Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Visit to Kuan Yin Mountain (高雄縣 觀音山)

View of the pagoda. There were many smaller statues which I did not photograph. This one being a lot bigger was a little difficult not to photograph.

Over the years, we have occasionally visited Kuan Yin Mountain in Kaohsiung County. My first visit was a little over ten years ago after the passing of my mother-in-law. The Chinese New Year break is a time for family members to be together and, in the case of our extended family, it includes a trip to Kuan Yin Mountain, which is about a 20-minute-plus drive from our house.

Jocelyn (left), brother-in-law, brother and elder sister deal with the offerings and the paper money.

This year's trip included Jocelyn's older sister and only (older) brother, and a few others, several being the next generation of children who have all grown up. Morrison, our second son, is the youngest of eleven grandchildren of the grandparents whose remains are both located here.

James, Morrison and one of their first cousins, who is about six feet tall. They are now all grown up.

While Jocelyn and I did not spend a lot of time with our Taiwanese relatives since we lived far away from them until the move down south last year, the saying that you marry not just a person, but into a family, is very true for the Chinese. When Jocelyn and I got engaged and subsequently married many years ago, I met quite of lot of relatives who mostly lived around Kaohsiung, and we would briefly see them on our mostly annual trips down south. Most of our boys' cousins at that time were in elementary school and I tended to just know them as lively kids who liked playing games all the time.

View from the 7th floor of the pagoda. Since it is the Chinese New Year holidays, the place was packed.

The marble ball was constantly turning due to the force of the water. The goldfish were on average about 6 inches long.

Then about a couple of years before we went to Hawaii, Jocelyn's parents unfortunately one by one passed away as a result of illness and as a spouse I accompanied Jocelyn to the family gatherings and the various ceremonies that took place. In Buddhism, at least here, many people are cremated and their ashes are placed in urns that are kept in pagodas in what look a little like safety deposit boxes that you would find in banks. Often a passport-sized photo of the deceased will be placed in front of the urn, probably to aid recognition as the boxes, apart from an elaborate numbering system, all look the same.

In the middle of the picture is a huge bonfire where the paper money is collectively burned. This is why Jocelyn covered her mouth when walking outside. In the foreground are various graves for those buried in that way.
Peace and tranquility in the distance greet us

The photos taken here were not taken openly, as this is not the kind of place where people take pictures. However, these are the sobering realities of life that we all face, and increasingly as we get older. The pictures I took were mainly to serve as a reminder of today's visit and previous trips, and also so that I can reflect on my gratefulness for being part of a great family.

When we returned to Kaohsiung, we all stopped to eat lunch within walking distance of our home. Afterwards, Jocelyn's elder sister, her husband and two of their children (pictured) came over to our house for a visit.

1 comment:

ShirleyPerly said...

How nice that you are located so close to others in your family. Mine are spread out all over the country, from Florida to Alaska, and we don't see each other very often. But there is a family reunion planned later this year on my in-law's side. My side of the family only gets together for funerals, it seems.

Thanks for sharing the wonderful photos!