2011年1月29日 星期六

The Yuanshan Zoo 圓山動物園

The Taipei Municipal Zoo or "Muzha Zoo木柵動物園" was actually relocated from Yuanshan in 1986. The original Yuanshan Zoo圓山動物園[Maruyama Zoo] was established in 1914 by a 70-person touring circus from Japan. It was taken over by the Colonial Gov't in 1915 and quickly became a very popular site with more than 800 visitors on any given Sunday. This Zoo housed about 70 species of mammals, birds, and reptiles. The picture above shows one of the main attractions, an Indian elephant named Malan [note: another, Lin Wang, was added in either 1952 or 1954].

Near the bottom of the water buffalo page of Taipics.com, there are photos of a 大猩猩 [Gorilla gorilla] (one of them is shown below), the then resident celebrity of Yuanshan Zoo. This majestic looking gorilla was electrocuted in 1945 when the Americans came to bomb Taipei, allegedly to prevent it from escaping from the Zoo and mauling hapless citizens in its path. Unfortunately, the American bombers never did hit this area, so the gorilla (and two lions) died for nothing. It was made into a ferocious fully-standing specimen-display that had remained a source of fascination for generations of children.
Then there was this exotic "fire-eating bird食火鳥", the most dangerous bird in any zoo, that had somehow avoided the euthanasia and survived the war. For illustration purposes, a representing photo here:
The fire-eating fame of 火喰鳥 (hi-ku'i-tori) originated from 1778 when the strange flight-less bird arrived in Nagasaki, Japan, on a Dutch merchant ship. The painting above depicts a Dutchman in striped pants holding a piece of flaming charcoal for the bird, called Cassowary, to eat. No one has ever witnessed such an event at the Yuanshan Zoo or elsewhere, however. The bird apparently eats fruits, insects, and small animals; everything except fire. Many of us still feel duped.

There was also an albino Persian cat with heterochromia (different eye colors). It lived by itself in a tiny wooden cage. Again, for illustration:
Alexander the Great (356-323BC) also had heterochromic eyes, probably from injury to the sympathetic nerve along the external carotid artery when his dad, Philip II of Macedonia (382-336BC), or someone picked up Alex the toddler by his head and inadvertently stretched the young neck. This type of nervous damage prevents proper pigmentation of the iris resulting in a blue eye on the afflicted side.

The Zoo was renovated and further expanded in the 1950s. The marketing policy of adding special shows and exhibits continued for 30 years until 1979.

On September 14, 1986, the zoo animals were moved, amidst great fanfare, through the streets of Taipei to the present site in 木柵.

2011年1月16日 星期日

清水祖師廟 Clear-Water Zu-Shi Temple in Danshui

This artistically re-rendered photo, courtesy of Mr Sam Wu, shows the work by master potter 陳天乞 - colorful examples of many more that adorn the 清水祖師廟 in Danshui. The resident deity in this temple 清水祖師 is also known as the 黑面落鼻祖師 or the most revered black-faced nose-dropping master. He was 陳應 (1044-1109), a monk-physician originally from Hokkien.

His dark face was supposedly from suntan from lifelong outdoor charity work (one of many versions). The nose-dropping legend of this statue actually abounds. It is a warning sign that appears whenever there is an impending disaster. The most famous episode was the earthquake in 1867 (on the 23rd day, 11th month, lunar calendar) that had leveled 石門Shi-men (north of Danshui) yet spared all residents. They happened to be parading 清水祖師's statue in an open field when the nose detached and the ground shook soon after.

The nose piece can only be re-attached by using ashes from burned incense mixed with water [see close-up above]. And no amount of human force can detach the nose. During the Japanese rule, the town folks worrying about an imminent epidemic had held a pre-emptive parade for 清水祖師 to patrol and bless Danshui. It was in violation of the Shindoism only law at that time, so the procession was halted by police chief 佐藤金丸. This was when the nose miraculously dropped. After re-attaching it, Sato was challenged to yank it off. He couldn't with all his might, the parade was therefore allowed to continue. Sato's successor 清水勉治 was also taught the same lesson. Cynics might argue that these two policemen were simply humoring Danshui-ren - to avoid a popular uprising. We of course know better.

During the Sino-French war when the French came to invade Danshui, 清水祖師 together with MaZu, Guanyin and Royal Lord Su, divinely intervened. For which, a wooden plaque "功資拯濟" was granted by Emperor Guan-Xu. To house this royal gift, a new temple must be built, so the statue of 清水祖師 was temporarily moved to the 清水祖師廟 in 艋舺 (Manga, now Wanhua). Unfortunately, the folks in Manga later refused to return the statue, even fabricated a duplicate to swindle Danshui-ren. These had resulted in lawsuits during the Japanese era. It was eventually decreed that the two towns settle through time-sharing. However, after the war, Danshui-ren discovered that the shared statue was again a fake.

Historically, Danshui-ren were in mutually beneficial collaboration with people from Manga. The town history, however, had also recorded disdainfully that during the Sino-French war, a bunch of unruly Manga youth came and attacked Christians in Danshui. Dr George Leslie Mackay and his family had to flee to Hongkong as a result.

The stories of 清水祖師 are still growing even today. The most recent one was about an architect commissioned for a renovation project. He arrived at the temple with blueprints in hand late one night for a meeting with the caretakers, only to find that all the gates were locked shut. After knocking on the doors, a booming voice inside told him to slip the blueprints under the doors. He did so unsuspectingly and found out on the next day that no living person was at the temple since the previous evening.

[Above: Two more-recently added ishidoros guard the entry to the temple, replacing two stone lions from the olden days.]

For many young Danshui-ren drafted to serve in the military, wearing magic spells available from the temple is a must. At least one kid credits his survival from a bad accident to the protection by 清水祖師.

Every year on the 6th Day of the 5th Month, lunar calendar, Danshui celebrates 清水祖師's re-designated birthday (it should really be the 6th Day of the 1st Month - minor details really). This is also a great excuse for Danshui families and friends to get together and have a feast.

Mark that on your calendar and come to join the festivities and witness one of the most enduring legends in northern Taiwan:

2011年1月13日 星期四

A poem by Du-Fu杜甫

杜甫 (712-770AD), a most famous poet of the Tang Dynasty, is also well-known and accepted [受容] in Japan. The style of his poetry heavily influenced the 五山文学 of the Japanese 南北朝 Period (1334-1393) and later the work of haiku master Matsu-o Ba-sho松尾芭蕉 (1644-1694).

The poem above 春望 [Anticipating Spring] by 杜甫 was calligraphically reproduced in the 行書 style by Mr 廣川研一 [source: http://www.shipboard.info/blog2/], a long-time resident and teacher of Danshui, who was appointed the Principal of 三芝San-Zhi Public School on May 5, 1944, and oversaw the transfer of school properties before repatriation to Hiroshima in 1946.

War time chaos is a recurring theme in Asian literature. Du-Fu was lamenting (translation by Eyedoc):

Nation in ruins yet mountains and rivers remain
Spring sees city deep in overgrown weed and trees
Tears of sadness splash onto flowers
Crowing birds disturb a reluctant farewell
In three months of continuous war
A letter from home is worth 10 thousand pieces of gold
Stroking graying hair shortens it so
Hairpins have nowhere to anchor any more

This was also what was happening in 1944-1945, in Danshui and in Taiwan.

春望 and its Japanese version:

  国破山河在   国破れて山河在り
  城春草木深   城春にして草木深し
  感時花濺涙   時に感じては花にも涙を濺ぎ
  恨別鳥驚心   別れを恨んでは鳥にも心を驚かす
  烽火連三月   烽火 三月に連なり
  家書抵万金   家書 万金に抵る
  白頭掻更短   白頭 掻けば更に短く
  渾欲不勝簪   渾て簪に勝えざらんと欲す

2011年1月5日 星期三

Taiwan Jinja 台灣神社

Most old-time residents of Taipei remember that the best known hotel in the city, the Grand Hotel 圓山大飯店, was built in 1952 on the same site where 台灣神社 was once located. This and the Tainan Jinja were the two highest level shrines that honored 北白川宮能久親王, among other major Japanese deities. [Note: The Grand Hotel was rebuilt in 1973 into a yellow and crimson 14-story palace which was damaged by fire in 1995; it underwent extensive renovation and re-opened for business in 1998.]

A huge collection of pictures of 台灣神社 can be found in the Taipics.com website. Two of them are shown below, you can see the torii (gateway to the jinja grounds), the bridge over Keelung River - the 明治橋 (中山Chung Shan Bridge after the war), and the street leading up to it - the 敕使街道 (later the Chung Shan N Road):

To the left of the taxis was the old Yuan-shan Zoo. Notice the bike riders traveled on the left side of the street.

And a bird's eye view of the whole complex is captured in this painting:The shrine complex was further expanded in the 1940s. In 1942, the 台灣護國神社 (Taiwan Gokoku Jinja) was built on the 劍潭 side. This would become the Martyrs' Shrine after the war. The original Jinja seen above was promoted to the palatial status to 台灣神宮 in 1944, and a new hall was constructed next to the old jinja. It was to be dedicated in Dec of the same year; instead, it burned down shortly before on Oct 25, when an airliner crashed near it while trying to land in the Matsuyama 松山Airport. Many would see this as an omen foretelling the downfall of the Japan Empire. It was never rebuilt and Japan surrendered 10 months later. This site is now a radio station.

The imposition of the Shindoism onto [some would argue that this was accepted voluntarily by] the Taiwanese went into high gear in the 1940s and the shrines served as the spiritual centers. Worshiping at the shrines was integrated into school activities. Many had their wedding ceremonies conducted at these shrines. They were also the favorite sites for the touring public. After the war, most jinjas were dismantled. The recent interests in preserving these shrines and artifacts (e.g., stone lions, bronze horses, and stone lanterns - ishidoros) came from the realization that the Japanese did share a common past, however briefly, with the Taiwanese. Marc of Taipics.com has sent this photo of an ishidoro on display at the Flowers Expo (for more, see here) - a remnant of the past except the light bulb, a gratuitous addition:

There are strict rules, etiquette and proper attires for attending ceremonies at Taiwan Jinja:

Some photo records are highly personal. Here we have three generations of Tansui-jin/Danshui-ren celebrating the wedding of Mr Hirokawa and his bride, Miss Harada:

[This photo of 廣川 bride and groom (couple in front center), family and guests was taken on May 20, 1939, at Taiwan Jinja 台灣神社 - kindly provided by Hirokawa's son.]

The groom, Mr Hirokawa, had taught at 淡水公學校 [now Danshui Elementary School]. Among the guests were the School Principal, Mr Matsuda松田 (right-hand side of groom) and the Mayor of Tansui/Danshui, Mr Nakahara中原 (second from right, front row).