Chinese Culture 


 Chinese Culture






The Land Of China -- Explore by Province

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

Taiwan is a modern industrialized megalopolis clinging to the fringes of an ancient culture; a string of stinking cities at the feet of a glorious mountain range. Taiwan is traditional noodles from a 7-Eleven, aboriginal tribes in mini-skirts, a day of temple rituals followed by waterslide rides.

The human tide of Taipei will sweep you off your feet, but if you step outside the city limits you'll discover why Taiwan is also known as Ilha Formosa, the "beautiful island". Mountain peaks puncturing the sea of clouds, slick black volcanic coastlines, waterfalls shrouded in mist: Taiwan is a computer-generated Chinese watercolor.

Taiwan Evening Sky
Shaped like a little leaf, Taiwan is an island situated in the Pacific Ocean about 160 kilometers (99 miles) off the southeastern coast of China. The island's total area is 35,563 square kilometers (13,869 square miles) with its dimensions being 394 kilometers (244miles) long and 144 kilometers (89miles) wide. Taiwan also includes the Penghu Archipelago--a group of 64 islands previously known as the Pescadores--and 21 other islands including Lanyu, Green, Liuchiu, Kinmen, Matsu, and Wuchiu. Located about midway between Korea and Japan to the north and Hong Kong and the Philippines to the south, Taiwan is a natural gateway for travelers to and within Asia.

Taiwan's spine is a ridge of steep mountains, falling away to a rocky coastline on the east and a narrow, fertile plain (where 90% of the population lives) on the west. Mount Yushan is, at 3952 meters (12,963 feet) above sea level, the highest peak in North-East Asia outside of Tibet. The Central Mountain Range bisects Taiwan from north to south and about two-thirds of the island is covered with forested peaks. The rest of the island is made up of foothills, terraced flatlands, and coastal plains and basins.

The island's high mountain forests are predominantly cyprus, although camphor used to grow in abundance. Taiwan was once home to many endemic species, including the Formosan black bear, the Formosan Sika deer, and the Formosan landlocked salmon. In its headlong scurry towards economic prosperity, Taiwan has managed to destroy most of the western coast's habitat and wipe out a species or two, although the inaccessibility of the rest of the island has made it a natural wildlife reserve. But in the last 20 years, Taiwan has declared 67 reserves, including six national parks, and instituted some fairly hefty environmental legislation.

Taiwan's climate is subtropical, with an annual average temperatures of 21.7° C (71.2° F) in the north and 24.1° C(75.7° F) in the south.
the Dry Northeast
The rainy season, through May and June, typically heralds the start of summer. Summers, which last from May through September, are usually hot and humid with daytime temperatures from 27° C to 35° C (in the 80's and 90's F). Winters, from December through February, are short and mild; snow falls only on the island's higher altitudes, where at times can be chilly in the summer as well.

Taiwan's population is at about 21,465, 900, which makes the island one of the world's most densely populated places. Except for the approximately 350,000 aborigines, the people of Taiwan originate from the Chinese mainland, most from the coastal province of Fujian. Taiwan's capital is Taipei, whose population holds 2,637,000 people.

Taiwan's capital is packed full of people, cars, and smog - a real hotbed of renao, or liveliness. It's not a relaxing stopover, but the food is excellent, the people are friendly, and there are some top-notch sights. Taipei is divided into four sections by the east-west Chunghsiao Road and the north-south Chungshan Road. Chungsan North Road is full of shops, restaurants, and tempting bakeries, while the narrow lanes and alleys which run off the main road are full of tiny Chinese restaurants selling cheap delicacies.

the Art of Cooking in Taipei
In the rush to develop, Taipei has knocked over most of its lovely old residences: Lin Antai Old Homestead is one of the few to have been preserved. Built in 1783, the building was moved brick by brick when a freeway was built through its original location. The graceful old structure now stands in Pinchiang Park. Lungshan Temple is one of the city's most colourful temples, usually packed with worshippers and dense with smoke from burning incense.

a Soaring Tower
Two blocks away, vendors in the Snake Alley night market taunt live cobras before serving them up to you boiled, fried, or pickled. The Shihlin Night Market, on the south side of Chungcheng Road, is one of the largest markets in Taipei. When the bustle gets to be too much, Taipei has a few leafy green sanctuaries. The Botanical Gardens has a beautiful lotus pond - and while you're there, visit the nearby Museum of Natural History, the National Science Hall, and the National Arts Hall. Yangmingshan, just north of Taipei, is a mountain park with hot springs, climbing opportunities, and breathable air. Mucha Tea Park, in the south of the city, is sprinkled with tea plantations and over 60 teahouses.

Yangming Shan
About 30 minutes drive via winding roads north of Taipei is the Yangming Mountain. It is a well-known resort for escaping the heat and humidity in the summer as well as the upbeat city life of Taipei. The peak of the mountain is crowned by Yangming National Park, which features walkways winding through colorful gardens of trees, bushes, fragrant flowers, and grottoes.

the Palace Museum
the Palace Museum
On a par with the Louvre, the British Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Palace Museum has 700,000 Chinese artifacts - so many that the whole collection can't be displayed at one time. The museum is situated in the suburbs of Taipei and was built in 1965. Whichever 15,000 are on display when you show up, you'll probably see artworks made from jade, bronze, enamel, porcelain, lacquerware, tapestry, and embroidery, as well as priceless documents and books containing ancient Chinese calligraphy. In October there are special showings of rare and fragile items.

Lying to northwest of Taipei, Peitou is China's largest geothermal area. Its major hot srpings are as big as wells, with water gusting out in great force. The most magnificent, however, are waterfalls that drop from high elevations. The famous Hells Valley has steamy, open sulfur pits, which offer a first-hand look at the natural activity responsible for the areas hot springs. Attractions within easy reach of Peitou centre include the Monastery of Central Harmony, Goddess of Mercy Mountain, the Temple Soaring to the Clouds, and many other scenic spots.

The highlight of Tienhsiang is the nearby Taroko Gorge, probably Taiwan's most beautiful scenic spot. The town itself is a lovely little resort at the top of the gorge, nestled between towering cliffs. Relaxing and tranquil, there's not much to do in the town itself, but there are plenty of walks nearby. Exactly one kilometer (about half a mile) uphill from Tienhsiang, the Tunnel Hike is, as its name suggests, a walk which leads through a dripping tunnel, past outstanding scenery, to the Paiyang Waterfall and beyond.
Cliffs and Coast
A little further out of Tienhsiang, Wenshan Hot Springs is a very pleasant, natural spring. Tienhsiang is popular with honeymooners, so visit during the week if you want a bit of quiet solitude. A third of the way down the east coast, Tienhsiang is serviced by buses and tours from Taipei.

Hualien Cliffs and the Coast
Northeast of Hualien, south of Tienhsiang on the Pacific side of Taiwan, lies the island's rugged eastern coast, unsurpassed for its landscape, sea, and sky. This part of the coast looks much like California's wild Big Sur coastline. This area is crowned as one of the Eight Wonders of Taiwan.

Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge
Located 15 kilometers north of Hualian, Taroko Gorge is one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. Taroko means "beautiful" in the Ami Dialect. A gorge with sheer cliffs dropping away to a rushing river of white water and through which flows the Li-Wu River, Taroko winds sinuously for 19 kilometers from the coast to its upper end at Tienhsiang. The scenic spots along the route are the Light of Zen Monastery, Eternal Spring Shrine, Swallows Grotto, Tunnel of Nine Turns, and the Bridge of Motherly Devotion. The Eternal Spring Shrine, just above the entrance to the gorge, straddles a waterfall: it was built as a memorial to the 450 workers who died building the Taroko highway.

Clear Forest Waters

Tainan, on the southern east coast, is Taiwan's temple town. Once the country's capital, Tainan is still a stronghold of Taiwanese culture. It's also one of the best places in the country to witness Buddhist parades and festivals. There are hundreds of temples in Tainan: some of the most interesting are the East Mountain, a busy Taoist temple where people come to communicate with dead relatives or exorcise ghosts; Mito, with its magnificent statue of the 1000-armed goddess Kuanyin; Chuhsi, Tainan's largest and most beautiful temple set in an athletic park; and Kaiyuan, a classical Buddhist temple with spacious grounds and plenty of pagodas.

Coastal Rock Formations
To see temple building in action, visit the suburbs of Luerhmen, where three temples are constantly trying to outdo one another for the title of "biggest temple in Taiwan". Choose your favorite and donate some cash to building expenses - your name will be engraved on a temple artifact in gratitude. If all this religious exertion becomes too much for you, get back to earthly things at the nearby Woozland waterslide park. Other non-temple sights include a museum and shrine to national hero Koxinga and the Great South Gate, the remains of Tainan's city walls. Tainan is also a great spot for night-life and Chinese food.

Alishan's Sea of Clouds
If you've spent a bit of time in Taipei, the mountain resort of Alishan will be a real breath of fresh air. Located 72 kilometers east of the city of Chiayi, the Mount Ali Scenic Area is a group of eighteen moutains. The whole area is densely forested with a total forest area of thirty thousand hectares. A couple of lungfulls of the crisp, mountainy oxygen here will get your blood rushing and the heart leaping.

the "Sacred Tree"
of Alishan
The locals are so full of joie de vivre (the joy of living) that they'll probably pull you out of bed at 4 AM to join them in the traditional dawn climb of Chushan. It's almost worth the early wake for the "sea of clouds" view. Once you've recovered from this exertion, take a soothing ride on the steam train which makes a 9 kilometer (5.5 mile) run from Alishan to Monkey Rock. If Chushan has merely whetted your appetite, Yushan, Taiwan's highest mountain, is a heart-attack-inducing 3952 meters (12,963 feet) above sea level. To make the climb you'll need to obtain a class A mountain permit.

Try to get to Alishan during the week - 5000 camera-clicking tourists can take the shine off a Chushan sunrise, and weekends here are known as "people mountain people sea". There are plenty of places to stay, but not much in the way of mid-range hotels: expect to bed down in a dormitory or pay big bucks.

Green Island's Waters
Green Island
Surrounded by clear blue water, Green Island, or Lutao, is a pristine volcanic island in the Pacific Ocean, 33 kilometers east of the city of Taitung. The old name for Green Island is Huoshautao, literally meaning "fire-burning island," because the islanders used to set up bonfires at night to direct their fishermen home or, as another legend tells, that a forest fire burned out most of the island's vegetation in the early Ching dynasty. Although the total length of the coastline of the island is only 20 kilometers and the tallest mountain is only 281 meters high, this 15-square-kilometer island is attracting a growing number of tourists.
the Coast of Green Island
The central government has inaugurated an ambitious development plan to exploit its potential.

The most attractive part of Green Island is its surrounding seas, which are replete with 203 different species of colorful coral and over 300 varieties of fish. The seawater here is among the cleanest and most transparent in the world, ideal for diving.

Sun-Moon Lake
Ri-Yue Tan
Located in Nantou County, Ri-Yue Tan, or Sun-Moon Lake, is Taiwans largest natural lake. The Sun-Moon Lake is more than 9,000,000 square meters (900 hectares) in area, has an average depth of 90 meters, and a circumference of 35 kilometers. The lake is surrounded by mountains with an island in the center, which divides the lake surface into two parts. The northern part is in a round shape like the sun and the southern part looks like a crescent, hence its name. The waters and mountains have made the place an excellent natural wonder.

Statue on the Light of
Buddha Mountain
Light of Buddha Mountain
Visitors with dual interests in Chinese Buddhism and architecture should not miss a visit to the Light of Buddha Mountain. This is the center of Buddhist scholarship in Taiwan. The complex consists of several enormous shrine halls surrounded by cool colonnades, pavilions and pagodas, bridges and footpaths, libraries and meditation halls, ponds and grottoes, and exquisite Buddhist statuary. The most spectacular sight is a 32-meter-high Buddha statue surrounded by a holy host of 480 life-sized smaller Buddha statues. Attractions include the Precious Hall of Great Heroes, the Hall of Great Pity, the Hall of Great Wisdom, and the Pilgrims parlor, where inexpensive lodging and vegetarian meals are available.

Caves of the Eight Immortals
Caves of the Eight Immortals
After the village of Changyuan comes one of the three attractions along this stretch of coast most popular with tour groups--Pahsien Tung, or the Caves of the Eight Immortals. Despite the name, there are actually 14 caves here. This has been designated as a site of national archeological importance due to the discovery of numerous ancient artifacts. Buddhist temples occupy many of the caves.