Friday, February 13, 2015

Tainan Souvenirs: Sword Lions and Puppets

 
So Tainan is famous for its "Sword Lions." They were first used on the shields of Koxinga's soldiers and later they became symbol that is believed to protect you. The number and direction of the sword means different things as well. If there's two swords it means it's extra strong, if the blade points to the right it's meant to expel evil spirits, if it's pointing to the left it will supposedly bring good fortune and luck. I thought it was a pretty cool souvenir and I like the design of it.
 
 
 
Also, puppetry is a tradition in Taiwan, called Bu Dai Xi (布袋戲). I'm really into the story Journey to the West and I found a puppet of Sun Wu Kong, the monkey king. He's known for being mischievous and intelligent and he's pretty funny too. The cudgel (the long stick in his hand), is said to grow and shrink at will and this puppet can twirl the cudgel by a small rod in the back. These puppet shows are common on TV and sometimes are performed live. However, they're all in Taiwanese and I have no idea what they are saying if there's no subtitles.
 
Pretty cool, right?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tainan Revisited: Yummy Snacks, a Catholic-Temple Fusion, and Koxinga's Park

This was our breakfast on the second day! Tainan is famous for congees (rice porridge). This one had fish and other unidentifiable things in it. I prefer not asking, otherwise I might not have dared to try it. It was really delicious! Oh, and Albert's eating fish stomach lining. (Ew!)
So there were a couple more used book stores we stopped today but I won't get into that. We had a midday snack of "NGUA GUI." It's Taiwanese and super hard to pronounce and spell. Basically it's made of turnip and it's served in a bowl. I thought this one was great! Better than the one I tried in Taipei. Oh, and by the shop was a really large and cool looking tree.
Would you try it???
Something that also keeps Tainan apart from other parts of Taiwan is its abundance of churches. I was very surprised to notice it this time. I wonder why they are so prevalent here. Maybe because of missionaries? It was the capitol for a long time. Anyways, today we wanted to visit a special Catholic church that had traditions and decorations fused with Taiwanese style temples. (Don't worry, it's legit!)
Welcome to Our Lady Queen of China Cathedral!
The Chinese characters above me say: "Catholic."
 
Among the many different things about this Church, Mary is depicted as Chinese. The volunteer who let us into the Church and told us about it said she was modeled after the empress CiXi (慈禧). I don't know if I believe her but that's an interesting thought. (CiXi was called the Dragon Lady and considered the worst and cruelest leader in Chinese history)
 
This crest was on the entrance. I wonder what it means. Albert thought the hat was funny.
 
Isn't the ceiling gorgeous?
There was also Chinese writing on either side of the front doors, which is common in temples. It's about Jesus though. Don't ask me to read it... it's a little too formal. (:embarrassed:)
 
The church looks a little dark in the pictures because it was about to close. We were lucky we walked around the back and found a volunteer who was happy to let us in. I would have been so disappointed if we didn't get to look inside.
 
So here's the side of the church. Notice the "hobbit hole!"
 
 

 
 
This is the inside of the Church. Again, it's a little dark because they were about to close and no one was there. Notice the octagonal opening at the top? The shape of the room itself was octagonal as well. This conforms to the Chinese philosophy of Ba Gua. I'm not quite sure how to describe it because I personally don't understand it (although I tried). The opening though is to allow your prayers to reach heaven easier... and it looks nice. Notice the incense burner in front of the altar?
Here's a close up of it! We use incense during some masses, correct? Well, the volunteer we talked to explained that the priest holds a lit incense stick to enter every mass and first puts it in this "tripod," for lack of a better word. 5 years here and I still haven't figured out how to call it in English (or Chinese either)... Oops! Laymen can also add incense whenever they like. It's a symbol of your prayers going up to heaven.
 
The container for holy water is also Chinese-style. :)
 
What else is special about this Church is the family shrine:
I asked the volunteer to explain how this was okay in the Catholic church. She reminded me about All Souls Day, where we pray for the dead. In this church, all of November is dedicated to all of the souls that have passed and this allows the parishioners to keep their tradition of paying respects to their ancestors. Instead of separate shrines for each family, this is a communal family shrine, and, again as with the incense, anyone is allowed to pay respects at any time.
 
Let me show you some more pictures of the church.
 
 
 
The Chinese says the name of the church.
 
I really enjoyed visiting this place and seeing the meld of Western and Taiwanese culture. I especially liked how these traditions were acceptable to the Catholic church. I'd like to go to mass there someday if I'm in Tainan again.
 
Next, across from the church was a park and memorial dedicated to Koxinga, a half Japanese pirate who helped kick the Dutch out of Taiwan in its early history. This wasn't part of our itinerary but we saw it and thought it looked interesting.
 
 
 
 
<3
 
 
There's a big Koxinga idol!
 
 
I love the style of architecture!
 

Look at the beautiful woodwork!
 
I can't help it. I must take pictures with animal statues. This lion had an interesting style to it!
 
Ok... so the piece de resistance. (Excuse my lack of accent marks) I have been wanting to try this food in Tainan for years now, ever since I was told about it in my Chinese class. Last time we were here we didn't make it our priority, but, behold, we found GuanCaiBan (棺材板) or "coffin toast." It's a hollowed out piece of toast with gravy and other random things in it. Originally it was stuffed with organs. Luckily mine was not. (Barf!)
 
I thought it was pretty delicious! At first we only ordered one in case I couldn't handle it, but I scarfed it down and Albert had to order another one. Sorry!!! But it reminds me of biscuits and gravy. I think I'll try to make it myself someday too!
 
Also, there's another dish from Tainan that I have to mention. Now, I'm not too fond of oysters but if you are you should try "O-A-Mi-Sua." It's Taiwanese so I have no idea how to spell it. Basically it's thin rice noodles in broth with oysters. I skipped out on this one because I have tried it before and I was too full from my "coffin toast."
 
So that was the end of our second day in Tainan! It was a blast! I forgot to mention the two things I bought in the Old Street, but this entry is already picture heavy. Let's leave it for next time!