November 17 and October 12 Two Hikes With Harmony

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Harmony is sitting on a rock near the top of Elephant Mountain in Taipei

I am combining two different day hikes in this blog entry. We took both of them with Harmony when she was visiting us in Taipei. The first one was a half day hike up Elephant Mountain on October 12, when we were apartment hunting in Taipei. I did not get a chance to write about it then (too busy!), so I am writing about it here.

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Harmony and Ann are standing next to a rock in the park at the entrance to one of the main trails up Elephant Mountain

Elephant Mountain is the most famous of the “Four Beast Mountains” of Taipei. The Four Beast Mountains are four mountains that are said to resemble an Elephant, a Tiger, a Leopard and a Lion. .

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Ann and Harmony walking up the trail up Elephant Mountain

Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan) is the most popular of the mountains for a good reason.  Being the closest to the city not only means it is easily accessible, but it also has great views of Taipei, especially Taipei 101.It gets its name from its shape, as“xiang” means elephant in Chinese.

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Harmony pauses on the trail up Elephant Mountain

There are actually two more mountains on the trail system called Nangang Shan and Jiuwu Peak that rise behind the four smaller mountains. Someday we will likely hike up them also

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Jeff is standing next to a boulder with a view of Taipei 101 behind him

.Being so close to the city, the mountains afford hikers superb views of Taipei.

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Harmony is sitting on top of a boulder that has a great view of Taipei. It is located on the Elephant Mountain trail.

I just stand next to boulders, instead of climbing them! But this photo can give you a good perspective on the size of the boulder next to me!

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Ann is standing next to boulder on the trail

Here is another photo of Jeff at the top of Elephant Mountain.

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Jeff is standing at the view point near the top of Elephant Mountain. You can see Taipei in the back ground behind him

Many trails and parks in Taiwan have pull up bars and exercise equipment so that you can get a total body workout while you are walking or climbing.  Harmony is the one person that I go hiking with who actually uses them!

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Harmony does pull ups on bars alongside the trail

The other hike we took on November 17, up the small mountain behind our apartment in Neihu. I wrote a bit about this mountain hike and temple in my November 5 blog entry. I am going to provide a lot more details in this entry, instead of editing my earlier post.

The first time that we went up this mountain to the Bishan Temple, we walked up a road to get to where we found the path up the mountain. The road had a lot of traffic, so this was not the best way to go. On the way down, we discovered a better path, that ended in a park. So we took this better path with Harmony when we went to hike up the mountain for the second time.

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Harmony and Jeff look at a map of the park and hiking trails.

The rocks on the posts in front of Jeff and Harmony are carved into owls. They were all slightly different, and very cute!

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River stone owl statue

This park has a name, but I forgot to take a close-up photo so I cannot put it in the blog. But I can tell you that it is a recently created park, done by the city as a flood control project in 2005. This area of Neihu experienced a very bad flood that year, and to try to prevent that from happening again, they put in flood control measures along this river. Then, they developed it into a park. I wish the USA would do more projects like this one

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Harmony is standing on a path in the flood control river park in Neihu

This park is not very crowded, even on weekends. I think that is maybe because everyone goes to nearby Dahu Park, which is more well known.

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Harmony is walking along the river in the park

The photo below shows a typical scene along this river. It appears to be just another pretty river scene, but look closely.

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A view of the river in the park

Did you notice the camera with the solar panel pointed towards the river? These cameras were discreetly located throughout the park, along with some other equipment that I assume is used to monitor the river.

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A close up view of the camera and solar panel pointed towards the river

In my November 5 blog entry, I wrote about the path with the large shoe statues and miniature scenes of Taiwan that we took down the mountain. Well, we could not take that path again this time because it was under repair. We were told that it would be closed until it was fixed. So I took a photo of some of the trail repair equipment that was sitting near where the other trail branched off.

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Trail repair equipment alongside the path

The mountain with the temple near our apartment in Neihu is called Bishan Mountain. There is another Buddhist temple on the mountain, not far from the Bishan Temple. It was smaller and much less impressive. To perhaps compensate for its less impressive size and facade, the Buddhist temple was broadcasting chants over a loud speaker system. These chants were quite loud, and you could hear them from a distance. It sounded like a big group of people were chanting. But when we arrived at the temple, we realized that it was just a loud speaker system, and almost no one was inside.

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Jeff and harmony are standing outside the gate to the Buddhist Temple on Bishan Mountain

BiShan Temple is the largest Taoist temple in Neihu. It is located on Bishan mountainside to the north of downtown Neihu. It offers spectacular views of Taipei on a clear day. The photo below shows the interior of the temple much better than the one that I posted in my earlier blog. Bishan Temple is dedicated to the hero Chen Yuan-kuang and his generals Li Po-yao and Ma Ren. It turns out that we were there on a special day. November 5 is the celebration of Chen Yuan-kuang’s ascent up to heaven to join the gods. So it was similar to showing up at a Christian church celebrating Easter. No wonder it was so crowded!

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A view of the interior of Bishan Temple

Chen Yuan-kuang developed the Quanzhou area of Fujian Province. Among the people of Quanzhou, he is worshiped as the patron saint “Kaizhang Sheng Wang.” Chen Yuan-kuang’s efforts at developing the regions near Zhangzhou and Chaozhou won him praise and respect from many emperors. In the first year of the Emperor Xuanzong of theTang dynasty (712), the emperor granted Chen Yuan-kuang the title of “the great general, and defender of the leopard scabbard”. He also gave him the title of “Marquis of Zhangzhou, the serene, loyal, resolute, and beneficent”.

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These statues on the Bishan Temple roof are of hero Chen Yuan-kuang and his generals Li Po-yao and Ma Ren.

Later the Emperor also gave him the title “Marquis of the Ying River”, and ordered a great shrine built in his honor. The Emperor Huizong of the Song dynasty donated a horizontal inscription which read, “Temple of Awesome Kindness” The Emperor Xiaozong of the Song dynasty granted Chen Yuan-kuang the title “Defender Prince of Guangdong and brilliant spirit who accommodates brightness and ferocity”. In the Ming dynasty, his title was again changed, this time to “Marquis of brightness and ferocity”.The people of the Zhangzhou region call him the “Sacred Prince, Developer of Zhangzhou.” Temples dedicated to him have proliferated in the Fujian area of China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. Bishan Temple is one of his temples.

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Ann, Jeff, and Harmony are standing in front of a statue of Chen Yuan-kuang that is outside of Bishan temple

Here is the reason this temple to honor Chen Yuan-kuang was built into the mountain side here in Bishan mountain in Neihu. The story is that the Neihu area was bothered by bandits many years ago. A rock up on the mountain split into three pieces. These pieces turned into Chen yuan-kuang and his two generals, and they chased the bandits away and brought peace and prosperity to the area. So the local people built a temple where the rock had split open. And if anyone reading this thinks the Taiwanese are silly for building a temple around a legendary rock, let me remind you of Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts, where we have done something very similar!

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The altar in front of the rock that split open and became Chen Yuan-kuang and his two generals

All Taoist temples in Taiwan seem to have vendors outside of them, selling all sorts of good things to eat. Bishan Temple  also had vendors doing this in its parking lot.

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Vendors selling food, souvenirs, and incense in the Bishan temple parking lot

After we left the temple, we walked around the mountainside. Below is a photo of a heart-shaped pond pond near a village in this mountain area. There are also many farms, where people can come to enjoy the countryside, and pick fruit, such as strawberries, when they are in season. As you might remember from my earlier blog entry, passion fruit is now in season up here in the country farms.

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Heart-shaped pond in the mountain countryside near Neihu

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River with a small waterfall along one of the trails

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Another scene from the hike in the mountains

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A butterfly on a flower along the trail

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Another butterfly on a leaf along the trail

It was a great hike up in the mountains!

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