Archives for category: buddhism

This magnificent camphor tree graces the Buddhist temple near my Auntie’s Taichung apartment.

IMG_2982

I am dwarfed by this amazing camphor tree!

IMG_2978

The temple has ensured that the tree has all the support it needs using metal struts, and white paint over old wounds.

It is estimated to be more than 1,000 years old. So, when this tree sprouted from a seed, Taiwan was home only to indigenous peoples. Its forests were untouched by axe and saw, its rivers ran clean and pure and a-swim with Formosan salmon, and clouded leopards and pangolins prowled the island’s mountain heart.

IMG_2980

This tree rivals General Sherman in its awesome age, size, and beauty. Note Dad looking distorted from the panoramic camera function.

Today this giant is lovingly tended by the temple staff. It has grown and intertwined into this complex human ecosystem, admired and appreciated by its human neighbors, wreathed in incense smoke, and reaching outward and upward to the light as it has for more than a millennium.

Advertisements

Last night strolling with friends at the Raohe Night Market in Taipei we came across a gorgeous temple dedicated to Ma-Tzu, the goddess who protects fishermen from the dangers of the sea.

The main part of the temple was completed in 1757 during the Qing Dynasty.

img_2086

Panoramic street view of the Song Shan Ma Tzu Temple. The partial images of people and vehicles capture the hustle and bustle of the nighttime street.

The velvety cool air of the night was perfumed by thousands of sticks of incense, and worshippers left fruit and flowers for their beloved dead. Holding bundles of incense they bow quickly from the waist three or four times, visiting different stations through the immense temple.

img_2081

Carvings of forest scenes, battle scenes, and sea scenes all lovingly covered with gold leaf.

img_2062

Fierce grimacing brass incense burners fill the air with sweet smoke.

The details of carvings were exquisite, everywhere you look are amazing and intriguing sights!

img_2065

Like incense smoke, ethereal dragons curl through this beautiful stone carving. The golden lights behind commemorate real people honored by their families at the temple.

An exceptionally lovely lantern sculpture graced the street next to us.

IMG_2084.JPG

In this lantern display, roosters and hens preside over a bounty of flowers, fruit, gold ingots, and chicks. I especially like the chinese cabbage lantern to the right!

My next posting will show you a panoramic view of one of the most breathtaking pieces of temple art I’ve ever seen! Stay tuned!

Taiwan is a fresh fruit-lovers paradise. From persimmons to dragon fruit to wax apples to starfruit and dragon eyes, the ingenuity of 10,000 years of Chinese fruit agriculture is on display at any street market in Taipei.

The mysterious fruit that has stolen my heart has many names. Sugar-apple, custard-apple, sweet-sop, cherimoya–its Latin name is Annosa squamosa, its origins lost in the mists of time somewhere in the central Andes of South America. Mark Twain called it “the most delicious fruit known to men”.

img_0914

Sekya ready to eat!

The Chinese call it Shijia, in the Taiwanese dialect, Sekya, after Shakyamuni or Gautama Buddha.

stone-garden-buddha-head-statue-40cm-x-30cm-2-768-p

Buddha’s distinctive hairstyle.

You won’t find this fruit in North America unless you get lucky in an Asian market–but if you do, feel it carefully (don’t squeeze!)  If it’s soft as, say, your upper thigh, it’s ready to eat. If it’s harder like the top of your shoulder, let it rest on a soft surface at room temperature till soft. Carefully pull open the sekia on a plate or saucer (these things are delightfully messy) and use a small spoon to scoop the out the flesh. The big black seeds are very hard, don’t bite ’em. The flavor will amaze you: creamy, sweet, tangy, fragrant: if ice cream, custard, pears and lemons got together and had a baby it would be the magical Sekia.

Today at lunchtime I foraged in the maze of lanes just north of National Taiwan University. A humble Buddhist vegetarian buffet beckoned; unlike American buffets, Taiwan’s are generally very fresh and very cheap.

This little restaurant, staffed by serene women in eyeglasses and aprons, featured meatless Buddhist dishes. Long before tofurkey, rich and savory flavors and textures in Asian vegetarian cooking have used a wide variety of fungi (lovely mushrooms of every shape and color and those crunchy black delights termed ‘mu er’ or ‘tree ears’), tofu in every form imaginable and some never imagined (silky, crunchy, in noodly ribbons), and an ingenious selection of wheat gluten nuggets in sauces sweet, salty, and spicy.

Rubbing shoulders with students and monks, I loaded my plate with delicious food for the US equivalent of $3. Nirvana.

IMG_0955.jpg

Vegetarian Buddhist buffet. A happy sight for hungry eyes!

IMG_0959.jpg

No one can prepare cabbage like the Chinese. When it’s fresh and cooked just enough, it retains a hint of sweetness.

IMG_0964.jpg

Chinese stewed boiled eggs: salty, savory, satisfying.

IMG_0963.jpg

Lotus root with red chiles; a lovely delicate flavor with slightly nutty overtones.

IMG_0958.jpg

Crunchy ‘tree ear’ fungus with red chiles.

IMG_0961.jpg

At least four different kinds of mushrooms evoke flavors of secret forests in Taiwan’s mountain heart.

IMG_0960.jpg

Stir fried tofu chunks in a sweet and sour sauce.

IMG_0956.jpg

Carrots, edamame, and tofu shreds in a light gravy.

IMG_0957.jpg

Mysterious sheets of tofu, just a bit chewy with nice star anise flavors.