Taiwan Part Five: Mid-Autumn Madness

In September some relative’s friend’s daughter Joyce showed up on my doorstep and announced that the next day, she would be taking Beth and I to Lukang for the weekend. While there, we were to visit Long-Shan (Dragon Mountain) Temple (龍山寺) for the Mid-Autumn Festival. Surprisingly enough, not a lot happened during said festival, some people ran down the streets and lit fireworks, and we ate mooncakes (delicious!). Legend has it that Chang’er swallowed an immortality elixir stolen from her husband, and she flew to the moon and became the goddess of the moon, who has lived in the palace on the moon ever since. During the festival, one looks to the moon in hopes of seeing her dancing. In the 17th century, Dutch occupiers used Lukang as a major harbor for exports; in 1784 it was designated as the Taiwan seaport for shipping links with the Hanchiang harbor at Chuanchou on the coast of mainland China, thereby becoming the gateway to central Taiwan. At that time the town was crowded with stores that covered their facing streets with awnings, creating the famous ‘no sky’ market areas. Early in the 1900’s the conservative residents refused to allow the passage of major railways and highways, and the harbor silted up as well, reducing Lukang from the second largest city in Taiwan to a small backwater town. It is the same conservatism that has allowed the preservation of the traditional face of Lukang.

So the next day, Beth, Joyce, Joyce’s friend ‘Sweetie’, and I hopped aboard a train for the long ride to Lukang. Our first stop was Long-Shan Temple. Built in the Ming Dynasty (around 1653), the Long-Shan Temple is the first Buddhist temple ever built in Taiwan. As Lukang was reaching the peak of its economical prosperity, along with plentiful donations from the local well-to-do citizens, the temple was relocated and rebuilt twice. Fanciful building blocks were purchased from afar, including colossal stones from France, and wood and bricks from Fu-Jou. In addition, distinguished artists and architects were hired from the Chinese mainland to help create what amounted to “Taiwan’s Forbidden City.” The style of construction is identical to that of the imperial palaces built in the Northern Sung Dynasty. There used to be altogether 99 doors and gates in and out of the temple, and each contained significant meaning (according to tradition) while they link all parts of the temple into one entity. As one of the three oldest temples in Taiwan, the Long-Shan Temple was once a subsidiary branch of the Kai-Yuan Temple of Chuan-Jou during the Ching Dynasty. The deities worshipped in the central sanctuary are Guan-Yin, the Lord of Land, the Goddess of Childbirth, and the Eighteen Saints. In the rear sanctuary are the Dragon God and God of Winds. During the time of Japanese occupation, the Gods in the central sanctuary were removed to the two wings, replaced by the Japanese-verion Buddha. In 1921, a fire blasted the rear sanctuary, destroying all the antique Buddhist statues except a bronze statue of Guan-Yin and one of the tiger-taming saints. In 1928, some master sculptors were employed from the mainland to restore the destroyed statues. The rear sanctuary was not fully restored until 1936. After the restoration of Taiwan in 1955, the Gods originally located in the central sanctuary were moved back to their proper location, the Japanese Buddha removed and placed in the rear sanctuary. The statue of Guan-Yin in place today (in addition to the Eighteen Saints) were made in 1962. At 300 years old, the Long-Shan Temple reflects the rise and fall of Lukang’s history. Now it is known worldwide for its architectural achievement, chronicling past glory in addition to the town’s cultural spirit.










While we were at the temple, we were able to make prints from their ancient temple plates. I made a print of a Chi’lin or Chinese Unicorn, which was originally used as a ladies’ underwear pattern. Talk about your fancy panties! I’d scan the print itself but I have no idea where the hell it is. I think it was one of the things that was missing of of the numerous boxes I shipped home (Every single box I shipped home was absolutely torn apart, things were taken, and I’m still mad about a few of them. Damn customs! Leave my painting books alone!) After we were done checking out the temple and finished shopping in the no-sky market, it was getting late, and it was time for dinner. Joyce took us to some sort of Taiwanese chicken chain. At that point, I was still quite unused to seeing the heads still on cooked animals, and had to take this picture. (Look at the very center of the menu if you’re confused.)


Actually, scratch that. I’m still not used to it. They were giving away DINOSAUR toys with their kids meal. And they had a giant rooster outside. If I were to say that didn’t scream ‘photo op’, you’d obviously be talking to an imposter Melissa.


After dinner, we went back to the home of our hosts, who promptly offered us some milk that had been sitting in the van all day. Beth had the all-too-pleasant experience of accidentally opening the bathroom door on the host father, who was standing there looking bewildered in his underwear. I was pretty sure I was going to die laughing when she came back upstairs with this horrified look on her face. The next day we went to the Lukang Folk Arts Museum. The European-style structure that houses this museum appears somewhat out of place amid the traditional buildings of Lukang. Originally the residence of a wealthy local landholder named Ku Hsienjung, it was later donated as a place to exhibit a large collection of artifacts, many of them articles of daily use in ancient times. I was fascinated to see the tiny shoes women wore when foot-binding was in fashion. The process of foot-binding itself is rather disgusting; if you’re interesting in reading about it and seeing how it actually shapes the foot, I suggest you look here. (Not for the weak of stomach!) We pretty much had the run of the place as no one else was visiting, and Joyce got bored so we went off to take more stupid pictures of ourselves. “Here’s a building. We must take pictures by it!” …ok!




I was glad to have visited Lukang when I did. Before we came through there again on the Taiwan tour in April, a huge earthquake had devastated the temple and it had to be held up by metal structures built around it. Though I’m sure Beth was appreciative of the lack of cheesecloth underwear the second time around.

16 Comments Taiwan Part Five: Mid-Autumn Madness

  1. v1c1ous March 1, 2006 at 10:44 pm

    You would make a great tour guide.

    Dude, that foot binding stuff is sick. A quote in the Wikipedia entry states that, “If you remove the shoes and bindings, the aesthetic feeling will be destroyed forever.” No shit.

    1. admin March 1, 2006 at 11:16 pm

      Thanks, I just like to talk…a lot. 😀

      I’m hoping that a lot of this stuff doesn’t come across as being too dry, to the point of being uninteresting. I’m too close to the subject matter, so I just spout out everything.

      I think the thing that gets me about footbinding is the way that the feet would actually DIE in the process. I can’t imagine that anyone would find the smell of rotting flesh to be attractive, regardless of how tiny the feet may be.

      1. damienwolfe March 1, 2006 at 11:46 pm

        >>I can’t imagine that anyone would find the smell of rotting flesh to be attractive<<

        I love the smell of decomposition in the morning! *grins* Kidding, of course. However, I do need to eat after I embalm. Something about the whole thing makes me hungry.

        1. admin March 1, 2006 at 11:54 pm

          Gross, dude. GROSS.

          1. damienwolfe March 1, 2006 at 11:58 pm

            The hunger thing? It’s not just me. Most of the people in my class are the same way.

          2. admin March 2, 2006 at 12:02 am

            That disturbs me in a profound sort of way.

          3. damienwolfe March 2, 2006 at 12:13 am

            Well, it’s not like it’s tied to cannibalism. I think it’s all the work that’s involved.

  2. hallucinas March 2, 2006 at 12:14 am

    these posts must be inspiring to me because last night I had a dream that i was an exchange student in Japan. And with that dream came all this anxiety – where is my camera? I don’t speak Japanese? What will I eat? Oh my god I am out of batteries.

    I have spent time in other countries as a student, and it was all the usual… heh.

    1. admin March 2, 2006 at 12:23 am

      It’d probably be easier for you to eat in Japan than here–the Japanese are a lot more vegan-friendly. 🙂

      1. hallucinas March 2, 2006 at 2:09 am

        i’ve heard that everything has fish in japan. maybe alexis could back me up? Or egg.

        but i eat vegetarian when i am in other countries, rather than vegan.

        mmmmm italian pecorino cheese…. shit i have to go there like tomorrow…..

  3. smacksaw March 2, 2006 at 12:21 am

    I visited Liu Kang, and then I give his bitch ass a Fatality.

    1. admin March 2, 2006 at 12:22 am

      lollerskates and rofflecopters!

  4. bethy824 March 2, 2006 at 5:38 pm

    I didn’t know most of the information you provided about Longshan Temple because when we were actually there, no one could answer our questions between our nonexistent Chinese and their marginal English. Question: “So, why do they light the candles?” Answer: “…Um, yes they light candles.” Questions: “But why?” Answer: “…Ha, Ha. Do you like chicken?”

    1. admin March 2, 2006 at 5:57 pm

      HAHA I had forgotten that. Yes. They do light candles!

      Was Lukang when we laughed until our collective uteri hurt, or was that during Chinese New Year? I’m thinking Lukang, on the strange wooden bed.

      I do remember standing up on the train ride nearly the whole way back to Taipei, exhausted and dirty. THAT wasn’t a joyride.

      1. bethy824 March 7, 2006 at 6:07 am


        It was also the weekend of “I heard you were American so I brought you some chocolate.”

        1. admin March 7, 2006 at 5:13 pm

          Re: Chocolate?

          I had completely forgotten about that, too. I’ve got to bring that up in a future post. Did you know that all Americans have guns?

Comments are closed.