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Taiwan’s Temple Parades

Taiwan’s Temple Parades

It was the early afternoon on a bright sunny day. It must have been on the 21st of May 2016, it was a Sunday.  Taiwan celebrates this as a National Holiday, called ‘Labour Day’. It is associated the start of spring as well as the celebration of workers.

A few friends and I were shopping around as we made our way out of a shopping mall in Taipei to get drinks from the bubble tea shop next door. As we were all waiting for our order, the sound gongs, pipes and the beating of huge drums, the parade music got ever louder as everyone around us overcome by the commotion.

With what then become loud detonations of fire crackers which left huge burnt black marks on the road, was very quickly covering everything in deep grey smoke. Our bubble teas were ready, so we collected them and went off to join the spectating crowds to see what was stopping all the traffic to a complete halt.

The parade, now appearing from out of the smoke, were men and women carrying banners, musicians and performers, all in cultural attire marched in formations while some carried an effigy in a palanquin, it was a photographer’s dream. We witnessed several ornate wheeled buggies and wooden sedan chairs pass by, all equipped with flashing LEDs and loudspeakers.

They made frequent stops to give godly blessings to individual businesses and households. At each halt, strings of firecrackers are donated, joss paper is burned and fireworks are launched into the sky, even though the beauty of the pyrotechnics is lost because of the bright daylight sunshine. After the rites have been concluded, the parade moves on, and so did we.

Taiwanese temple parades in Taipei


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When can I expect another Temple Parade?

These religious practices are a common occurrence all over Taiwan, they typically take place at any time (day or night) on weekends but more so on national holidays and events. You can find all of Taiwan’s national holiday 2016 dates by clicking here.

It’s one of the many beautiful cultural perks of living in Taiwan, as even if you’ve never set foot in a Taiwanese temple, you’re bound to come across folk-religion parades. These traffic stopping events are a product of modern Taiwanese culture which blends Chinese, Austronesian, Japanese and western influences, upon which a typical temple parade begins and ends at a temple.

As Taiwan never experienced Communist oppression, visitors have the opportunity to witness their traditional religious practices and ancient customs that have disappeared from the Chinese mainland. As a result, Taiwan can be said to be ‘more traditionally Chinese than China’, but at the same time, being ‘much more than Chinese’. They still hold the strong ancient belief that the explosive sound of the firecracker can scare away evil spirits and demons, who might otherwise bring bad luck.

Offerings are seen outside many shops & businesses

Temple offerings to the parade

Temple offerings to the parades

Symbolicofferings are made to the Triple Gem, giving rise to contemplative gratitude and inspiration.

Typical material offerings involve simple objects such as a lit candle or oil lamp, burning incense, flowers, food, fruit, water or drinks.

The passing performers and assisting parade members would commonly stop at each main traffic light. These are good opportunities for the parade members to let off their firecrackers to ward off the evil spirits and to be gratefully offered drinks from those making the said symbolic offerings.


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The eight members (almost always men), represent four ‘infernal’ generals plus four seasonal gods (of spring, summer, fall and winter). They’re known to have a vaguely menacing attitude as they swagger along the street whilst carrying their ritual weapons.

The most important thing is to keep a respectful distance from them and don’t cross their protective line.

(First image) The Bajiajaing and (last image) The Zhentous.

The Bajiajaing, Temple ParadesThe Zhentou, Temple Parades.The Bajiajaing   

If you’re in the right place at the right time, you might witness the ‘Bajiajaing’, roughly translated as the ‘Eight Generals performance parade’.

The Eight Generals are known to be the spiritual guardians that ward off, nab and punish evil spirits.

They are portrayed by troupes of young people with colourful costumes and makeup to depict specific generals.

The Zhentou

One of the most eye-catching participants are known as ‘zhentou’. These performance troupes (some professional, many amateur) wear fabulous attire, walk on stilts and perform acrobatics.

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The Mitsui Outlet Park

The Mitsui Outlet Park

No more than a few days ago, I had learned about a completely brand new and huge outlet park with a lot of good publicity in the media. The Mitsui Outlet Park, which had recently opened up in the west of Taipei City, is operated by the Japanese Mitsui Group (三井グループ). The outlet is located in the Taipei Metro area, in the Linkou District, a distance of around 40 – 50 minute drive from setting off with a group of friends nearby Taipei 101.

Feeling generally interested to see what such an outlet store would offer, as I had previously visited similar sized outlets in Kyoto, New York and in London. Typically, outlets house many retailers of top brand names with an across-the-board range of products, such items as clothing, sports gear to popular household items. The unique qualities of an outlet, (which puts itself above malls and shopping centers), is that outlets are typically much bigger with many of their top branded retailers offering various discounts from anywhere up to 90% off their products.

We arrived at the Mitsui Outlet Park

It looked magnificent, with many big entrances to the complex, the outlet can be roughly divided into two sections, inside and outside section shopping sections. The inside section is all indoors, which contains a wide array of shops and a large food court area as well as supermarket. The outside section is all outdoors and extends outward from the Center Plaza. Both sections are 2 stories high and converge in a loop nearby the plaza area.

Ummm, not really what I had expected

The Mitsui Outlet Park has fantastic and impressive first impressions. For those that had ever visited the Taipei 101 mall in the Xinyi District, can at least agree on the modernized high-class standards that they both closely share. It had a comfortable and luxurious feel towards the environment and facilities. Throughout the building, it wasn’t as crowded as I had initially anticipated for a new shopping center, despite visiting the outlet within the 2016 Dragon Boat holiday period, too!

West Gate to Outside Shopping Area

West Gate to Outside Shopping Area

Center Plaza from South Gate

Center Plaza from South Gate

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As.far.as.any.decent outlet goes, we were met with many top branded retailers from every direction, along with all their high quality products that were subjected to their advertised fantastic outlet-discounts.
Then, we were all hit with much disappointment. We noticed most, if not all, prices weren’t what they seem. It’s an old retail marketing black-hat trick. Jack your prices up to then put them down to whatever discount percentage off the price to give that outlet feel. We noticed that most of the top branded retailers within The Mitsui Outlet Park were doing this, which left their prices to be what you’d expect in any of their high stores in Taipei. As a British man, I know this trick to be an illegal act in the UK. The Sales of goods act state that the prices MUST BE sold at the ‘pre-discounted’ price for at least 6 months before advising customers that it has been reduced to the stated promotional price. This is a law on all goods and services traded in Britain to protect their customers from being tricked into getting a seemly good bargain. However, this is Taiwan.

You can say that our experiences only got worse…

After spending a few hours in the so called outlet, we decided enough was enough of looking around, and get something to eat. Most of my group of friends fancied a burger based meal, so we didn’t eat at the food court. Instead we found a really nice looking restaurant near the entrance, called ‘Kua’aina’, a Hawaiian themed burger & sandwich restaurant.

Outside Kua’aina

Outside Kua’aina

Inside Kua’aina

Inside Kua’aina


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The waiting outside before going inside and being asked for your order is about 30 minutes. This is nothing out the ordinary when waiting for a table at a restaurant in Taipei. When we finally got in and was given a table, we sat down, ordered and waited with our soft drinks for about a good 15 minutes until the waiter had came to apologies with some bad news. They had run out of burger buns and politely asked us if we’re okay with toasted bread instead.

No, we weren’t happy. I just couldn’t see myself enjoying a meaty burger as I crunch through the toast. It was just an uncomfortable feeling. What made things worse, was the people behind us had buns! Confused and upset about this, they had advised us it was yet another mistake of theirs to make and serve the group behind us before us. It was the insult after injury. We got a full refund (even our half-finished drinks). It was only too late that I had checked the reviews for the burger restaurant, to which most were horrendous. It highlights how important reviews are these days when trying to avoid disappointment from so many seemingly great products and services. Proof truly does come from the pudding. *See their Facebook reviews for yourselves.

Food Court

Food Court

After.that.ordeal, we ended up eating at the food court. The food court was actually a rather pleasant experience with many delicious food choices, and was a lot more spacious and less crowded than many of my previous experiences in the Taipei 101 mall and living mall.

 

On a last but positive observation…

Before we retreated home, the outlet proved to offer one more modern and beneficial feature with the use of their increasingly smart technology. Every car owner, who parks in the outlet car park of The Mitsui Outlet Park, is provide with a small plastic token. Yes, it’s yet another gimmick to encourage you to spend more. This does, however, prove its usefulness and above the norm of unique services to save you money on your overall car park fees. You earn points from any transactions at any retailer or restaurant within the outlet, which get added to your token. You just hand it over to the servicing staff at the checkout to have the earned points added.

So, what are my final thoughts of the Mitsui Outlet Park?

Other than the convenience of having all the branded retailers in one place, there wasn’t much more of a unique value of going to this outlet, which therefore, was more like an unusually large mall than an outlet in my opinion. Would I go again? No, I’d just take the even more convenient option of shopping on the internet to get, more likely, a ‘real’ discounted price from what typical online prices get you these days.

For more information on The Mitsui Outlet Park:

 Official Website (English): Mitsui Outlet Park Linkou

 Phone Number: +886 2 2606 8666

  • Opening hours:

Monday – Thursday: 11:00 am-9:30 pm
Friday Saturday: 11:00 am-10:00 pm
Sunday: 
11:00 am-9:30 pm

  • How to get there:

 From Taipei Main Station (台北車站), take bus route 1209 or 1210 to Lilin Elementary School (麗林國小). After alighting, walk two blocks west to the intersection of Wenhua 2nd Road and Zhongxiao 2nd Road.

 The Mitsui Group operates a free shuttle bus at 20-30 minute intervals between the outlet and the following locations: MRT Yuanshan, MRT Taipei Bridge, MRT Xinzhuang, MRT Nanshijiao, MRT Xinpu, HSR Taoyuan. The shuttle bus schedule can be found here, (only in Chinese).

 Take the Airport MRT to station A9 – Linkou. MRT not yet in operation.

Location Map:

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Written by Andy Howel

Hey there everyone, I’m a construction engineer in Civil Engineering. I’m currently Stationed in Taiwan by an international company I’m contracted with. Open to meet new people from different backgrounds, of different ethnicity. Please connect to my network, many thanks! Andy H.

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