Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tainan Revisited: Five Concubines Temple, "Hell" Temple, and Garden Night Market


Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan and the original capitol. It has a completely different feel from Taipei in that there’s no subway system, many of the buildings are brick and look extremely old, and there are way more temples and Catholic churches.

Another common feature we found on this trip was that there’s also an abundance of used book stores. We stopped in almost every one we saw and bought at least 1 book on average at each one. My favorite finds were a book of Chinese synonyms and one on common grammar constructions.

But books were not the main focus of our trip- that was only a happy coincidence. I wanted to stop by the famous temples we missed last time (years ago) and go to the old street for shopping.

 

 
 
This is a common treat in Taiwan: Wheel Cakes (車輪餅). They’re filled with various things, such as red bean paste. Believe me, it’s actually good!
 
You can get a feel for the old type of building methods here. Some roads were even cobblestone.
Our first place to visit was the Five Concubines Temple (五妃廟). It’s dedicated to the concubines of a prince in the Qing Dynasty who hung themselves as a sign of loyalty when they were certain he was dead. It’s a very unusual concept in Western thinking. I don’t think I’ll ever understand people who commit suicide to follow someone in death. However, this is an interesting temple and it was surrounded by a gorgeous park.
 
 
 
You can read more information about the temple from this sign.
 
 
 
 
 
I told you it was a beautiful park!!! Below is the temple. It’s pretty small and in the back are the graves of the concubines. The grounds also include the grave of a eunuch who also hung himself for his prince.
 
 
 
 
 
 
What is extremely unusual about this temple is that people will offer perfume (in the bottle that looks like a beverage), makeup, and lipstick to the concubines in respect.
These are the idols of the five concubines.
This is the map of the structure. You can see the grave in the back. It’s the gray mound.
 
 
 
 
I didn’t take any pictures of the eunuch’s shrine but I think you get an idea of the place. Right across from the temple was a shop famous for tofu desserts. We got almond flavored tofu with red beans on top. It was actually delicious! Normally I’m not a big fan of tofu. I would definitely go there again if I had the chance.
Next we went to Dong Yue Temple (東嶽殿), which I would nickname “Hell Temple,” because you come here to pay respect to the god of the underworld. It boasts of murals of hell but they’re obscured now (probably because of all the incense).
 
 
 
 
These are all different gods that have to do with hell. This one in particular judges you when you get there.
 
 
 
See the chains in the guy’s hands on the left?
Each level of hell has a god who rules over it. These are some of them.
And the god of hell is the large one in the back.
These red crescents are used to ask the gods questions or ask for a wish. You throw two of them on the ground and if one of them has the round side up and the other has the flat side up three times in a row then the gods “agree.”
People offered a whole fish, a whole chicken, and a whole duck. We also saw an old man who was carrying a yellow paper with red writing on it. He was bowing multiple times to each god in the temple. Albert said the paper must be a spell. For what, we don’t know.
This guy is pretty interesting too. His tongue always sticks out because according to his story he hung himself.
You use this furnace to light your incense before you pay respects.
We were also able to get a copy of the Taiwan’s version of Dante’s Inferno. They have a similar story of a person who journeys through the different levels of hell and you find out the punishments for each wrongdoing. I found it more graphic and violent than Dante’s version.
That night we went to one of the famous nightmarkets: Garden Nighmarket (花園夜市). Unlike in Taipei, nightmarkets are only open on certain days. They are also usually on a city block and not along a road. This makes it much harder to navigate and easily crowded.
We got to try one of Tainan’s famous dishes: O-A-Jian, or Oyster Omelet in English.  Oysters have never been my favorite but this omelet was not too bad. We also found Mo Ji. I guess it’s Mochi in English??? It’s like a thick rice paste made into balls and dusted with different flavors. Peanut is the best! ;)
The way he made the balls was fascinating. I’m never that graceful or fast when I try to make Mo Ji balls.
So that was our first day in Tainan this year!  Wait for the next entry where you get to a see a Catholic Church that’s fused with Taiwanese temple decorations!

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