Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, A UNESCO World Heritage Site (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)

Built in A.D. 794 on the model of the capitals of ancient China, Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan from its foundation until the middle of the 19th century. As the center of Japanese culture for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto illustrates the development of Japanese wooden architecture, particularly religious architecture, and the art of Japanese gardens, which has influenced landscape gardening the world over.

Kyoto was the main center for the evolution of religious and secular architecture and of garden design between the 8th and 17th centuries, and as such it played a decisive role in the creation of Japanese cultural traditions which, in the case of gardens in particular, had a profound effect on the rest of the world from the 19th century onwards. Buddhism had already been introduced from China and Chinese culture was having a profound influence on Japan when the capital was moved from Heijo-ko (Nara), after 10 years at Nagaoka, to Kyoto, under the name of Heian-ko, in AD 794. The city plan was modeled on Chinese cities such as Changshan, capital of Tang China. It was the heart of the aristocratic society that clustered around the imperial court for the four centuries of the Heian period (794-1192). For most of this period there was a prohibition on the building of Buddhist temples inside the city, apart from the two imperial temples (To-ji and Sai-ji).

Properties on the World Heritage site that date from the foundation of Heian-kyo are Karmwakeikauchi-jinja (Shinto shrine), Amomioya-jinja (Shinto shrine), Kyo-o-gokoku-ji To-ji (Buddhist temple), Kiyornim-dera (Buddhist temple), and Enryaku-ji (Buddhist temple); the two large Buddhist temples of Daigo-ji and Ninna-ji are representative of the early Heian period. By the end of the Heian period the military samurai class was growing in power, and the resulting unrest, coupled with the fact that the world would enter its final years, according to Buddhist doctrine, in 1052, led to an increase in religious fervor. The Buddhist temple of Byodo-in and the Ujigami-jinja date from this period.

A civil war in 1185 led to the establishment of a samurai military regime at Kamakum; however, the imperial court remained at Kyoto. The Sekisui-in at Kozan-ji is the best example of the residential architecture of this period, which ended in 1332 with the establishment of the Muromachi Shogunate. This period saw the building of large temples of the Rinzai Zen sect, such as Temyu-ji, and the creation of Zen gardens, of which that at Saiho-ji is a representative example.

At the end of the 14th century, the Muromachi Shogunate reached the apogee of its power, and this is reflected in buildings such as the villa of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, which later became the Buddhist temple Rokuon-ji. The villa of a later shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, built in a more refined style in the mid-15th century, was also converted into a temple, Jisho-ji. Garden design was refined into pure art, as demonstrated by the garden of the abbot's residence at Ryoan-ji. Much of Kyoto was destroyed in the Onin War (1467-77), but it was rebuilt by a new urban merchant class, who replaced the aristocrats who had fled during the war. In 1568 Oda Nobunaga seized power, and he was followed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who unified the country and built a 23 km wall round Kyoto. The centre of power moved to Edo (present-day Tokyo) when a new shogunate was established under Tokugawa Ieyasu. The authority of the Tokugawa Shogunate was given material form in Kyoto with the construction of the strong castle of Ngo-jo at the heart of the city. At the same time Hideyoshi's defences were dismantled.

The political stability of the Momoyama period (1573-1614) saw a new spirit of confidence among both the military and the merchants, reflected in the opulence and boldness of the architecture, represented by the Sanpo-in residential complex and garden at Daigo-jo and the prayer and reception halls at the Buddhist temple of Hongan-ji, moved from Osaka to Kyoto as a symbol of the city's revival. The beginning of the long Edo period (1615-1867) saw Heian temples and shrines, such as Kiyomimdera, being restored in traditional style. During this period the supremacy of Kyoto as a center of pilgrimage became established. After the Meiji restoration of 1868 the capital and the imperial court moved to Tokyo.

One of the results was the adoption of a modernization policy that led to the transformation of Kyoto into a modern city. This caused the city's cultural heritage to be neglected; however, the national government was aware of what was happening, and introduced the first ordinance for the protection of antiquities in 1871. This was superseded in 1897 by the important Ancient Shrines and Temples Preservation Law, which marked the beginning of the protection and conservation program-mes of modern Japan.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Zhongzheng (Jhongjheng) Park in Keelung,Taiwan

Keelung City (also Jilong or Chilung) is a major port city situated in the northeastern part of Taiwan and is currently administered as a provincial municipality within Republic of China. It borders New Taipei with which it forms the Taipei–Keelung metropolitan area, along with Taipei itself. Its frequent rain and maritime role earned it the monicker Rainy Port. It is Taiwan's second largest seaport after Kaohsiung.

Keelung City has several attractions, one of which is the Zhongzheng (Jhongjheng) Park. The park is situated on the side of Dashawan Mountain, which is at the east of Keelung City. There is a white statue of Goddess of Mercy in the park. This 25-meter high statue has become one of the characteristics of Keelung. The park overlooks Keelung City and the harbor. There are three levels in the park. On the first level is a historic canon fort. On the second level is a Buddhist library, Martyrs' Shrine and Zhuputan Temple. The temple attracts many worshipers on July 15. On the third level is Guanhai Pavilion. Sitting in the pavilion, visitors can see the entire Keelung and the ocean.

The statue of Goddess of Mercy is the landmark of Zhongzheng (Jhongjheng) Park. It is the biggest Goddess statue in Southeast Asia. Inside the statue is a stairway leading to the top. Zhuputan is where worshipers gather on Zhongyuan Festival. The first immigrants to Taiwan used to fight with each other for land. In order to stop the disputes, they set up a temple for yearly worship. The temple was in Gaosha Park during the Japanese occupation and moved to Zhongzheng (Jhongjheng) Park.

The Atayal Aborogines of Taiwan

Before the Han Chinese immigration began in the mid-1600s, Taiwan was inhabited by people belonging to the Austronesian race, the members of which lived in a vast area extending from Madagascar in the west to Hawaii and Easter Island in the east, and from New Zealand in the south to Taiwan in the north. Taiwan's aborigines are believed to have come from the Malay archipelago in different waves about 6,000 years ago at the earliest and less than 1,000 years ago at the latest. Since their languages are very different--more varied than those of the Philippines--some scholars suggest that Taiwan is the original homeland of all Austronesians. Archeological findings indicate that Taiwan had been inhabited by other people before the current aborigines came. However, little is known about them, particularly when and why they disappeared.

When the Han Chinese came to Taiwan, they divided, for convenience, the aborigines into Pingpu (plains) people and Kaoshan (mountain) people. They further subdivided the Pingpu people into 10 tribes and the Kaoshan people into nine. These labels are misnomers, for they don't reflect cultures and languages, or place of residence, properly. A tribe in one division often has more similarity with one in another division than with one in its own division, and the tribes of "mountain people" don't live in mountains at all. One of the 9 mountain tribes are the Atayals. The Atayal are distributed over a large area in northern Taiwan. Their language can be divided into the Atayal and Sediq branches and is not closely related to any other aborigine language. Atayal men are good hunters, and Atayal women good weavers. In the past, facial tattooing among men and women, for beauty and distinction and to ward off evil spirits, was a feature of this tribe. This practice has been outlawed since the Japanese occupation (1895-1945). Now only those Atayals over 80 years old still have tattoos on their faces. They have a native bamboo dance similar to the Philippines "tinikling".

The Atayal kinship system is patrilineal. Leaders of several religious groups of a community usually constitute the political authority. The prototypical Atayal house is either semi-subterranean or built at ground level, and is made of wood and thatch. There is a watch tower for each cluster of houses.

Wulai Atayal Museum. With its scenic beauty and diverse cultural charms, Wulai District offers a perfect rustic retreat close to Taipei City. Visitors can explore the indigenous culture and history of Wulai at the Wulai Atayal Museum of New Taipei City, situated at the entrance to the Wulai shopping area. The four-story museum presents displays on the history, culture, customs, religious faith, rituals and festivals of the Atayal people as well as the natural ecology of the Wulai area.

Mountain peaks, valleys, waterfalls, hot springs, old-growth forests, and other natural attractions create a perfect setting for a scenic excursion, fitness walks, spring soak and cherry blossom watching. Visitors can also ride on a train and feast on the local indigenous cuisine; experience the living traditions of the Atayal people through tribal festivals.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Taiwan's Yehliu Geopark on Stamps

Yehliu is a cape on the north coast of Taiwan in the town of Wanli between Taipei and Keelung. The cape, known by geologists as the Yehliu Promontory, forms part of the Taliao Miocene Formation. It stretches approximately 1,700 meters into the ocean and was formed as geological forces pushed Datun Mountain out of the sea.

A distinctive feature of the cape is the hoodoo stones that dot its surface. These shapes can be viewed at the Yehliu Geopark operated by the North Coast and Guanyinshan National Scenic Area Administration. A number of rock formations have been given imaginative names based on their shapes. The most well-known is the "The Queen's Head", an iconic image in Taiwan and an unofficial emblem for the town of Wanli. Other formations include "The Fairy Shoe", "The Bee Hive", "The Ginger Rocks" and "The Sea Candles."

Admission is 50NT$ and is open from 8am to 5pm daily. To go there: From Taipei City, take a Kuo Kuang Hao bus bound for Jinshan from the Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT station 9 exit 2.From Tamshui, take the express bus bound for Jinshan at Tamshui Station (near Tamshui MRT station). From Keelung, take the express bus bound for Jinshan or Tamshui at Keelung Station (near Keelung Railway Station).

The sheet above features the beauty of the Yehliu Geopark. This is a special set which can only be availed at the park.

Dr. Sun Yat Sen, Taiwan Anthem Writer

Sun Yat-sen (12 November 1866 – 12 March 1925) was a Chinese revolutionary and president. As the foremost pioneer of Nationalist China, Sun is referred to as the "Father of the Nation" in the Republic of China (ROC), and the "forerunner of democratic revolution" in the People's Republic of China. Sun played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty during the Xinhai Revolution. Sun was the first provisional president when the Republic of China was founded in 1912 and later co-founded the Kuomintang (KMT), serving as its first leader. Sun was a uniting figure in post-Imperial China, and remains unique among 20th century Chinese politicians for being widely revered amongst the people from both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Although Sun is considered one of the greatest leaders of modern China, his political life was one of constant struggle and frequent exile. After the success of the revolution, he quickly fell out of power in the newly founded Republic of China, and led successive revolutionary governments as a challenge to the warlords who controlled much of the nation. Sun did not live to see his party consolidate its power over the country during the Northern Expedition. His party, which formed a fragile alliance with the Communists, split into two factions after his death. Sun's chief legacy resides in his developing of the political philosophy known as the Three Principles of the People: nationalism, democracy, and the people's livelihood.

Taiwan's National Anthem, often called "San Min Chu I" (pronounced "San Min Joo Ee"), from the first line of the anthem whose lyrics are taken from the text of a speech given by Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the first president of China at the opening ceremony of the Whampoa Military Academy. The music was composed by Cheng Mao-Yun. The anthem was first selected as the anthem for the entirety of China when controlled by the Kuomintang (1930-1949).

The National Banner Song of Taiwan (alternate anthem) click here.

Picture above taken at the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall with statue of the Hero at Taipei