Saturday, December 15, 2007

Chukou, Chiayi County

Have you ever been sure that you knew something, a place or a person maybe, only to then see it, or them from a different angle, and have all your opinions blown away? That’s exactly what happened to me recently, not once, but twice when I stumbled back across the town of Chukou in Chiayi County.

The first instance was when I quite literally saw the place from a different angle. One lazy Saturday morning when I was out for a drive, just taking any road that seemed interesting and not caring where I went, I looked down into a valley and saw what looked like an interesting little town. Strangely, the sight was at once familiar, and unrecognizable. It took me a while to realize that I was looking down on Chukou, a town I had driven past about a hundred times on the way up to Alishan, but never seen from this vantage point. Piqued with curiosity, I decided to go down and take a look around.

The town’s main attractions are a pair of suspension bridges, and a large temple. The bridges span a rather rugged looking mountain river, and are really quite picturesque. If you cross the higher of the two bridges and follow the path on a few meters you’ll come to a curious little shrine, squeezed underneath an over-hanging rock. The large temple down below is dedicated to Ji Gong, one of the more interesting gods, he is always depicted carrying a fan in one hand, and a gourd of wine in the other. People visit the temple to ask him about their future and, when he so chooses, he’ll tell them. He will also sometimes possess the bodies of certain devotees.

Looking like a cross between a turtle and a dragon, these interesting bronze statues can be seen all around the temple.

Leaving Chukou on the number 18 road, I learnt something else new about the town, that it is the home of an Ecological Park. The park is about 2 hectares in size, and was created as a place to protect, cultivate, and preserve the area’s trees. It hosts several hundred species of trees and plants, a pair of streams, and an eco pond. The whole site has been constructed using ecological engineering so as to attract local wildlife.

As the park establishes itself, and the trees grow, this will become an increasingly nice place to stop for a picnic. With the temple, the mountain views, and the suspension bridges, the Eco-Park makes up a set of pleasant reasons why you should stop and take a look around Chukou.


Andy said...

Why has the turtle-dragon combo creature got a ball in its mouth?

Andrew Crosthwaite said...

Hey Andy

Great question. The ball, or pearl is supposed to represent the world. It's position in the dragon's mouth symbolises the fact that the dragon is protecting the whole world.

Andy said...

That is fascinating. That's a stark contrast with the infamous "Tiamat" who plagued both Venger and the children in Dungeons and Dragons.

Andrew Crosthwaite said...

Precisely, I couldn't have put it better myself.
Actually, while your comment may have been in jest, you do highlight an important point, namely the huge difference between the way the Western and Eastern worlds perceive dragons.

Andy said...

I'd like to learn more about this. Do you think you could post some more pictures of dragons with accompanying information. If you could find a picture of a Chinese combat dragon that would be super as they were considered to be the size of thimbles!