Ji Tong 乩童 (aka Tong Ji 童乩 or Tang-ki in Taiwanese), is a rarely seen event of old Taiwanese religious belief. It’s a type of shamanism, where the “spirit-medium” human is possessed by the spirit of a god. After doing so, the god can live for a short while in the body of the medium to prove his existence or even answer questions to the benefit of believers. The more visually interesting aspect of Ji Tong is when the gods take possession at a temple festival. That’s when the spirit-medium often starts self-flagellating himself with spiked bats, swords, and other medieval pain and blood inflicting devices.
Everyone I’ve talked to about this, has had very little information for me. It seems that many Taiwanese don’t believe it, and even fewer know anything about it. Even inquiring about it at local temples, people don’t know much, and never seem to know when the next event will happen. So, finding a ceremony with people practicing Ji Tong just seems to be something you have to be lucky to find. This was the first time I’ve seen it in over 8 years of living in Taiwan.
This man is performing a Ji Tong ritual. The spirit-medium, said to be possessed by the spirit of a Taoist God, self-flagellates at a religious ceremony in Tainan, Taiwan. The blood on his back is from repeated blows from various sharp weapons.
Categories: PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN
Tags: 童乩, 臺灣, Ji Tong, possesion, spirit mediums, Tainan, TAIWAN, Tang-Ki, Tong Ji, 台灣, 台南, 乩童
Tainan is often though of as Taiwan’s most beloved city. There’s good reason for that. Compared to the capital of Taipei, Tainan has a more traditional feel to it. It seems like almost anywhere you go, you’ll find something important to history, or at least something that looks like it should be!
I recently spent a day and a half there mostly on the outskirts without a real plan on what to see and do, and the following is what I ended up with. Note that this is not nearly as complete a view of the city as I’d like to give you, and the last time I visited Tainan wasn’t either. Hopefully one of these days I’ll be able to visit Tainan properly. But regardless, I’ve still really enjoyed this interesting place.
Tainan’s Jingzijiao Salt Fields are famous for their traditional sea salt harvesting methods.
Grappling with the Ghosts Festival 搶孤 is held on the last day of the Ghost Month holiday. It’s a unique festival that celebrates the end to the trepidatious holiday when the dead are said to be walking the earth. Why people need to climb greased poles to celebrate this day is beyond me, but it sure is cool!!!
Come on, you knew there would be fireworks.
Smangus (司馬庫斯) is one of Taiwan’s most remote aboriginal villages. So far remote, that it has developed for itself an air of mystery and has become a popular, if not difficult to get to, destination.
I recently took a short trip there to help Taiwan Adventures develop a future tour to the area. Unfortunately, we didn’t have as much time to explore the village and surrounding sights as we would have liked, but I will return soon with a better report. Check the website or facebook page for more information about organized trips… read on for more photos and information.
A hiker enjoys the bamboo forest near Smangus, Taiwan.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, TAIWAN, TRAVEL
Tags: aboriginal, Atayal, 臺灣, remote, Smangus, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventures, TRAVEL, village, 台灣, 司馬庫斯
The Xiangdong Fairy Cave 仙洞巖 is a one of the many small but interesting attractions in Keelung, Taiwan 台灣基隆. It’s set in the opposite direction form most of the attractions located near Zhongzheng Park, but is well worth a visit on any visit to the port city.
Sandwiched between a sharp bend in the road, the overwhelming Keelung Harbor, and an imposing cliff, the Fairy Cave is easy to miss. If not for the giant golden Buddha statue at the entrance, the cave could easily be mistaken for any average roadside shrine. Inside the cave can be found several shrines to the Buddha and other Buddhist deities, set at the ends of two long, narrow passages. The main chamber is interesting enough with its chandeliers, small shrines, and smaller golden Buddha, but directly behind it is another cave with beautifully carved bodhisattvas and a main shrine dedicated to the Buddha.
Down the long, narrow, wet passage to the left is a small, uninspiring shrine to Guanyin (I think) but the passage is the main attraction for most visitors.
Inside the Xiandong Fairy Cave is a long, narrow corridor that leads to another small shrine.
Shitiping 石梯坪 or (“Stone Steps” in Mandarin) is a small campground in Taiwan’s East Coast National Scenic Area. The campground sits on a beautiful stretch of rocky geology formed by a mixture of coral reefs, sea erosion and cliffs. The waters of the reef features some great diving and snorkeling in clear waters.
About a 6 hour drive from Taipei, Shitiping is located about 70km south of Hualien on Highway 11, not quite half way to Hualien’s sister coastal city, Taitung. It’s probably one of my favorite campgrounds in the world, and definitely one of my favorite places in Taiwan.
Lots of people come to Shitiping to go fishing with poles, or by snorkeling around the reefs.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL
Tags: Baxian Caves, campground, camping, coast, 石梯坪, 花蓮, geology, Highway 11, Hualien, Shitiping, TAIWAN, 八仙洞, 台灣
It’s been raining in Taipei for 6 weeks. Seriously. I usually don’t complain about stuff like this, especially on here, but I’m going completely insane.
A bigger problem is that I also have writers’ block and even squeezing out this self-absorbed rant is difficult. One of the big problems with writing a new blog post is that I have so much stuff from the last year that I haven’t written about, I don’t even know where to start. I think I have 10, half written posts in my “Recent Drafts” folder, none of which I’ll probably ever finish.
So here’s my solution to that: I’m going to throw up all (most) of the photos I want to write and/or talk about in this one post and just clear them out of the way. Then I can get started one new stuff. Chinese New Year is only a week away!
There’s actually A LOT of information here, if you click all the links.
To see larger galleries of images similar to each one below, click on each image… To read more about each location, click on the links under each image.
A summer sunrise at my favorite campground, Shitiping, Taiwan.
The above image was taken at Shitiping Campground, on Taiwan’s beautiful east coast.
Snow Mountain (aka Xueshan, and a few other spellings) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful hikes in Taiwan. I’ve been lucky enough to have done it several times now, and each time seems to get better and better.
Just this past weekend, Taiwan Adventures took took a group of hikers for a two day, two night adventure on this high mountain. We had great people, great weather and a great time.
The afternoon sun highlights some cliff ridges on the hike to Snow Mountain, Taiwan.
Categories: Hiking, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, 雪山, hike, Hiking, mountains, PHOTOGRAPHY, Snow Mountain, Taiwan Adventures, 台灣
Taiwan Adventures Online Guide Book is a project that my partners and I have been working on for the better part of the last year. It is a free, online travel guide to Taiwan. It has over 800 entries, is available in English and 中文, and will very soon be available as an iPhone App (Ready sometime before the end of September).
It has been A LOT of work to compile, visit, photograph and write about all of these places, but it has also been really rewarding. Hopefully now I can get back on track and start writing some blog posts about the best of these wonderful places.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, Taiwan Adventurers
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, Guide Book, information, iPhone, iPhone App, TRAVEL, Travel Guide, 台灣
Ghost Month is a traditional celebration held in most Chinese communities around the world, and of course in Taiwan. It is believed that this month is a sort-of vacation for all the ghosts living in Hell, and they are welcomed to walk the earth among the living. Many special precautions are taken to insure that the ghosts don’t hang around, like burning spirit money, guarding ones address and not moving house for fear that one of the ghosts might decide to stay in the new house.
In Taiwan, no city celebrates Ghost Month more vigorously than the harbor city of Keelung (基隆). They have parades, ceremonies and other events on almost every day of that month. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend as many events as I would have liked this year, but I did get to one of the most important days, the Ghost Festival Parade held on the 15th day of Ghost Month.
One of the musicians in the 2011 Keelung Ghost Festival Parade relaxes before the start.
Songluohu (or Songluo Lake) is another small lake in the mountains near Yilan, Taiwan. It’s a medium difficulty hike, mostly because the trail spends a lot of time crossing slippery tree roots, rocks and muddy slopes. The 4 to 5 hour hike is well worth the effort though, as the lake itself is surrounded by small mountain peaks and is quite a unique sight.
We lead the second of our overnight hiking trips there about a week ago, so I thought I’d share the photos.
The sunrise was beautiful.
The Taiwan Martyrs’ Shrine (officially The National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine 國民革命忠烈祠) is set on the side of Qingshan Mountain very close to the Grand Hotel and the neighborhood of Neihu (內湖區). It’s hallowed ground, dedicated to those who fought and died for the Republic of China in the Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Civil War and the First and Second Taiwan Straight Crises. About 390,000 soldiers died in these wars, and their spirit tablets can be found here.
Twice a year, the President of Taiwan and high officials come to the Martyr’s Shrine to pay their respects to the fallen war heroes. But what many people come to see is the changing of the guard ceremony, which happens every hour on the hour.
See military precision at the Martyrs' Shrine in Taipei.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, Army, honor guard, military, must see taipei, soldier, Taipei, The Martyrs' Shrine, tourist sights, 台灣, 台北, 國民革命忠烈祠
My series of blog posts on hiking The Four Beast Mountains has become one of my most popular series since I’ve started blogging. Now that spring is back upon us, I’ve noticed that those posts are getting more and more hits. I can only guess that everyone is looking to get get some exercise!
So here’s a new post. It’s going to be mostly just pictures, but they are all from an area that I glossed over in the last three posts.
The general Yongchun area consists of two high schools, a small military base, several temples, and a few apartment building neighborhoods. The entire basin of this area (roughly 600m x 100m) was a shallow lake just a hundred years ago or so.
Categories: Hiking, Must See Taiwan, TAIWAN, The Four Beast Mountains
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, adventure, Asia, 無極天王, Elephant Mountain, 虎山, Four Beasts Mountains, hike, Hiking, mountain, natural, PHOTOGRAPHY, Taipei, Taipei 101, Taiwanese, Tianbao Temple, Tiger Mountain, trail, TRAVEL, 台灣, 台北, 四獸山, 天寶聖道宮
The Holy Ridge 雪山聖稜線 is one of Taiwan’s most famous big hiking trails. It’s a stunning hike along a long ridge line that usually takes about 5 days. It crosses several high peaks, including Taiwan’s second highest, Snow Mountain 雪山 (Xueshan) at 3886 m (12749 ft). The ridge is so long that three full days can easily be spent at over 3,400 m.
My friends and I hiked The Holy Ridge recently in a four day blitz. We achieved this by starting at midnight and hiking in the dark for an hour, then skipping the Snow Mountain Peak.
A hiker looks out on a sea of clouds on Taiwan's Holy Ridge, a hiking trail on and around Snow Mountain (Xueshan).
Categories: Hiking, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, Video
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, 爬山, 登山, 雪山, 雪山聖稜線, Hiking, mountain, Snow Mountain, The Holy Ridge, trek, 台灣
Longshan Temple 龍山寺 (aka Lungshan and Mengjia 艋舺龍山寺) is the oldest and most well-known temple in all of Taiwan. What’s truly wonderful about it, is that despite being a major tourist destination, Longshan Temple retains it’s charm and genuineness by remaining a place of daily worship. The area around Longshan can be quite interesting as well, and features traditional markets, calligraphers, traditional medicine shops, fortune tellers, and a place called Snake Alley. All these reasons and more are why Longshan Temple is on my list of must see places in Taipei.
Throngs of Buddhists and Daoists pack Longshan Temple in Taipei on Chinese Lunar New Year 2007.
Categories: Must See Taiwan, PHOTOGRAPHY, TAIWAN, TRAVEL
Tags: 2. More Information on Taiwan, Buddhist, Chinese New Year, Daoism, 艋舺龍山寺, 龍山寺, images, Longshan Temple, Lunar New Year, Lungshan Temple, Mazu, Mengjia, must see taipei, PHOTOGRAPHY, religion, Taipei, Taoism, temple, TRAVEL, worship, 台灣, 台北