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An experiential journal of synchronicity and connection

Alian 阿蓮

Ālián 阿蓮 is a rural district along the northern border with Tainan 台南.

South Taiwan Ride 2015: Tainan to Pingtung City

Tainan country roads
Riding through the countryside in southern Tainan 台南. This looks remarkably like the area near where I grew up.

Bicycle touring is one of the best ways to experience Taiwan 台灣. I don’t have an opportunity to go touring as much as I’d like but managed to find some time last year, in June of 2015, to embark upon a multi-day bicycle trip around southern Taiwan 台灣. My intention was to cover some of the same territory that I had rushed through on my first bicycle trip down south in 2013. I ended up racing a typhoon from Kenting to Taitung City 台東市 that year—so the chance to explore the backroads of Pingtung 屏東 at a more relaxed pace really appealed to me. I started my journey in Tainan 台南, my favourite city in Taiwan 台灣, and cycled through Kaohsiung 高雄 to Pingtung City 屏東市, putting about 70 kilometers behind me. Gathered here are some photos from the first day of this trip, continued here.

Three Stars in Rural Kaohsiung

The rooftop at Qinghe Temple 清和宮 in Alian
The Three Stars on the rooftop of Alian’s Qinghe Temple.

Pictured here is the rooftop of Qīnghé Temple 清和宮 in central Ālián 阿蓮, Kaohsiung 高雄, which supposedly dates back to 1665, though a major reconstruction took place in 1982. I shot this photograph while riding back from the badlands of southern Taiwan years ago but only recently learned the meaning of these ubiquitous figurines. These are the Three Stars 三星 of Chinese folk religion, commonly known by their combined name Fúlùshòu 福祿壽, and they appear here in the traditional right-to-left orientation. Fú 福, holding a child on the right, is the avatar of Jupiter and the personification of good fortune. 祿星, commonly depicted as a mandarin, represents imperial rank or status, and appears in the night sky as the star Mizar in the Big Dipper. Finally, Shòu 壽 is the god of longevity, easily recognized by his high, domed forehead, friendly demeanor, elderly appearance, and (in this case) gnarled walking stick. Also known as the Old Man of the South Pole, his is the southern star, Canopus. Together these deities represent the culturally Chinese conception of the good life: prosperous, high-ranking, and long-lived. Once you go looking for them you’ll find them all over the place in Taiwan 台灣.