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Taiwan: Alishan National Park, Kaohsiung, Sun Moon Lake, Tainan, Taipei, Taitung, Taroko National Park, Yehliu Geo Park
Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan: A well-deserved break
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Sun Moon Lake is the largest body of water in Taiwan. The area around the lake is home to the Thao tribe, one of aboriginal tribes of Taiwan. The Lake surrounds a tiny island called Lalu. The east side of the lake resembles a sun while the west side resembles a moon, hence the name.
Sun Moon Lake is located 748 metres above sea level and is 27 metres deep with a surface area of approximately 7.93 km2. The area surrounding the lake has many trails for hiking. The lake and its surrounding countryside have been designated one of thirteen national scenic areas in Taiwan.
My wife Vrunda and I were touring Taiwan and had 8 days on hand to explore this tiny and beautiful island nation. We landed at Taipei international airport at about 2 PM; flying in from Mumbai with a wait at Bangkok airport for a few hours. For our tour we availed the services of Ta Chi Travel Company aka Life of Taiwan. One of their representatives, Gloria, was exceptional with her help for our booking.
At our disposal was a car with a driver-cum-guide Steven Liu - a fantastic person to have along. All of 63 years, Steven's energy, his knowledge of the region and good command over the English language is all what tourists would desire. I certainly would recommend his services to travelers to Taiwan. Steven would be with us for the entire trip. He came in as a guide and left as a friend.
Steven met us at the airport. The plan was to drive directly to Sun Moon Lake rather than doing Taipei which was to be our last destination. The drive was for about 3 hours.
Our month of travel was July. This is summer time but also the time when typhoons (hurricanes) are expected to hit the shores. Though we were saved a direct hit, a typhoon was brewing on the coast of Japan which was having an impact on our island. We had overhead clouds and bouts of heavy showers during our drive. We were told the weather was not to be very kind for the next few days!
About mid-way we made a brief stop in the town of Sanyi – a small township famous for its wood carving industry. The mountains surrounding Sanyi, as also most part of Taiwan, have dense forests of Cypress, Cedar and Camphor trees. These are used to make sculptures, artefacts, furniture and some medicines. The main street of Sanyi has showrooms of works of art carved from wood. A good stop, I would say.
A further 90-minute drive got us to Wenwu temple overlooking the Sun Moon Lake below.
During the Japanese occupation period there were two temples on the banks of the lake: Longfeng Temple in Shueishe Village and Yihua Hall in what is now Yitashao. But when the Japanese built their hydroelectric power plants, the water levels rose, and the temples had to be removed. The Japanese electric company paid compensation, and the temple managers decided to combine their resources and build a single new temple at Songboling on the northern shore of the lake. The result was today's Wenwu Temple.
The architecture of the temple has the palace style of northern China. It is a large and imposing structure, with three separate halls. On the second floor of the front hall is a shrine devoted to the First Ancestor Kaiji and the God of Literature; the central hall is devoted to Guan Gong, the God of War, and the warrior-god Yue Fei; the rear hall is dedicated to Confucius. This is the only Confucius Temple in Taiwan that keeps its central door open. Temple officials say that they do this because the temple is on the bank of Sun Moon Lake and has many tourists, so they keep the door open for the convenience of the visitors. The bronze statue of a seated Confucius makes this also the only Confucius temple in Taiwan that contains an image of the sage. In addition to Confucius, there are also statues of his disciples, Mencius and Zihsih. These three images originally came from Mainland China. They were taken to Japan to escape the Boxer Rebellion near the end of the Qing Dynasty; later on, they were reproduced and brought to Wunwu Temple.
The plan was also to take a private cruise on the lake. But since it was drizzling, we thought it prudent to give that a miss. We enjoyed the lake from the view point above.
For the night we were booked at Einhan Resort. Our room on the 5th floor gave us a view of the lake. That evening we walked the streets but returned early for a well-deserved sleep… we had been travelling for almost 24 hours since leaving home.
After breakfast the next morning, we departed for Alishan. Enroute, we made a brief stop at Xuanzang Temple.
Born in 600, Xuanzang was a prestigious monk who devoted his whole life to promoting Buddhist teachings. However, many different interpretations provided by various schools confused him, so he decided to travel to the Western Regions, bring back the original sacred texts and translate them himself. He spent twenty years to complete this journey and his contributions to the Buddhist community were innumerable.
During the World War II, the Japanese army brought the relics of Xuanzang from Nanjing to Japan. In 1955, the fourth abbot of Paochueh Temple Master Zongxin managed to bring his relics back to Taiwan and to keep them in Xuanguang Temple in Sun Moon Lake. The relics were later relocated to Xuanzang Temple upon its completion in 1965. Xuanzang Temple will impress visitors with its solemn beauty and serene healing power.
Sun Moon Lake Image Gallery Photo viewer
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