Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sun Moon Lake (Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village)

It was a slightly rainy day but still a great one to see the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. In case you don't know, Formosa was an old name for Taiwan! ;) This park is half roller coasters, and half an educational exhibit on the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan. We only had half a day so we spent it learning about the native tribes. You get there from Sun Moon Lake by cable car. The view was, again, really gorgeous and it was close enough to a roller coaster in itself, since you have to cross over a couple mountains on the way.

This is a really bad picture- it was inside the museum and I couldn't get the lighting right. But I just want to show you that there are 26 tribes on this small island (according to the map). I believe only 13 or 14 are officially recognized and the park only has exhibits on 9 of them. (please correct me, I know I'm wrong on how many are recognized by Taiwan)

They had different houses reconstructed of different tribes- here's an example of one from the Paiwan tribe. My impression is that they are very short in general and pretty small. One tribe even had a custom to bury their ancestors inside their houses so that they can watch over and protect the family.

This is the "men's lodge" of the Paiwan tribe.

In the museum they showcased traditional clothes from different tribes. I loved it so much! Here's some pictures of them:

This tribe is super interesting. They're on a small island off the coast of Taiwan. The attire looks a little ridiculous because they cover their head but practically nothing else. However, I read that the helmet is used as protection in fights and also against evil spirits. They're famous for the boats they make and I've seen examples of the boats in China's National Palace Museum in Shanghai. Of course, they were grouped in the exhibit as one of China's aboriginal tribes.

I really want to go to their island someday though!!!

There were a couple of shows about the tribes and they were really interesting to me because I could see more concrete examples of the culture. :)

Next, the food!!!! For some reason I was starving the whole day, which was great since that meant we could try a lot of traditional food from the tribes.

That's millet rice, dried meat, and tarot. I really loved the rice!

And here's the famous bamboo rice. It's cooked inside a piece of bamboo, as you can see. There were also tiny taros. I normally hate taro but I loved it here!

Also from the museum. Can you believe children played with dried out fish?!

I feel like I've seen and heard this instrument in other places as well, but it's a common one for some of the tribes. You can see a video of it being played below.

In addition to going to shows, checking out the museum, and walking through traditional houses, there were some activities to try like: blow darts!!!!! (and archery)!!

This was so much fun! I never tried it before!!!

I think this was my second time with archery. It's not easy at all! Albert had a better time with it but somehow his form was correct (or he has big arms), and the string kept snapping against his arm. Got a big ole bruise for the rest of the day! :P

So that was only some of the cool things at the Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village. We were only there a half day and didn't even get to see all of it. It was a ton of fun though!!!

Sun Moon Lake (Xuan Zang Temple)

Xuan Zang the monk is famous for going to India in the Tang Dynasty to bring back Buddhist scriptures to China. His story became legendary in the the novel Journey to the West. I read an abridged version in an Intro to Asian Studies course in undergrad and now I'm reading the full version, in English of course. I can't exactly read ancient Chinese yet! So although the novel could not be a true account with all of the monsters, Buddhas and Daoist gods that appear, it still has some roots in what actually happened.

I was extremely excited to find out that there was a temple to Xuan Zang because I love the story Journey to the West, especially the monkey king, Sun Wu Kong. I've been reading the novel (it's broken down into four books, each over 1,000 pages long) and I'm on the second to last chapter. In the book, Xuan Zang is characterized as extremely naive and scared of anything that moves. He also seems to lose heart easily. He's not a well liked character in my opinion, but he does have a good heart and has the strongest morals of any of his other companions on the journey.

The temple was less ornate than Wen Wu Temple, but it was more peaceful and had a nicer view, which I will show you later.

The statue in the middle is Xuan Zang, and if you look on his back there is an ancient version of a backpack with all of the scrolls he brought back.

What's different about this temple is that there is no incense burning or food offerings. Instead you light a candle in a lotus shaped candle holder. I like it because it's more environmentally friendly. I would have lit one too, except I used my money to buy a wooden carved keychain.

On the second floor was a small exhibition about Xuan Zang and Buddhism. This is a diagram of the cycles of life you can be born into (according to the religion): there's a few types of Buddhas and saints, gods, people, animals, and two different categories of demons.

When enlightened Buddhists die, their remains will be burned and supposedly some kind of round crystal or stone remains. The amount of stones indicate how enlightened the person was. In this chalice type thing you can look through the yellow glass and see some such stones.

What's famous about this temple is that it holds part of Xuan Zang's remains. It's blocked off so you cannot get close enough to see. However, a camera kindly shows you the remains of part of his jaw bone in a tv screen.

A little morbid, right? But still cool if that was really part of his body!
Here's the view I promised earlier. Sun Moon Lake is so gorgeous. It's no wonder it's one of the top tourists spots for Mainland Chinese people.