Categories
china

Tulou 土樓, the Earthen Building in China

Hukeng in Yongding County, southwest of Fujian (China), is almost on the border with Guangdong Province. The region is famous for its old buildings, still habitable, called “Tu Lou” or clay buildings. They are sets of “apartments”, made of clay, stone and wood, with a perimeter in the circular shape, some squares, built on the edge of streams and rivers. Dated between 100 and 700 years ago, in the region there are some twenty thousand of these houses, the largest fit a thousand people with six hundred rooms, from three to four floors. In the past they were built with the defensive function. Some shapes have half-moon, half-square, oval and pentagonal perimeters.

“Tu Lou” are built by the Han subgroup known as Hakka, which means “guest”. The culture here is basically subsistence, here they live as if they were stuck in time, they have their own customs and language. I don’t understand Hakka at all. In the center of the condominium, animals such as chickens, ducks and pigs are raised, and the plantations are outside, as are the bathrooms. Depending on the construction, in the center there is a temple where ceremonies and weddings are held. The largest group even had a school. The kitchens are typically located on the first floor, the bedrooms are located on the other floors and there are windows to the outside. There is only a single entrance and exit door or main gate, which at night was always closed.

The region began to be explored for tourism after American satellites discovered the buildings and thought they were missile silos. Progress has progressed fast here, talking to locals in their 30s and 40s, they say the region was totally isolated, with no car, horse, electricity, telephone, running water and rare bicycles. The roads are recent with less than five years old, the reservoir was only two years old. Telephone and electricity are a little older, between five and ten years. It was a very poor region, but with the arrival of tourism – an important factor – life has improved a lot for the locals.

Some Hakkas keep their faces turned against tourists, after all, nobody likes to have their houses invaded all the time to take pictures. But there are many who are very hospitable, unlike most Chinese, who are rude and just want to make money from tourists. Hakkas are kind – but children don’t like taking pictures very much.

From the balcony of my room I had the view of a “Tu Lou”, right in front, which was also an option to stay, but without a shower and a very rustic room. I have decided to stay another night here. As far as I know, I was the first Brazilian to appear here. My friend and I took a motorcycle-taxi ride to see more houses in this interior. We have passed by bucolic landscapes and have seen peasants and farmers working. We also have seen many houses today and have entered some, although similar, each one has its own peculiarity.

I have seen how they made dry persimmon, first peel them one by one manually, then let them dry for a long time, knead them to stay flat and let them dry a little longer, all very artisan and slow. Women peeled hundreds a day. The region smelled of rotting bark in the bush. A sachet that should be about twenty units cost only RMB 4 or USD 0.50 – in Beijing it cost five times more.

This region exceeded my expectations! In fact, I didn’t even plan to come here, because I had never heard of these buildings. Fujian is a province full of contrasts. China’s coastal cities are well developed while those in the countryside live isolated from civilization.

See more details and enjoy the video below:

Categories
Mexico

El Grito – The Mexican Independence Day

Mexican Independence Day – after the speech of the authority (known as El Grito) at the main square, the Mexicans celebrate during the whole month with parade, songs, dance and fireworks. On September 16th 1810, a Roman Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the bell of his church and gave the call to arms that triggered the Mexican War of Independence against Spain.

I was in a small town of Palenque in Mexico. It was fun, the guy wear a metal structure with a bull and walk around after turning o the firecrackers.

Categories
Taiwan

The Holy Pig Festival in Sanxia, Taiwan

On January, 30th. 2020, I went to a a very curious tradition in Taiwan.

The Holy Pig (Shen Zu – 神豬) Festival in Sanxia (a traditional district in New Taipei City in northern Taiwan) according to its annual Lunar New Year. Local pig farmers compete to display the largest pig, the winner takes home a trophy every year and they are sacrificed to the local god. The annual festival marks the birthday of the Chinese deity Zushi and was held in a square outside the Zushi Temple. Each year one Clan Family is responsible to host the ceremony, this year (2020) was the Lin. There are a total of 7 clans that host this ceremony, so after 6 years the Lin Clan will host again, after Huang, Chen, Liu and other threes.

Many Holy Pigs up weights near 900 kg whereas a normal pig would weigh only 120 kg. After the sacrifice in the night before their skin is stretched to a metal frame, looking even bigger than the abnormal big animal. A whole pineapple is not forgotten to put into their mouths and a parade starts the next early morning. Some food like a whole chicken and a still alive fish is also part of the feast.

There is a displayed list of each Lin family’s clan with their respective donation made to the temple each year. In the past the feast was for free for all the invitees and the public, but now the pork is sold for more than USD 55/kg.

More infos::

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shen_Dzu https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3087182

Categories
Taiwan

Beehive Fireworks Festival in Yanshui, Tainan, Taiwan

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival 2020 – Feb. 7th and 8th

See the site below for more detailed information, what to wear, transportation, time of event.

https://www.twtainan.net/yanshuifireworks/en

Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival is listed as one of the world’s three major folk festivals, and is also one of the most significant religious activities in Taiwan. The fireworks originated near the end of the 19th century during the Qing Dynasty. Back then there was a plague, and due to the lack of knowledge concerning medicine and treatment, the death toll increased every day. The terrified locals prayed to Guan Yu, or the Holy Ruler Deity Guan, and asked him for help. The deity replied that on the night of Lantern Festival Day, the deity will parade through the streets of Yanshui, and followers must set off firecrackers/fireworks as they trailed behind the deity’s holy sedan chair. The procession lasted until dawn, and the plague was no more. So the later generations carried on this custom and would welcome the Holy Ruler Deity Guan to make his rounds every year on the night of Lantern Festival Day.

Every Lantern Festival night, the holy sedan chair slowly parades through the streets of Yanshui (Tainan Province), surrounded by followers and visitors. When the sedan chair passes the doorways of stores and residences, racks of fireworks will be lit, sending firecrackers flying everywhere! People believe that after running through the flying fireworks, you can get rid of bad luck and have a prosperous and wonderful new year.

I didn’t wear special clothes or helmet, I did follow the parade in 2018 and hide behind a pole to see and make videos and photos. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to go, I took one or two bus from Tainan City to go to the local of the event. But it really worth it.

Categories
Taiwan Travel

Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi (Taiwan)

February 1st and 8th, 2020.

https://www.google.com/maps/@25.0393393,121.7612448,11.33z

The Taiwan Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi district (平溪) is listed as a top 20 world festival. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Taiwan. Releasing lanterns in Taiwan during the world-famous Taiwan Sky Lantern Festival in (Shifen Village) Pingxi DIstrict is magical to watch. The paper lanterns float to the sky in the mountains of Taiwan during the Lantern Festival and Moon Festival in the fall. Last year a giant pig lantern was release, it was the year of the pig (see the video bellow). You can release the sky lanterns (some countries called it balloon) at any time and any date OR during the mass ascensions of the lanterns event at the evening that make this festival unique. I heard there are similar events in China and also in Thailand.

I have been twice in the past 3 years living in Taiwan. It was packed of people from everywhere! The first time I went by train and regretted and the second time I knew about a easier way to go and that is by bus!

This year there will be 2 mass events on Feb. 1st and 8th. starting at 6 p.m. To attend the mass event you need to book in advance, I think you can do it at the site.

How to go from Taipei? The easier way to go is taking the bus from Taipei to Shifen (don’t drop off in Pingxi Village). The road to Shifen is closed to traffic for the Lantern Festival to make getting to and from Pingxi more efficient. Tour operators offer options for a shuttle bus from Taipei, Keelung or Jiufen. Take the subway (MRT) to Taipei Zoo MRT station. A shuttle bus service typically starts at 9 a.m. from the Taipei Zoo MRT station for $50 NT or $15 NT from Ruifang train station to Shifen. The return trip is free. It takes around 1 hour or less and you can go and back seated, there are many buses specially for this event.