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Friday, May 10, 2013

Perspectives: Dragon Mountain Temple

On a pillar outside Dragon Mountain Temple.  The words in red read, "Stability to the nation and peace
to the people."  Since at least the Tang Dynasty, all new faiths that come to China, from Buddhism
to Nestorian Christianity to Marxism, have appealed to these sentiments, justifiably or not.
One of the dragons at Dragon Mountain Temple, in the Wan Hua district of Taipei, Taiwan.  This is the heart of the district, with a subway stop across the road, now.  The temple, in which the chief deity is as a recall the bodhisattva Guan Yin, is older than the United States.  You smell loftus flowers and incense, hear chanting and epic dramas played live, and watch the crowds come to sacrifice to the chief deities -- it's a strange combination of noise and peace.  The neighborhood is also called "Snake Alley," for another kind of serpent one can find a block over.  Snake blood was considered an aphrodesiac, mixed with alcohol, and drunk before visiting the many prostitutes that used to work in the neighborhood -- and still do, though they look older than they used to.  Here's a scene I described in True Son of Heaven, many years ago -- some things have changed.

"It was a raid.  The police swooped down with lightening speed on Taipei's most infamous criminal district, Snake Alley.

The police came on a mission of mercy.  They came to free young victims of a vicious trade in flesh, who had been treated without a trace of human decency. 

The snakes, that is.  Some were endangered species. 

Brothel owners had little to worry about, even with a police station just a block away.  For one thing, many of them were retired police.  The rest, as one later told me, sent little red envelopes each month to friends in the station.

Nor did fear of the gods restrain them.  The gods, too seemed on the side of the oppressing classes.  Mafia gangs in Taiwan form around Taoist temples.

Dragon Mountain temple, the Buddhist place of worship on the same block as the police station, also got a cut.  Guan Yin (the goddess of mercy) has been worshipped there for a hundred years without disturbing business. She reached a thousand arms out to the brothels, one for each girl in that district, and drew back . . . cash."

3 comments:

rvntyo said...

"You smell loftus flowers and incense"

Loftus flowers? Freudian slip?

rvntyo said...

If I had more time I'd do a funny photoshop of that. Maybe replace his cowboy hat with a lotus blossom.

David B Marshall said...

ROFL! "The fingers have reason, that reason cannot know."