildup. I have to wonder how long it would take to create something this dense and chaotic. It's almost like a modern art installation exploring neglect, hoarding, decrepitude, industrialism and chaos in the modern world.

Walking back this way you pass Bopiliao and, around New Year, a whole market full of stuff to eat and buy - something worth doing if you're in Taipei over Chinese New Year and want to get out and be around people.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Qingshan Wang 2011

Every year around this time - based on the lunar calendar - 青山宮 (Qingshan Temple) on Guiyang Street holds its annual celebration. Other temples from around the area come to pay homage to Qingshan Wang (The Lord of Green Mountain), and Qingshan Wang himself makes a circuit of the other nearby temples. The festival usually spans three days, with the biggest processional taking place on the night of the final day. It typically ends between 11pm and 1am.

It's a favorite among campaigning politicians as many of Wanhua's residents turn out to see the festivities.

We try to go every year, which has not gone unnoticed. The day before yesterday our friend Joseph was there and managed to shake hands with a campaigning Tsai Ying-wen (蔡英文). I'm looking forward to his blog post with pictures on that. Some campaign assistant asked him "is this your first time to this festival?" and some local shot back "no, that guy comes every year". To be fair, Joseph kind of sticks out. The year previously, I was jockeying for a good position from which to see the parade and a guy stood in front of me. I complained and he said "we see you every few months at these temple parades. You always get the chance to take pictures, so I don't feel bad for you!"

This year was my favorite so far - we left at about midnight, and it was still going. The highlight of the night was the delegation from the Tiger Temple (虎爺宮) in Xinzhuang (新莊), which I now feel I must visit. People involved with the temple, male and female, wore tiger-striped jackets and yellow headbands, came in shouting "TIGER GRANDFATHER!" (虎爺), "ho ya" in Taiwanese. Apparently this deified tiger has the ability to control ghosts, demons and other celestial bad boys. They piled up firecrackers to about knee height, positioned the idol's palanquin over them and set off the pile. The palanquin looked quite worse for wear. So did the guys.

There were also techno-dancing "god children" (san tai zi), lion dancers, dragon dancers, idols, Eight Generals and the usual contingent of tall gods and short dancing gods (七爺八爺) who have their own story (they were two real-life generals from history who were such good friends that they were like brothers, so when they were trapped under a bridge during a flood, they stayed and drowned together rather than be separated).

I told the story of Qingshan Wang here, back in 2008, and have more posts on this particular festival here, here, and about Hao Lung-bin's appearance at the festival here.

Updated with photos!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Qingshan Wang Festival I

We saw Dang Ki! In Taipei! Dang Ki (in Taiwanese), or Ji-tong in Chinese, are young men or women who offer themselves up for spiritual possession and then beat themselves with painful implements (pronged clubs, spiked mallets and balls, whips and long needles, to name a few) while their bodies are in the deity's control rather than their own. The blood shed - there is always blood, usually from the back or forehead - is used to write talismans and charms.

It happened today (November 19th) in Taipei, at Sanqing Gong between Guilin Street and Huanhe Road, between 3 and 4pm.

I do have photos and a video, but had to take them on a friend's camera (unfortunately the video has no sound) so they will be posted later.

This is all related to the birthday of Qingshan Wang, and the festivities that take place the day after. More photos and information below.

So I've spent yesterday evening and this afternoon in Wanhua, enjoying the Qingshan Wang birthday festivities. For those who don't know, Qingshan Gong is one of two temples at either end of the famous section of Guiyang Street, north of Longshan Temple and southwest of Ximen. Qingshan Wang - or Lord of the Green Mountain - was a guy named Zhang Gun from the Three Kingdoms era sent to Fujian. Due to his wise, benevolent rule, the locals in Fujian worshipped him as a deity who protected from epidemics and brought peace.

He is called Lord of the Green Mountain because, a thousand years later, an official named Cui brought his likeness to the top of Qingshan, or Green Mountain, as per a verse found on the back of a tablet.

A statue of him was brought to Taiwan when Fujianese settlers moved there, and it is said to have ended up on Guiyang Street because, while carrying it through town, it became too heavy to move in one spot, marking the place where he would like his temple to be built.

His birthday is on the 21st day of the 10th lunar month (this year's November 18th), though the best party in Wanhua is the day after, starting at noon and going until midnight.

Other than the Dang Ki - that is really quite rare, especially in northern Taiwan (I hear it happens a lot more often in the south) it was a noisy street festival such as can be seen at all times of year, celebrating any number of Daoist deities. They began at Qingshan Temple at 5pm (the best photos come from the pre-processional line-up, loop around Wanhua, head through the Guangzhou Street Night Market, stop at Longshan Temple and then continue through the small streets.

One other interesting note was that they did not have typical ba jia jiang. These performed similar duties to ba jia jiang but were made up quite differently. Anyone with any information on this is encouraged to comment; I'd like to know why.

They had red guys...

...and green guys...both of whom reminded me of Thousand Mile Eyes and Ears that Follow the Wind (Matsu's companions), but then there was this fellow:

I haven't seen him before.

There was also a Wealth Beckoning Child - at least I believe this is what he is portraying. I haven't seen one before. Around him were palanquins of the temple's sponsors (you can ride in a sedan chair if you contribute $100,000 NT or more to Qingshan Gong. A few older ladies - probably the wealthiest women in Wanhua - were doing just that.

We also took some great photos of the masks of the largest costumes:

...and of course a generally good time was had by all.

The next Qingshan Wang birthday processional will be held on December 7th, 2009 at 5pm, with the biggest festival taking place on December 8th in the afternoon.