Saturday, June 28, 2008

How Jio Bo Jian (Long time no see)

Well ive been putzin around way too long and have been ever forgetful of posting my latest happenins. There are other reasons too. I moved into a new apartment about a month ago, and I dont have an internet connection there. My new apartment is in an old quarter of town, near the largest Chinese temple complex in Taipei, Confucious and Bo-an Temples. It is primarily populated by older Tiawanese folks, so it is a bit more genuine, traditional and slower paced, and most importantly, cheaper. Its got a nice vibe to it, and there are a few traditional and night markets in the proximity, including one on the street that adjoins the alley where my apartment is. THe night market street has a cheap Juice bar, tasty tea bar, and a vegetarian buffet so it is easy to make myself at home in the area. My girlfriend also lives in the neighborhood and it is on the main subway line into town. I have been profoundly busy of late, attending some outdoor parties at the beach and in the mountains, as well as seeing some avante garde theater and film festivals with Yutsen, my girlfriend.

Recieving the Tao

On a saturday in the beginning of June I went to a taoist initiation with my friend Sophia, a vegan taoist who I met at a vegetarian resteraunt near my work. Yi Guan Dao is a modern Daoist sect founded in China but propagated in Taiwan. They are a modern incarnation of traditional Chinese beliefs-a fusion of Taoist-Buddhist-Confucianist beliefs and p[ractices, a more ritualized, organized and systematized form of Chinese religion based on traditional Chinese spirituality and Taoist philosophy including Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu. They are all vegetarians, as well. Sophias philosophical and spiritual enthusiasm always garuntee an interesting interchange between her and I. She picked me up after work Saturday and took me to the temple complex in the mountains with her fiance, and another member of her temple. I was very excited at this oppurtinity to experience authentic Chinese Taoist spirituality which I have learned so much about in its intellectual and philosophical exchange with modern western culture. Everyone at the temple complex was excited to have me because I was a foreigner, and the movement is largely Chinese, with good reason considering that is steeped in the rich religious and ethical heritage of China. I took part in a "recieving of the Tao" ceremony in which a priest blessed me under the gaurdianship of the "Spirits and Buddhas" who she summoned in an elaborate ritual and esoteric recitations. SHe explained to me the three treasures or practices of Yi Guan Dao in whcih if I practice regularly I can "cultivate Tao" and "enter the gates of heaven". They also explained to me a meditation practice and mantram to help me cultivate Tao. They provided me with some literature about practicing Taoism, which is very interesting because it provides methods for reaching Tao, or the way of all things, through daily practice, meditations, and Yi Ching harmony. The ceremony lasted about an hour, and I was also given a tour of the temple complex which contained a museum of Taoism, with exhibits on Yi Ching, Taoist astronomy and astrology.


Two weeks ago I went to a peace festival in the mountains outside of Taipei. This was a gathering of the alternative, countercultural, anti-war ex-pat and Taiwanese community. Full of jams, dancing, and good fellowship, it was billed as a "celebration of humanity, a chance to show Taiwan an alternate view on life, to move focus away from individual ego towards the greater good" with a whole lot of mud and vibes thrown in. Aside from grooving in the mountains all day long, the most inspirational part of the festival was the "peace circle" held during the Saturday afternoon sunset. This consisted of about half of hte festival goers assembled in a circle hind in hand while an aboriginal drummer and sunger troupe conjuered up benevolent spirits via heartical rythyms and soulful chantings. It was like a giant tribal Hora dance in the mountains, super entrancing and soul bonding. It was so powerful that a clean cut Canadian fellow with a big grim looking cross tattooed on his chest, not the stereotypical flower power type, said to me, " I know I just met you but can I hold your hand" after being broken off from the circle due to the mass movement of the formation. This set the vibe high and the spirit full for the remainder of the evening while soul-funk, reggae, japanese folk, and "tribal trip bop" musicians served up extensive grooves and roots-centric funky rythyms the whole night long. Everyone dancing and grooving in the mud in a far eastern woodstock, I was filled with good heart and spirit for a good time after I returned to Taipei.

Avante Garde Theater

Last weekend I went to an experimental theater show at the National theater. The show was written and directed by an American playwright who has lived in Tiawan for the past fourteen years. It was extraordinaly experimental, with no dialogue. I would describe it as very Dada-ist. The set looked very wooden and rustic, with just a decayed wooden chair and a big wooden box in front of it. In the first scene a woman comes out with a brown paper bag, and her movements are extremely slowed down. She carefully takes out a tape recorder that looks rusty and dusty, places it on the table and presses play. The tape player commences an extremely slow piano music which is the theme of the entire show. Then she places the bag on her head. Another woman comes out and rips the top off the bag (on the womans head) and after a few moments pulls her hand out to reveal that her hand is smeared with blue paint which seemingly originates from the inside of the big on the woman's hand. In the next scene the woman is standing on the table, music playing, and the second woman on looking, and slowly lifts up her skirt to reveal the blue paint splattered on her white underwear. In another scene, a person in a bird suit comes out, pours a liquid from a brown bottle on the sleeping first gilrl and lays down to sleep with her. Another scene displays a masculine woman dressed in a suit who pulls a peice of cloth from her crotch and scissors it off, later to be stuffed in her mouth. The scenes of slow acts of irrationality and visual nonsense proceed for about an hour, all to the tempo of slow and dramatic piano music. At some points the entire 5 or 6 person female cast (including the directors mother, a hearty looking midwestern woman) harmonize elegently to correspondingly nonsensical lyrics. I think the beautiful and slow tempo and singing to graceful piano notes reflect some sort of hope in the midst of the flagrant irrationality, gender and sexual confusion of the modern hyper-information over-sensitized post modern reality.

Pictured above is the Temple complex located across the street from my new apartment.

Me skankin and rockin with groovy Taiwanese at Peacefest.

Yutsen at Peacefest.

More from the Temple...