Photographs and Information about Taiwan's Culture, Nature and People by Rich Matheson

Song Jiang Zhen Photos in an Ebook, ‘T’ai Chi Ch’uan: ‘Wisdom In Action In A Chinese Martial Art’

I went to Jinluan Temple’s 金鑾宮 festival on Saturday.It was a Qing Wang ( 請王) rite where the god (Mazu, I think… although maybe it was a plague god?) was invited to oversee the proceedings leading up to the burning of the boat next year. It was successful as, at about 11:00am, the palanquin bearing Mazu rushed into the sea indicating the god had arrived.

This four person palanquin (四輪轎) carrying Lord Tiger (虎爺聖-a lesser god) didn't wait for Mazu before racing deep into the sea.

Interestingly the zhentou were predominantly Song Jiang Zhen ( 宋江陣) troupes — about ten of them. Generally in proceedings of this sort there would be many other zhentou, like Great God Generals, Bajiajiang and Guanjiang Shou to lead the palanquins. I never did find out why because I was too busy taking pictures (I’d never seen palanquins in the sea and I was quite excited to be witnessing something new). Anyway, I intend to find out why there were so many, but the Song Jiang Zhen provide a nice segue into a topic I’ve been wanting to write for some time now. I had some Song Jiang Zhen photos published in a Tai Chi e-book written by Dr. Stewart McFarlane, a scholar of Chinese Religions and Martial arts teacher, so I got a copy. I don’t do Tai Chi and was expecting to give the book a quick look, just to see what it was all about, which I did.

A Song Jiang Zhen troupe on the beach in Lower Qieding (下茄萣)

The main book is 287 pages of Tai Chi how to. It seems quite nice; simple diagrams that actually move as you flip the pages like on the edges of Mad magazine. You can see for yourself here: also comes with a companion book,  T’ai Chi Ch’uan: ‘Wisdom In Action In A Chinese Martial Art’ This is a fantastic book describing China’s martial history. The web page explains: “Inside this special 72-page report, you’ll discover the rich, turbulent history of T’ai Chi Ch’uan and how it came to be the physical and spiritual foundation of Chinese culture over thousands of years.”It is densely packed with fascinating information and I would buy the Tai Chi book for this companion book alone. Being so information rich, it is a great book for dipping and savoring. Nowadays I rarely read English language books on Chinese culture as there is so much more (and generally better) information to be had from those who write about their own culture. Not so with Dr. McFarlane’s book — it is the personal experience (like insights had during drinking sessions after practicing martial arts with Taiwanese Song Jiang Zhen troupes) gained from years of living in the East that sets this book apart from many others like it.

The Taiwanese Song Jiang Zhen lion dance troupe (宋江獅陣 -- a Taiwanese fusion of Song Jiang Zhen and lion dance), Red Head Lion (紅頭獅), pay their respects to their god in the early morning.


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