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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Revisiting old haunts

I went into T'aichung was to see what my new camera could do when it comes to photographing temples. The area I chose was the Nant'un 南屯 district, home to Taichung's oldest house of Taoist worship, Wanhe Temple 萬和宮 (dating from 1726). Parking my scooter in front a 7-Eleven, I took a walk along Nantun Old Street 南屯老街, a short stretch of road lined with old stores:

It isn't really worth going out of the way to visit. However, unlike Taiwan's ever-growing collection of "old streets", this one doesn't cater to the tourist trade - the shops and stores sell mostly items for daily use to local residents, and not snacks and souvenirs for day-trippers.

Tourism does seem to be in the cards for Wanhe Temple. Those brown signs that one sees all over Taiwan denoting tourist spots could be seen in the neighborhood, pointing the way to the temple, and the courtyard that used to be used for festivals and markets is now a parking lot. The temple was busy this afternoon, but save for a young Western couple (and myself), the visitors were there to worship:

Behind Wanhe Temple is another temple, albeit a more modern one. According to my Rough Guide, the enshrined deity at Wench'ang Temple 文昌公廟, Wench'ang Tichun 文昌帝君, is the "Emperor of Passing Exams", so it stands to reason that it's a popular place for students. And there were several there (along with their parents), no doubt praying for success on those all-important entrance exams that East Asian societies love to inflict on their young citizens. The two boxes in front of the main altar were filled with photocopies of test application forms and ID cards:

I don't know if it was the cloudy skies, the incense smoke, my ignorance when it comes to cameras or a combination of all three, but the pictures didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. Oh well, Taiwan certainly doesn't lack for temple photo ops, so I'll try again another time.

On a final note, this afternoon was a bit of a stroll down memory lane. This area was the first place I stayed when I came to Taiwan, when I spent time with a friend who was living in a large apartment building nearby. The temples could be clearly seen from my friend's balcony, and the festivals and firecrackers could be clearly heard, much to my annoyance. Even on my first visit to Taiwan, I was already a curmudgeon! The neighborhood has changed somewhat since then, but I suppose I haven't!

This is the Taichung I remember all too well. 懐かしい...

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