Advent Word 2017, Day 2 ‘journey’

#AdventWord #Journey

‘Is the JOURNEY this Advent about our daily routine lives from point A to point B? Or is the JOURNEY about our earthly travels to the “land of heaven” where we will be speechless with gratitude? Our JOURNEY is both/and. The JOURNEY to God is now. Holy paths we travel.’

Bp Pinckney, Bp Wong and others

Arriving at Songshan Airport, Taipei!

The Taiwan Episcopal Church welcomes new companion diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper S. Carolina (EDUSC), visit to Taiwan 台灣聖公會, October 1965.  Left to right, back row: Bishop John A. Pinckney (Bishop of EDUSC 1963-72), Bishop James C. L. Wong 王長齡主教 (Bishop of Taiwan 1965-70), Mr. William (Billy) S. C. Wang (Diocesan Treasurer); front row: Mrs. Julia Liang (Bishop Wong’s secretary), Mrs. Julia Liu Fu (Chair of Taiwan Episcopal Church Women ECW).

Advertisements
Posted in Taiwan Episcopal Church Diocese of Taiwan | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Advent Word 2017, Day 1 ‘awaken’

Happy Advent Sunday! #AdventWord #Awaken

‘The Psalmist says: “Wake up, my spirit; awake, lute and harp; I myself will awake the dawn.” In Advent, we prepare for what God will do with our spirits, not what we will do. A certain church website offers the wonderful message, “…walk in the Way; widen the walls; wake up the world.” AWAKEN for others.’

AdventWord Global Advent Calendar 2017 starts today – a project of the Anglican Communion with the Society of Saint John the Evangelist Brothers SSJE and Virginia Theological Seminary VTS. Each day there is a theme word and meditation. My AdventWord photo each day will link to the theme (and maybe, but not necessarily to the meditation).  Today’s Advent Word theme is AWAKEN.

In October 1965, Taiwan’s first Chinese bishop, Bishop James C. L. Wong 王長齡主教 (Bishop of Taiwan 1965-70) welcomed visitors from Taiwan’s new companion diocese, the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina EDUSC, USA, led by Bishop John A. Pinckney (Bishop of EDUSC 1963-72) to visit the Taiwan Episcopal Church 台灣聖公會.  This led to a fruitful 6-year partnership. Under Bishop Wong’s leadership and with EDUSC support and God’s blessing, many of the congregations in Taiwan were able to build churches and establish outreach ministries.  My AdventWord photos come from the EDUSC Archives, taken by Bishop Pinckney and his group on that trip to Taiwan in 1965.

With grateful thanks to Bishop David J. H. Lai, Taiwan, and Bishop W. Andrew Waldo, EDUSC for their support.

(You may even notice that the top right photo in the collage is printed in reverse – guess it adds to the authenticity!)

Posted in Taiwan Episcopal Church Diocese of Taiwan | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Colours, Mountain Views! 台灣聖公會2017年蒙恩得福家庭生活營 Taiwan Episcopal Church Fall Trip 2017

Beautiful red maple leaves against a blue sky ~ now how’s that for a perfect picture of autumn?!

IMG_0619

And the best place in Taiwan to see maples in autumn is at the high elevations, up in the central mountain range.  So off we all went, all 60 or so of us, in a total of 9 (yes, nine!) minibuses, all in a long line.  Almost processional – well, after all, churches like ours are good at processions!  Large coaches cannot travel so far in the high mountains, so minibuses are ideal. The trip was 3 days and 2 nights, Tuesday – Thursday, and all were invited ~ and here we all are!

23794897_1286426638130786_7086597849346594586_n

The Taiwan Episcopal Church has organized many trips over the years, usually in the spring or autumn, to interesting places ~ like in November 2015, when we went to the Matsu Islands.  That was my first church trip.  And now this is my second.  I had managed to rearrange some classes, and most of the members of my Thursday afternoon class at St. John’s Cathedral actually came on this trip too ~ so I signed up – thanks to Bishop Lai and all my students!

Church members, their relatives and friends came from a wide range of the churches that make up the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ we had 3 clergy, 3 clergy spouses, many energetic seniors, some couples, some younger working people and one lovely 3-year-old boy, who came along with his grandmother and her sister, and he only fell asleep once!

IMG_0711

We all met on Tuesday morning in Taichung, gathered from all corners of the country – and set off eastwards, up into the mountains.

The Central Cross-Island Highway from Taichung to Hualien was constructed in the late 1950’s, about the same time as President Chiang Kai-Shek and his government were establishing farms up in the mountains to provide employment for retired servicemen.  These days, the farms are still managed by the Veterans Affairs Council – together with the Tourism Bureau and some private companies – mainly for the benefit of visitors.  Visitors like us ~ and thousands of others who travel there every year.  We visited two of the famous farms, Wuling Farm 武陵農場 and Fushoushan Farm 福壽山農場, both places packed out with people enjoying the scenery.

When I left Sanzhi on Tuesday morning, it was, as always, raining.  It had already rained for 4 days, and so it continued, for all the 3 days we were away.  Cold too.  Miserable, in fact!  It is still drizzling today.  And cold.  But up in the mountains, there was blue sky every morning, all morning ~ and the clouds came rolling in beneath us in a sea of clouds every afternoon.  It did rain a little at night, but we never saw it.  Ah, it was wonderful!

IMG_0663

The highest point on the Central Cross-Island Highway is just below the very famous mountain, Hehuanshan 合歡山 (3,416 m).  Just nearby is Mt. Shimen 石門山 (3,237 m), well-known as supposedly being the easiest of the ‘100 Peaks of Taiwan‘ 百岳 to climb.  So up we went!  There was a biting wind, and it was 6ºC at the top – that’s very cold for us subtropical coastal dwellers!  Maybe a third of us managed to get to the top, where breaks in the clouds gave us great views down below.

The road has been badly damaged due to typhoons and landslides and earthquakes and everything else, and is still under repair in many places.  But our minibus procession got us through and down the other side to Lishan and then Wuling….

IMG_9492

We stayed the night at a hotel in the Wuling Farm area 武陵農場, about 2,000 m above sea-level….

And we woke up the next day to beautiful blue skies and autumn colours…

The nearby river is famous for its Formosan Landlocked Salmon (yes, we saw some, but they’re impossible to photograph!) and further upstream is the Taoshan Waterfall 桃山瀑布, known as the ‘Sound of the Mist’ Waterfall.  The walk there is 4.3 km each way – through the forest, and takes about 3 hours in total there and back.  It was my first visit ~ and we had a wonderful morning.  It is really beautiful!

IMG_9646

Nearby is Taiwan’s second highest peak, Xueshan / Syueshan 雪山 (Snow Mountain), which I went up in 2011 ~ this time we went up to the trail entrance to look at the view. The view is spectacular. And so are all the lovely people in our group!

IMG_9707

And then down to visit some of the Wuling Farm tea-growing area, and a small museum dedicated to what the farm was like in the old days….

We left Wuling and headed back to Lishan 梨山, where we’d passed through only the day before.  Lishan (literally means Pear Mountain) is home to the Atayal People 泰雅族, many of whom are Christians.  The area is also about 2,000 m above sea level, so lots of fruit and vegetables can be grown here that normally only grow in cold countries – like dear old England.  The steep mountainsides in Lishan are no longer covered in big forests of beautiful trees but instead are covered in fruit trees, and at this time of year there’s no leaves, and the fruits in season are covered in paper bags to protect them – so the mountains look bare – but covered in white flowers, which turn out to be paper bags.  They’re mostly apples, pears and peaches.  It’s amazing – and yet devastating – all at once, to think what amazing things man has done to produce all that fruit, and yet at what cost to the environment.  Reminds me a bit of the UK Lake District really – but just replace fruit with sheep!

Anyway, we went to buy some of the apples – oh, and cabbages….

Incredible clouds nearby….

IMG_9901

And no, it didn’t rain, eventually the blue sky came through!

IMG_9932

Oh yes, and a very regal line of trees….

IMG_9885

Fushoushan Farm 福壽山農場 is one of the Veterans’ Farms, very high up in altitude, and before it got dark, we just had time to visit Tianchi ‘Heavenly Lake’ 天池, where President Chiang Kai-Shek liked to visit when he was at the farm.  Check out his green house….

We stayed at the most amazing Lishan Guest House, just down the mountainside from the farm, and designed in the same style (and by the same architect, Yang Cho-cheng 楊卓成) as the Grand Hotel, Taipei. This was where President Chiang Kai-Shek and his wife stayed when they were in the area – but the building was badly damaged in the 1999 earthquake, and reopened in 2012 – as a hotel.  It is very very popular, and certainly scores 100% for atmosphere ~ all that red colour, and all those lanterns!  There are no lifts / elevators, and we were assigned the top floor – 3rd floor.  So me and Ah-Guan, good friend from St. James’ Church, Taichung, struggled up to the third floor – to find that we had been assigned the room next to the Presidential Suite.  It was a ‘hit the jackpot, won the lottery, gob-smacking moment’ lol!

We were clearly in the room that originally would have been used by the presidential bodyguard, and the most amazing thing was that we had access to the presidential balcony.  This was the balcony with THE VIEW!  And so we spent a happy hour or two welcoming all our friends to come and have a look!  The presidential suite, as far as we could see (from peering in the windows!) has been left much as it was when President Chiang and his wife stayed there – we could see into a tea room, and into the mahjong room at the end….

IMG_0209

That evening, after dinner, and after the Atayal Concert, we had a short service in the hotel dining room for our group.  Ah, what a happy evening, and what a wonderful group of people!

Next morning, Thursday, yesterday in fact, and I was up bright and early (well not very bright, but certainly very early!) to see THE view across the mountains…..

IMG_0154

See the Taiwan flag? From directly outside the presidential suite, it’s positioned exactly right in the centre of the ‘V’ in the mountains…. how’s this for a view?!

P_20171123_075331_vHDR_Auto

The hotel and the whole area is very atmospheric.  Ambiance, man, it’s all about ambiance!

And so after breakfast, and more tours of our presidential balcony, we packed up, checked out and spent the morning at the Fushoushan Farm.  What a place, and what a history!  It is famous for a huge pine tree with an interesting story…

IMG_0316

IMG_0266

And even more famous for its Apple King Tree, with over 40 different kinds of apple grafted into one tree…

We had a tour of the farm….

And finished with the maple trees area near the main entrance, where a zillion people were taking a zillion photos, ah, it was photo-heaven!

And so it was reluctantly time to say goodbye to the farm and head back over the big mountains, westwards… but first a photo-stop near Hehuanshan, at the Central Cross-Island Highway summit (3,275m) – the highest point on the highest main road that crosses northern Taiwan, and a major destination for cyclists!

Follow my finger and in that direction is Nanhu Big Mountain, (the one on the left of the pointed one!) which we climbed in 2012…

1511489741367

This is a gathering of all from Advent Church, plus Mr. Di, our tour leader (third left)….

IMG_0706

And finally to lunch, and back to Taichung High-Speed Rail Station to return to our separate destinations…. and I got home at 7:30 pm.  And guess what, it was still raining in Sanzhi, in fact it hadn’t stopped all the time I’d been away!

A big thank you to our leader, Mr. Di Yun-Hung ‎(狄運亨) for planning and managing the whole trip, along with a tour company team who drove us in their minibuses, and organized all the routes and meals and everything. It was a wonderful trip – the highlights being the waterfall, the maple leaves and of course the presidential balcony views…..

P_20171123_074750_vHDR_Auto

But it was also wonderful to be together with such a lovely group of people, renewing old friendships, making new ones, enjoying time together, taking lots of photos of everyone in different groups, and having a lot of fun!

And finally, thanks be to God for His amazingly stunning creation ~ and the colours (and miracle) that is the season of autumn ~ YES!

Posted in Taiwan Episcopal Church Diocese of Taiwan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sanzhi 三芝 Matzu Temple Centenary Celebrations, 1917-2017

Today is THE day, the climax of 5 days of celebrations, and as I write this, events are ongoing, with firecrackers and drums and trumpets and singing and offerings and all sorts of activity, and being attended by nearly everyone in the whole town.

And all in the rain and cold!  It’s been like this all weekend, but hey, when there’s a festival in town, a bit of rain and cold won’t stop anyone.

But this was the scene on Thursday, the last time that the sun appeared in Sanzhi!

IMG_9012

Two weeks ago, I wrote here about the preparations for the centenary celebrations of the Sanzhi Matzu Temple (honouring Matzu / Mazu / Matsu, Goddess of the Sea), officially named 三芝小基隆福成宮 Fu-Cheng Gong.  The 5 days of celebrations officially started on Wednesday, and today is the new moon, the first day of the 10th lunar month, so it’s the big day today!  See all these people? And their umbrellas….

IMG_9126

There’s been a lot of preparation, red lanterns strung all around the town, large gateways on the main roads leading into town, and for these 5 days virtually the whole town has gone vegetarian.  Market stalls selling meat – and butchers shops (there’s at least 10 in total) have closed down completely for the 5 days, including the famous 三芝老地方 Lao Di-Fang Steamed Baozi Restaurant, and plenty of others where the main specialty involves meat or fish.  Others are open, but only selling vegetarian food.  Even the huge Farmers’ Cooperative Supermarket has all fresh meat removed from the fridges.

All the roads leading to the main temple have been closed today and large tables set up on the roads, on which people are making their offerings, and each local village is assigned a different table area….

IMG_9143

Some of the tables near the temple contain what is more like an exhibition, including one of an amazing dragon ice sculpture (yes, honest, it’s all ice – with real dripping water!)…

IMG_9200

There’s lamps carved out of water melons….

IMG_9277

And there’s plenty of offerings of dead animals, including pigs….

IMG_9174

Goats (spot the lit cigarettes)….

IMG_9180

And geese…

IMG_9258

The lady at the bread shop told me that this was the place to see all of Taiwan’s folk culture on display all at once, and once only in 100 years.  It certainly is, and so in that spirit, I share with you the photos, firstly of last night at the main temple area….

And these of this afternoon…

And now this evening, as I passed by……

Really quite something eh?!

Posted in Taiwan | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Pop idols @ Taiwan-Style!

Been doing a bit of research among some of our students in the 15-17 year age group to find out who their pop idols are ~ part of my English conversation classes, so bringing you up to speed, here goes!

Top of the list by far for everyone are the boy bands from S. Korea – all brought together on TV talent shows and promoted by the mega-entertainment industry that is so big in S. Korea.  And currently top of the list of all of them is BTS.  Super Junior is long over, now it is BTS.  Our girls say the BTS group of 7 are all SO handsome, and their singing and dancing are all SO amazing.  To excel at all those 3 things is what qualifies them as No. 1.  And they are the reason for half of all Taiwan girls aspiring to learn Korean language.  Forget English, Korean language is the way to go!  They told me to check out the BTS You Tube video ‘DNA’, so here it is – I particularly like their use of colour – how’s this eh?!

For the boys, the equivalent is the Korean girl band, Sistar, all so ‘sexy’, and their singing and dancing are all so good.  They recommend you check out ‘Shake it’, and you’ll see why they’re so popular.

The other popular Korean male is Lee Jong Suk, actor and model who comes in the category of ‘very handsome’ as well as for his acting ability.

So is it all Koreans?  Not completely, but largely, well, yes!

Chinese idols are Jing Boran –  apparently a ‘cute’ and ‘handsome’ singer and actor; Kris Wu – ‘handsome’ actor, singer and model, and Andy Lau from Hong Kong, famous for singing and acting and for being ‘handsome before’ (when he was younger, that is!).

Then there’s American and Canadian idols, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, Bon Jovi, The Chainsmokers.

There’s a Malaysian singer Shila Amzah who has an amazing voice, I’ve checked out her videos – she sings in Chinese, and yes, she’s good.

So what about Japanese idols?  Japan is famous for anime (computer animation) videos, and the most famous idol of that genre seems to be Hatsune Miku, a fictional anime character of a 16-year-old girl with ‘long turquoise twin-tails’ and an amazing singing style – ‘a humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application’ – her official video is here… check it out!

And so what about homegrown Taiwan idols?  Are there any?  Our students have a really hard time thinking of anyone famous in Taiwan who they regard as an idol!  So finally, dragging it out of them, I have finally found four:  J J Lin 林俊傑 (based in Taiwan, but actually comes from Singapore!) whose singing is great but he is apparently neither cute nor handsome, Show Luo 羅志祥 whose singing and acting are good, but also apparently not very handsome, the group S.H.E whose 3 girls all sing and dance – and apparently beautiful too, and finally, Julia Wu 吳卓源 who has an amazing singing voice, and sings in Chinese, but turns out to be from Australia, and lives in the USA – anyway, here she is!

So what makes a pop idol? Looks is the big one, followed by skills in acting / dancing / singing – the more skills the better.  And if you write your own songs, well that’s an extra idol bonus!  But idols all come to an end, either fading with age or misdemeanor, or for Korean boy bands because they have to go off to military service, and while they’re gone, along comes another boy band to take their place.  But for the time being, it is BTS.  When I ask if these BTS boys have girlfriends, I am assured that they wouldn’t dare, because all the fans would be so upset – they can get girlfriends later, after they stop being so popular!

Anyway, hope I’ve brought you to speed a little with what’s going on in the world of pop idols, Taiwan-style!

Posted in Taiwan | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

St. John’s University Coming of Age Ceremony (成年禮) 2017!

Every year in mid-November, St. John’s University holds a Coming of Age Ceremony (成年禮) for all of our first-year university students ~ plus SJU President Ay, faculty, alumni, tutors and staff.  The event is organized by the St. John’s University Chaplaincy, and takes weeks of preparation for our chaplaincy staff and the student fellowship team ~ but it’s all worth it, and every year we thank God for another successful event!  It’s also got high praise from the Ministry of Education too.

IMG_8640

And it all happened yesterday afternoon!

IMG_8612

The students (and tutors) this year all had special red SJU ties, emblazoned with SJU logos and words, and with matching white shirts (or black for some), everyone looked very smart.  Took quite some effort to get those ties on the right way, but everyone helped out their friends and in the end, they all looked great!  Many parents came too, and were warmly thanked and presented with gifts of potted plants, as were the class tutors.  We had speeches and music, a wine toast, formal bows, prayers and a blessing from Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang.  All this to mark the students’ arrival in the big wide world of adulthood, a world of maturity and responsibility.  Ah yes, a great occasion!

But, this year there were only 350 or so students at the Coming of Age Ceremony.  Looking back on these blog posts marking the same event over the years – they go back to 2012, when there were 1,500 students at the ceremony, and the hall was packed out.  In those 5 years, student enrollment has gone down by 200-300 each year – last year there were about 800 at the ceremony.  It is seriously worrying.  And it’s also a major problem affecting all of Taiwan.  A drastic fall in the birth rate (and hardly any immigration) is impacting all schools and colleges, from primary schools upwards. At university level, there are way too many universities and nowhere near enough students to go round, so the only way to keep the numbers up is to reduce standards – and for small private universities like ours, the problem is particularly bad.  Yes, these days we have lots of foreign students and lots of new and innovative programme to attract students (and keep them), but still, they are not enough to keep up with the falling numbers of Taiwan students.  Next year is a ‘dragon year’ of students coming through (there’s a high birth rate every dragon year!) plus we have the junior college students who, next year, for the first time, will be eligible to join in the Coming of Age Ceremony.  So we look forward to an upward rise in 2018!

So please keep us in your prayers and thoughts as St. John’s University works hard to resolve this problem ~ and face the challenges ahead!

PS The university’s own article (in Chinese) about yesterday’s event is here

Posted in St. John's University Taiwan | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Street Art @ 淡水老街 Tamsui Old Street ~ love it!

Discovered some wonderful new (to me, that is) street art on the walls of Tamsui Old Street area 淡水老街 today ~ including this one of Dr. George Mackay, first Presbyterian missionary to northern Taiwan (1844-1901), who arrived in Tamsui in 1872 and stayed here more or less until he died.  Early photos show him going off on trips armed with dentist equipment for pulling out teeth, and Bibles to share the Gospel… wonder what he’s think of this painting done in his honour?

IMG_8113

Then up behind the famous Matzu Temple are some steps and walls painted with famous local scenes…..

IMG_8129

IMG_8151

IMG_8142

I like ’em!  Brightens up the place considerably ~ so do come ‘n visit Tamsui, it’s THE place to be!

Posted in Taiwan | Tagged , , | 1 Comment