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  • THE WORLD WITHOUT VISAS:

  • Around the world with Valery Shanin

  • The trip across Taiwan became the next stage of the World without Visas project,

  • within which Valery Shanin travels only around the countries, visa-free for Russians.

  • TAIWAN: Temples and Mountains

  • Taiwan is a small island.

  • It is about 500 kilometers from north to south and 100 — from west to east.

  • In 1514, the Portuguese fishermen, who saw it first among Europeans, called the island "Formosa", that means "Fine".

  • While more pragmatic Chinese call it Taiwan or "Ledged Gulf".

  • Historically, Taiwan remained as the last center of traditional Chinese culture.

  • While during the 20th century, in continental China, there were continuous wars, and later the destructive Cultural revolution, here everything remained untouched.

  • An array of monuments of traditional Chinese, Japanese and European colonial architecture have preserved in Taiwan.

  • It is in addition to the picturesque mountain landscapes and fine climate.

  • Practically all western coast represents a huge urbanized zone.

  • It is sometimes difficult to distinguish, where one city comes to an end and another begins.

  • But should we move from the coast, slightly towards the central regions, rural areas with rice fields and palm groves instantly begin to appear.

  • And a little more further to the eastthe rivers, lakes and mountain ridges.

  • Our travel begins in Taipei.

  • Exactly here, in the capital of Taiwan, there is an international airportthe air gates of the country.

  • Taipei is a relatively young city by the Chinese scale.

  • Only a century ago, in the valley of the River Danshui, there used to be only rice fields and peasants' yards.

  • Today Taipei is a noisy shopping and cultural center of the country, one of the most densely populated megalopolises of the world.

  • There are no more than one or two historical sights here.

  • But the existing ones are treated with big respect.

  • Temples have remained best of all.

  • Both Buddhist and Confucian.

  • All, small and even absolutely tiny, family temples as well as the cult complexes with pagodas, pavilions and courtyards, occupying huge territories.

  • Longshan - the most known and popular temple of the capital and of all the island.

  • It is always crowded here.

  • The services are held not in the rooms, but under the open sky.

  • The temple, founded by the settlers from continental China, was dedicated to the goddess of mercy Guan Yin.

  • The constructions burned down several times and collapsed during the earthquakes.

  • In 1945, the temple was also destroyed by bombing.

  • It is simply a miracle, that the highly esteemed statue of the goddess Guan Yin survived.

  • The new walls have been constructedin full accordance with the original pieces.

  • The grandiose memorial Chiang Kai-shek in the center of Taipei, near the Presidential palace, the National Theater and the Concert hall reminds of the Lincoln's memorial in Washington.

  • In the center of a huge hall covered with an enormous dome, there is a huge statue of the generalissimo established.

  • Together with the remains of the army of Kuomintang, beaten by the communists, Chiang Kai-shek founded the Chinese republic of Taiwan in 1949.

  • It was Taiwanese authorities, who represented all China in the United Nations until 1971.

  • But then, Americans began to be on friendly terms with the authorities of the People's Republic of China, and Taiwan was forgotten.

  • Only the contract on military cooperation has remained.

  • And the currency here is the dollaralthough Taiwanese.

  • The memory of the confessor Chiang Kai-shek, the founder of Kuomintang Sun Yat Sen, is still strong in Taipei.

  • He played in China the same role as Kerensky in Russiaand was also in power not for longonly one and a half months, in the beginning of 1912.

  • But, while nobody remembers Kerensky, Sun Yat Sen is esteemed both in continental China, where the huge mausoleum is built in his honor, and in Taiwan.

  • The trains, that look more like electric ones, depart as regularly as the underground trains.

  • The regular ones stop at each post.

  • While express trains do only several stops on the way to the south.

  • There are no sleepers available in themthe island is small, it can be crossed in a day in any direction.

  • From Taipei, we are going on a trip to the south, along the western coast of the island.

  • The railroad passes though the most densely populated areas and the largest cities of the country.

  • The first stop is the city of Zhanghua.

  • The place of crossing of all railway tracks.

  • Directly by the station, there is a Buddhist templeThousands of lights».

  • It is the most ancient in the city.

  • In the park, on the mountain of "Eight Trigramms" or in Chinese "Baguashans", they have built a grandiose temple complex.

  • However, this hill is called the mountain, being only about 400 meters high, for the sake of bigger solidity.

  • But the place is significantwith a view.

  • There used to be a military base here. And now it is the place of a cult.

  • The 22 meter high statue of the sitting Buddha serves as a landmark.

  • Near the Buddha, there is a multistory temple, two towers and a pond with sacred fishesas it is known to any Buddhist, Buddha himself was also a fish in one of his reincarnations.

  • As in any Buddhist temple, there is a place here not only for Buddha, but also for numerous characters from the ancient Chinese myths.

  • The Confucian monasteryor better to say, what is left of it after the fire in 2006 — looks much more modest.

  • This place is not for prayers, but for education.

  • The city of Lukang is famous for its temples.

  • Today, it is a small town on the territory of Zhanghua county.

  • But prior to the beginning of the 20th century, it was the second largest city and the largest port of the island.

  • At the times when Taiwan was colonized by the Dutch, the cervine skins were exported from here.

  • The railroad has not reached the city, and the harbor has shoaled.

  • The city began to quickly decay.

  • But specifically thanks to this, it has preserved so well.

  • The temple of Longshan, decorated with woodcarvings and devoted to the goddess of mercy Guan Yin - is a real work of art.

  • It attracts not only pilgrims, but also numerous tourists.

  • Lukang was a seaport since ancient times.

  • Therefore, it is not surprising that the main temple is dedicated not to Confucius or even to Buddha, but to the Chinese goddess of the seaMatzu.

  • However, she is not the only one here.

  • The temple is filled with images of numerous Chinese gods and spirits.

  • Literally, everyone will find his/her god patron here.

  • With the nightfall, the city steeps in slumber, and the temple starts shining with thousands of candles, icon lamps, bulbs and lanterns.

  • The spot of light attracts here everybody who does not sleep.

  • Whole families come herewith wives and children.

  • We are returning to the railroad and continuing further to the south.

  • All Taiwan's railway lines are electrified.

  • The locomotives remainedbut only as museum exhibits.

  • The main railway of the country passes across the western coast strictly from the north to the south.

  • At the station of Ershuy, a narrow-gage railway branch turns to the east.

  • The rail lines were laid on rural territoriesbeside the rice fields, sugar cane plantations, palm groves and villages.

  • The rail lines were laid on rural territoriesbeside the rice fields, sugar cane plantations, palm groves and villages. Here begin the distant spurs of the mountain range, stretching along the center of the island.

  • The rail line, about 30 km long, finishes with the dead end at the Chechen station.

  • It appears already in the foothills, near the hydroelectric power station on the Sichzhong River.

  • At the beginning of the 20th century there was a sawmill here. It doesn't work any more.

  • The workers were replaced by the tourists.

  • From the Chechen station, buses go to the Sun and Moon Lake.

  • Here, for some reason, it is called not in Chinese, but in English - Sun Moon Lake.

  • Earlier it was known as the Candida Lakein honor of the Dutch missionary Georgi Candid, who in the 17th century acquainted natives with the true belief.

  • The largest lake of Taiwan divides the Island of Lala, connected with the coast, into two parts.

  • The Sun Moon Lake is one of the largest tourist centers of Taiwan.

  • The Lala Island is completely built up with hotels and restaurants.

  • Nobody sleeps here at night. There is no time for it.

  • The lake's cruise vessels depart from the wharf. For the fans of healthy lifestyle, the walking tracks were laid along the coast.

  • One of them is called the Chiang Kai-shek Trailin honor of the first president of the Chinese Republic of Taiwan.

  • As a pensioner, he liked to take his leisurely walks here. Even without his bodyguards.

  • - On the trail, by foot.

  • On the bank of the lake there were two Buddhist temples.

  • During the Japanese occupation of the island, they have constructed a dam, and the water level has risen.

  • In 1938, the temples had to be moved to a new placefar from the coast, on to the hill top with the view.

  • So, this is how the Wen Wu Temple appeared, that has become one of the main tourist sights of the lake.

  • Several buildings are filled with statues, sign plates, small lamps and hand bells.

  • The fountain is interesting not because of its architectural elegance, but due to the fact that water comes here from the hot springs.

  • The surrounding mountains only seem to be silent and peaceful.

  • The volcanic activity goes on.

  • Therefore, the earthquakes are not rare.

  • The only hope is for the aid of higher forces.

  • And the best way to achieve their grace are prayers and sacrifices.

  • Therefore, temples are never empty here.

  • The next part along the coast is possible and necessary to do by train.

  • Before, it was possible to go inside the mountains by the railway.

  • There is a narrow-gage railway line.

  • But it has suffered during one of the numerous typhoons. And now, only a small part of it works in the mountains, not connected with anything.

  • The National Nature park of Alishan, occupies the territory of about 400 square kilometers, near the Yushan Mountainthe highest mountain top of the island.

  • On the territory of the park, there are mountains that were overgrown with a damp rainforest with huge trees, rapid rivers with picturesque falls, tea plantations and resort villages.

  • The railroad was constructed by the Japanese in 1912, for wood transportation.

  • Later, it started to carry the tourists.

  • Only a small part works today.

  • The trees, that were not cut down by the Japanese, are now protected by the government.

  • It is not even possible to come close to them, it damages the roots.

  • The wooden paths were laid for the tourists, the stairs and bridges were made.

  • The Temple of Shouzhenthe largest cult construction in the Alishan Mountains.

  • It is located at the altitude of 2150 meters above sea level.

  • The Temple of Shouzhen is dedicated to the local gods, who are responsible for justice and commerce and also to the goddess, responsible for fertility.

  • This is why there are always so many women here.

  • Local warm and humid climate is ideal for tea cultivation.

  • Thanks to rather low temperatures, constant fogs and drizzles, the level of theanine in the tea leaves increases.

  • This is why the local tea "Alishan oolong", also differs by its saturated sweet taste.

  • There are many tourist tracks in the park.

  • The most popular one leads to the observation deck, from where it is possible to see the most beautiful sunrise in Taiwan.

  • - From this exact platform you are supposed to enjoy the sunrise. At the moment, of course, there is no visibility. The weather is cloudy. It is already 8:00 am. But there is no sign of sun.

  • Tainanthe fourth largest city of Taiwan, and one of the oldest in the country.

  • In the second half of the 18th century, it was the capital of the Dongning State.

  • And laterup to 1887 — of all Taiwan.

  • Therefore, there are so many historical and architectural monuments here.

  • They were built by all: Aboriginals, Chinese and Europeans.

  • Tainan was founded as Dunda or, as translated from Chinese, "the Eastern Capital".

  • It became the capital city in 1661, when the national hero of Zheng Chengong, expelled from the island the odious Dutch colonialists.

  • The first Confucius's temple in Taiwan was built here.

  • It hosted the first school.

  • It occupied half of the temple complex.

  • The second half were temples and chapels.

  • The Tower of Chikan remained from the Fort of Province, built in 1653 by the Dutch, on the place of the aboriginal village of Saky.

  • Near the train station, it is worth glancing at the city park, to admire the blossoming lotuses.

  • If, of course, the timing is right.

  • In Tainan it is possible to find a multitude of cult constructions.

  • They are dedicated to Buddha and Confucius, and also to Chinese gods and local spirits.

  • The Temple of the god of war Guan-di, was founded in the middle of the 17th century, during a short era of Taiwan's independence from the Chinese empire of Qing.

  • It is considered to be the oldest cult construction of the island.

  • The city was surrounded by high walls. Only the Big Southern Gate, known also as the Moon Gate, has remained of them.

  • In 1624, the Dutch constructed the Dayuan Port on the seashore.

  • Now it is called Anping and is a part of Tainan.

  • The Dutch Fort of Zealand has partially remained.

  • It is about four kilometers from here to the city center in a straight lineit is possible to walk it by foot along the channel coast.

  • The City of Kaohsiung, with a population of about three million peopleis the largest port and industrial commercial center of the southern part of Taiwan.

  • It is rightly regarded as the southern capital of the country.

  • The central city park is an island of green, jammed from all the directions by the office skyscrapers and multistory houses.

  • The picturesque Chengqing Lake, with its name translated as "crystal-clear", is known also as the Lake of Lotuses.

  • The coast is adjoined by the park with picturesque pagodas and pavilions.

  • The Confucius's temple, constructed in the typical style of the Sung dynasty, strikes by its dimensions.

  • It is the largest Confucian temple of Taiwan.

  • On the territory of the Chengqing Lake, there are several islands connected with the coast by bridges.

  • Near one of the islands, the pavilions of Spring and Autumn protrude from the water.

  • The Temple of Xiushan, was built in honor of the God of Medicine, more than 100 years ago.

  • The most noticeable sight, is the seven-tier Pagodas of the Dragon and the Tiger, connected with the coast by the winding nine-angle bridge.

  • The lake enjoys wide popularity among locals.

  • There is always a lot of people here.

  • Especially in the evenings, when the day's heat subsides, and the temples and pagodas are illuminated by the lights.

  • The travel around the Island of Taiwan is coming to an end in Kaohsiung.

  • And the project "World without Visas" continues.

  • Ahead are the new travels across the countries, visa-free for Russians.

THE WORLD WITHOUT VISAS:

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TAIWAN: Temples and Mountains

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    Amy.Lin posted on 2017/01/17
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