Ali Shan

I'm writing from Alishan, a mountain retreat in the southern part of Taiwan.  I spent a few days in Kaohsiung and it was just too hot.  I don't see how anyone can do a gongfu workout in that weather, or any other workout for that matter.  I did see people riding bicycles, they were sweating buckets just riding on the flat with no headwind.  And believe it or not the World Games will be in Kaohsiung next month.  I just don't understand hot weather.

Alishan is cool.  There is actually a justification for wearing clothes up here at 7000 feet.  Alishan is a tourist park by-the-way, but I climbed up to the top of Tashan this morning after having my first decent workout in a week and I didn't run into anyone.  And for future reference, if global warming turns out to be real, I'm moving to Antarctica.

Now that I'm out of the hot weather I can think and meditate again.  I find it hard to believe thinking or meditating have ever been done in hot climates.  It occurred to me that perhaps the reason it is often hard to get students to practice is that they actually experience practice as difficult.  I know duh, right?  But that never occurs to me because practice is just really easy for me.  It is just my nature.  Experiencing practice as ones true nature is considered one of the fruitions of practice.  But honestly, I don't remember ever experiencing gongfu practice as difficult.  Until I landed in hot humid weather, that is.  The god of air conditioning needs to be promoted to a higher office!

I went to a lot of temples in Kaohsiung but surprisingly the first temple I visited here on Alishan is a temple to Zhen Wu (the Perfected Warrior) the highest Daoist Icon.  Zhen Wu is on the top floor.  Before being promoted to the highest position in the pantheon at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, Zhen Wu was called XuanDe (dark mysterious natural virtue).  The icon on the ground floor of the temple was called Xuan Tian (dark mysterious sky).  He is black and made of wood. They are all the same deity fulfilling different functions.  Ritual implements used in trance dance were laid out in front of the downstairs altar.  The Zhen Wu statue was beautiful and made of bronze.  I recognized him immediately because of his hair, his armor and his bare feet.  A separate statue of a turtle and snake intertwined (the symbol of the North Star where Zhen Wu sits in meditation) was just below his feet.

There was a large carved wooden sign in a side room that said Chang De Yun Ren (Constant nature cloud person) below it was a framed chart of the "60 talisman of cloud fates."  That is, a talismanic piece of writing for each of 60 different ways one can become an immortal.

The temple is modern and yet has fantastic wood carving everywhere.  At least some of the carvings depict scenes from the History-Legend of the Three kingdoms and the Outlaws of the Marsh.  In one of the carved scenes on a ceiling partition I noticed that one of the carved figures was wearing glasses.  Cute!

I asked a resident guide/interpreter if there was a Daoshi maintaining the altars.  She said no there was a Miao Gong.  I've never heard of a Miao Gong before.