Tag Archives: Chinese New Year

The Year of the Monkey @ The Wall Street Journal!

The Wall Street Journal must have liked my Instagram photo for the Year of the Monkey at Chinese New Year ~ they’ve included it here:

 

Mine’s is the bottom right photo, taken at the Jian-Guo Flower Market in Taipei just before Chinese New Year – such a happy monkey – he kinda looks like he’s taking off down a ski slope lol!

It’s also No. 26 of 33 photos published on their website – check out the link here

Chinese New Year 2016

A sombre, sober and subdued Lunar New Year for all of Taiwan. It started with the deadly 6.4 earthquake early on Saturday February 6 in southern Taiwan, which led to the collapse of a number of high-rise buildings in Tainan, including the 17-storey Weiguan Jinlong apartment complex, where over 100 were killed. Electricity and water outages made the New Year even worse for many, and as High-Speed Rail services were cancelled in southern Taiwan, many people were forced to change their travel plans.

TV and Newspaper reports kept us all focused on the emerging nightmare….

IMG_4934Tragedy after tragedy – as bodies were pulled from the rubble, despair after despair – for those who had survived but with their loved ones missing.  Many moving stories – of those trapped, and those who had survived against the odds. The search and rescue crews were heroes, sacrificing their New Year celebrations to work around the clock to get everyone out. The Red Cross and other relief organizations, including churches, provided support and help.  The damage was intense in those areas where the fallen buildings lay, but thankfully there was not widespread devastation over the whole city and the relief effort was well-managed and organized.  By last night, the final day of the holiday, everyone in the 17-storey complex had been accounted for, and the collapsed buildings had been leveled.

The earthquake was a constant conversation topic throughout the whole week.  The tragedy was foremost on people’s minds.  TV New Year programs were toned down, social media posts more sombre than usual, the atmosphere everywhere subdued and respectful.

In complete contrast – and complete surprise – was the Chinese New Year weather.  After months and months of seemingly non-stop rain and freezing cold, with temperatures in Taipei the lowest for over 40 years, suddenly the weather cleared up, and we had a whole week of hot sunny weather, with temperatures in Taipei up to 28ºC on Saturday.  Chinese New Year in northern Taiwan is usually marked by cold, wet, totally miserable weather. But this year it was absolutely wonderful!

Chinese New Year is all about family reunions, and the main gathering is always on the evening of New Year’s Eve, which was Sunday February 7.  My good friends, Rev. and Mrs. Hsu, just down the road in Shuang-Lien Elderly Care Centre, kindly invited me to join the celebration meal at the centre, with over 100 tables spread for the residents and their families.  The 3 Hsu children, Victor, Anne and Alice had all come back from overseas, and Alice had come from Mauritius with her husband, Bishop Roger and their son, Alexander. Mrs. Hsu’s sister also joined us.  Yes, all my good friends ~ it was so great to see them all again!  Then on the second day of the New Year, which was Tuesday, the tradition is to go to visit the girl’s side of the family, so Mrs. Hsu invited me again, this time for lunch with the family and some friends, also at the care centre.

Yummy yummy yummy!

And then a whole week off!  With such glorious weather, everyone took to the roads and trains in big numbers, for days of sightseeing, eating, and visiting family and friends. Mahjong is a big Chinese New Year pastime, but with such wonderful weather this year, who could resist a day at the beach or up in the mountains, looking at the newly-opened cherry blossom?

And so. Me too!

On Monday off I went to climb Elephant Mountain 象山, Four Beasts Mountain 四獸山, and the top one, 9-5 Peak Jiuwufeng  九五峯, all located at the far end of the MRT line from Tamsui, over beyond Taipei 101.  Amazing views, and being the first day of the New Year, there were not many people – at least until the afternoon, when the crowds came out, everyone in their new clothes and shoes, some even in high heels lol!

Also a quick visit to Taipei 101, looking very festive with all the red lanterns….

This was all but preparation, in fact, for the big climb of the week, on Wednesday, to Yang-Ming Shan 陽明山 Mountains.  11 hours of walking, from Sanzhi 三芝 up to Mian-Tian Shan 面天山, then Datun Shan 大屯山 and Qixing Shan 七星山, and down to Leng-Shui Keng 冷水坑 for the bus home.  The first time I’ve ever done the walk up and 3 mountains as well, but it was well worth it, the views were fantastic, and it was warm but not too hot. The next day I visited one of our beloved church members in hospital in Taipei, and the final photo is the view of Yang-Ming Shan Mountains from the hospital ward, and what a view!

And so to Friday, and a nice gentle amble, along with zillions of others, around Yehliu 野柳, an hour on the bus from here along the coast eastwards.  Yehliu in summer is boiling hot with no shade, and in winter it’s always cold and wet, so a rare sunny warm day, and Yehliu is the place to go for a bit of fresh sea air, stunning rock formations, a small hill to climb, and a few hours well spent!  Met families from Guang-Dong, Philippines, Canada and Taiwan also escaping the crowds….

And then on Friday afternoon, my good friend, A-guan and 2 of her children suddenly decided to come – from St. James’ Church, Taichung.  Always a fun and lively time!  First stop, the beach at Bai-sha-wan to paddle and see the sunset…

IMG_5569Next stop, on Saturday morning, the National Palace Museum. A-Guan’s daughter’s first ever visit, and she wanted to go.  There were about as many people as at Yehliu the day before, it was packed out!  Y’know, walking round that museum is totally exhausting.  Walking 11 hours up and around Yang-Ming Shan is fine.  But 1-2 hours in a museum, and we were shattered. Had to sit in the park and drink coffee to recover.  But we did see the Pope’s red shoes.  As well as all the usual things on display, there’s also a display of things from the Vatican.  Kinda bizarre to see such ornate vestments and altar frontals next to all the ancient Chinese artifacts. And those red shoes are something else!

And finally, one of the highlights of Chinese New Year is always the cherry blossom, which is coming out at lower altitudes ~ spotting the pink trees is always fun….

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And then on Sunday, yesterday, the fine weather finally broke.  The end.  A cold front came, the rain and wind returned, and winter came back with a vengeance.  Then A-guan’s car broke down, and instead of returning home yesterday, ready for work today, they are still here. Experiencing Sanzhi cold and rain, drinking tea to keep warm!

Today is the first day of school for Taiwan’s children after the holidays.  St. John’s University has an extra day off, we start work tomorrow, and the new semester starts on Thursday.

Looking back over this past week, and Chinese New Year 2016 will always be a New Year to remember.  Such unusually good weather, a time to celebrate and enjoy the arrival of spring and the beauty of the countryside, for many to relax in the company of family and friends. But also a week to remember, grieve and pray for the victims of the earthquake in Tainan. So many have lost so much. So many face an uncertain future.  So many worry in case their own homes are now at risk in future earthquakes.  The investigations into the construction companies behind the collapsed buildings are only just beginning.

Ash Wednesday came in the middle of Chinese New Year week.  Lent has started.  A time of reflection, fasting and prayer.  We pray in earnest, for those suffering, the injured, the orphaned children, those who have lost their entire families, those whose homes, livelihoods and loved ones are gone.  We thank God for his mercy, and ask for your continued prayers for all those affected by the tragedy in southern Taiwan.

Jian-guo Flower Market 建國花市, Taipei ~ THE place to go all this week!

Yes, it’s open all day every day all this week ~ the week leading up to Chinese New Year ~ and you just MUST go!

The Jian-guo Flower Market happens in the car park under the Jian-guo Overpass, not far from the Da-an Park in Taipei – normally it’s a car park during the week, and a flower market at the weekends (at the far end it stretches into the Jade Market), but this week, it’s open all day every day until 10pm.  Yesterday afternoon it was totally totally completely packed out full of people buying flowers of every kind for Chinese New Year. Plus a few other Chinese New Year decorations too.  Orchids and peonies, bonsai and pussy willow, cacti and hyacinths, narcissus and fuchsia, you name it, it’s all there!

I was there after the service at St. John’s Cathedral, along with Mrs. Aline Ma and her daughter Gabrielle, so that Mrs. Ma could buy some narcissus bulbs for the New Year. Mrs. Ma just has so much energy and enthusiasm, we were both trying hard to keep up with her ~ she is just AMAZING!

If you want some flowers, go!  If you don’t – and just want to look – go!  GO GO GO!

Well worth braving the crowds and cold and going to see ~ honest, it’s beautiful!

Ancestor Memorial Liturgy, welcoming Canon Peter Ng and listening to Joanna Fu’s wonderful Organ Music @ St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei!

Yes, a special day at St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei yesterday ~ and in all our churches too!

For the Taiwan Episcopal Church, the Sunday before Chinese New Year’s Eve is celebrated every year with a special liturgy to honour the ancestors.  The liturgy takes place within the main Sunday service, usually at the end, with prayers and readings, and there’s a table for everyone to place lighted candles.  At the cathedral, the table is placed in the main entrance on the left side, and everyone lights their candle as they enter the church.  The red cards on the table list the names of all the people being remembered that day.  In other churches, the table is in the main part of the church, or near the front, and people light the candles on the way back to their seats after receiving communion.

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The desire for some sort of Ancestor Memorial Liturgy was really initiated by our beloved Canon Chancellor, Professor Herbert H. P. Ma many years ago, partly in response to his father, who for a long time would not commit himself to the Christian faith. Professor Ma’s father, Ma Shou-Hwa 馬壽華 (1893-1977) was one of the very first judges of the newly-formed Republic of China (1912 onwards), and was also well-known for his great talent as a calligrapher and painter, especially portraying bamboo. His work includes the set of 2 Chinese calligraphy vertical couplets and the horizontal one around the door above – all words appropriate for the Ancestor Memorial Liturgy.  An extract from an article in our diocesan Friendship Magazine in 2014 about Professor Ma, describing life after his marriage in 1957, says, as follows:

“Although Professor and Mrs. Ma and the children were active in St. John’s Cathedral, his parents were not. For his father, the major obstacle continued to be ancestor worship, and yet Professor Ma himself felt no conflict. At an ecumenical conference on this subject, he discussed with the participants how the Christian faith and Chinese tradition could be reconciled. He also published articles on this subject, and later instigated the Ancestor Memorial Liturgy for the Taiwan Episcopal Church. In the articles, he wrote that our ancestors are human beings, and when they die, they are still human beings, not gods. There is only one Almighty God, and we need to separate our ancestors from the divine. We can still pay our respects to our ancestors without regarding them as gods. After much thought, Professor Ma’s father accepted his explanation, and henceforth adopted an attitude of respect rather than worship of his ancestors. Having resolved this issue, his parents were now ready to be baptized and became Christians”.

So, yesterday was THE day, and off I went to St. John’s Cathedral, hoping to experience the Ancestor Memorial Liturgy, and also see Chancellor Herbert Ma and his lovely wife, Mrs. Aline Ma. YES!  Here they are lighting their candles…

A warm welcome is always guaranteed from everyone at the cathedral, Rev. Elizabeth Wei and her husband, Rev. Peter Chen, Rev. Michael Liou and his wife Grace, Rev. Ching-Yi Tsai, plus all the church members and many old friends, including Na Mama originally from Advent Church – all so lovely!  Bishop Lai was also at the service yesterday, as was Mrs. Lily Lai. They had just arrived back from Japan the night before, after a trip with Good Shepherd Kindergarten teachers and staff.

Also just flown in the night before was our good friend, Canon Peter Ng, Asia-Pacific Officer for the Episcopal Church, based in New York.  It was Peter who had organized for the St. John’s Cathedral’s organist, Ms. Joanna Fu 傅麗萍, to spend 3 months on a church placement in Anglican Liturgical Music at the Church of Our Saviour, San Gabriel, Los Angeles, California, under Rector Rev. Gary Bradley, and Associate Rector, Rev. Ada Wong-Nagata. Ada is a good friend of us all in Taiwan, and plays a big part in EAM, Episcopal Asiamerica Ministries.  The placement was from September 1 to November 29, 2015, and this is the first time Peter had been able to meet Joanna since then and to see the fruits of her placement.  Me too.  Her playing was fantastic!

In Taiwan there is no formal training school or college for church organists, and most professional organists in Taiwan have trained overseas. Joanna graduated in Church Music from Taiwan Theological College (run by the Presbyterian Church), and says that although she learned a lot about church music at the college, she had no opportunity to learn traditional Anglican liturgical music, and never really learned how to use a pipe organ to its fullest extent. Until a few years ago, St. John’s Cathedral had only an electronic organ for use in worship; now it has a beautiful new pipe organ. Joanna thought that her training and experience were really insufficient to make the most of the new pipe organ, so Rev. Michael Liou contacted Canon Peter Ng to see if there was an opportunity for Joanna to spend some time in the USA to develop her organ skills and learn some new ones.

And so off to LA she went!  Here’s Joanna, Rev. Michael Liou (left) and Canon Peter Ng (right) together yesterday after the service….

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The organist at the Church of Our Saviour is Canon Phil Smith, and he kindly gave Joanna twice-weekly organ lessons for all the 3 months, plus she had plenty of time to practice, take part in choir practice and services, as well as visit lots of other Episcopal Churches in the LA area to experience other kinds of worship, such as evensong and compline.  So a really successful church placement, and it was wonderful to hear such beautiful music yesterday.  In fact, Rev. Michael Liou kept giving me the thumbs up every time Joanna started playing!  Here she is in the following photos, practicing with the choir before the service, then playing throughout, and Peter bringing us warm greetings from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and friends in the Episcopal Church – and translated by Mr. Winston Yu.

Hope you notice Joanna’s very special and very gold ‘organ shoes’ in the photos above – aren’t they beautiful?!

A great morning, with lovely people ~ and a very meaningful service!

And after the service?  Well Professor Ma and his wife kindly invited me for lunch, then in the afternoon I tried to keep up with a very energetic Mrs. Ma and her daughter, Gabrielle (and what seemed like the whole of Taipei!) as we went around the Jianguo Flower Market buying flowers for Chinese New Year – wow, so very very beautiful, and so very very busy ~ but hey, that’s a whole other story, ha ha!

Chinese New Year Celebrations @ St. John’s University 聖約翰科技大學 尾牙餐會 Wei-Ya Banquet!

Chinese New Year is coming, and coming soon ~ YEAH!  Our students have all gone home, the local schools have broken up for the holidays, and everyone’s getting ready!

Last night was our university Wei-Ya 尾牙, the end-of-year banquet for all our staff and faculty, plus VIP guests.  There was food – lots of deliciousness all packed together, lion dancing, singing and dancing shows from our students, and lots of gifts for the lucky names pulled out of a box – red envelopes, an exercise bike, huge teddy bears, and the top prize of an Apple iPhone 6 Plus …

And see that big pink teddy in one of the photos?   It’s currently been given by the winner to our SJU Chaplaincy…. groan groan ha ha – but our students will just love it, they’ll be taking photos, photos and more photos galore!

A great evening ~ and a chance to forget the miserable weather outside (and the even colder and wetter weather forecast for this weekend!), and to concentrate on the happier things of life like food, friends and fun ha ha ….. and so ~

A Happy New Year to you all!

Taipei Lantern Festival

Yesterday’s Lantern Festival in Taipei was spectacular – a huge area near the Expo and Art Museum and everywhere were lanterns of all shapes and sizes, many of gods and ancient sages, myths and traditional stories, also big lantern displays from schools of all ages, fun lanterns and aboriginal indigenous ones, all with an abundance of horses of course….

Happy Year of the Horse ~ and that marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations for this year…. and a new semester starts next week here at SJU!

2014 新北市平溪天燈節 Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival ~ Truly Awesome!

Truly awe-inspiring, honest!  Definitely a sight to behold….

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Yes it was raining, the beautiful hot and sunny weather of last week having been replaced by a cold front of drizzle and cold, but nothing dampened our spirits on Saturday night at the Pingxi Junior High School as hundreds of lanterns were sent heavenwards.  Truly an awesome sight!

Pingxi is an old coal-mining town in the mountains up beyond Taipei and famous for its annual sky lantern festival, made even more famous in recent years by several international media outlets, including CNN, who have proclaimed it a must-see event….

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People can go at anytime to buy a plain lantern, write their wishes and prayers, and send them heavenwards, but even more spectacular are the 3 occasions when the New Taipei City Government organizes a mass launch, and the one on Saturday was the second of these, when 1,950 traditional lanterns were released in 10 sessions….

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People had been registering all morning to take part, everything was incredibly well-organized and worked like clockwork.  The first launch was just as it got dark….

The second was for VIP guests, including none other than Taiwan’s President Ma and lots of foreign dignitaries who had also come along to write their wishes and launch the lanterns….

When the lights went out and the 200 lanterns were launched, the sight was so amazing ~ and the collective gasp of awe from the crowd showed that everyone had the same experience, truly awesome!

May Almighty God hear our prayers, and grant us peace and love in this dark world….