Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rocks, Taichi, and Buddha!

These past two days are our last days where we will spend the night in the NTU dorms! Tomorrow (July 3) through July 17, we will be staying at various hostels and hotels in order to experience some more of Taiwan. I thought I should at least catch up on blogging these past days (I don't know if we will have internet or not!)
So on Monday, we went to Yehliu Geopark! It was a smaller park than the nature parks I've been too, it only covered a long jetty that protruded from the mainland. But it was packed with tourists and people. There was no touching the rocks, and there was a definite red line that kept people from accidently slipping. After a brief introduction we were able to split from the group and explore the park on our own. It was fun trying to match up the map to where we could travel to see the unique rock forms. There were Mushroom Rocks which kind of looked like a head of broccoli! But I had a couple on my list that I definitely wanted to see before leaving. The Queen's Head, is the most famous one here, there was a line to take a picture. Because of weathering over many years, this rock has formed a head with a skinny neck, resembling a queen! I wanted to take a picture as well because the guide said that this rock could fall soon (the 'neck' is getting thinner and thinner).  It was especially hot that day, and once everyone met back at the visitor's center, there was definitely a contest of who was the most sweatiest... I think it was a tie between Richard and Ben. Everyone was just a mess, but a quick mango smoothie helped a lot. 

"Queen's Head Rock"

'licking' the "Ice-Cream" rock
The next day, we headed to an area called Jingshan, which was about an hour away in the mountains. Our main destination was a huge area called Dharma Drum Mountain. This place is considered one of the "Four Heavenly Kings" or four major Buddhist temples of Taiwanese Buddhism. It is also a huge educational and cultural foundation that was founded by Ch'an (Zen) Master Sheng-yen. It was absolutely so serene and beautiful. There wasn't much talking allowed among the grounds, so all you could hear was the birds and wind, (and occasional gong sound) that echoed through the mountainous area. I've never seen anything like this place! Our guide was so nice and exuberant; she actually was an English teacher at one other universities here, and comes to this place many times to volunteer. She seemed super cool, and I can tell that she braced these religious practices and teaching very deeply. Pictures weren't allowed when we entered the different buildings and worshiping areas, so that's why I only have a limited amount. Our guide taught us that Buddhist teachings focus on empting yourself, which only then you could live a happy life. It was very unique and interesting to learn about an aspect of Taiwan's culture. Being Christain, it was especially interesting to compare a lot of the similarities and differences between my beliefs and theirs. The small common threads just show that we are all united. We were led inside a holy area and most of us bowed before Buddha for a prayer/wish. Although I couldn't bow down (because of my beliefs), it was such a cool experience to see the heart of this religion.
Dharma Drum Mountain

a zoomed in picture of one of the buildings
The same day, we headed down the mountain a little bit to find a hidden art museum called Juming. This area is filled with sculptures and various art murals from this artist named Ju Ming (obviously).  He started the Living World "family" which he continues to expand. His artwork makes use of bronze, stainless steel, painted wood, foam rubber and cast bronze. His artwork was almost witty, and whimsical to me, not so much serious and straightforward, which was a nice change. His most famous Taichi sculptures and placed throughout the area, and it was fun posing next to them and mimic the 'kicks' and 'blocks'.

Taichi inspired sculptures around 5 m high!!!

 Zipper! (created by Ju Ming's son)
I also forgot to mention that we did some DIY activities these two days. For dinner one night, we all made our own dumplings! I didn't really get the technique of how to fold the wrappers, so I just made up my own folding pattern, as many others did. I think it was Ben who put a dumpling inside a dumpling inside another dumpling... or something like that. Super fun! Also, in Jingshan we all learned how to Blue Dye fabric. I posted  picture of some final products below. It was pretty much like the average tie-dye that we do in the States. But it was still fun to be able to bring back and wear something else!

Mine is second from the right

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