My family lineage actually comes from south Taiwan (and South China further back), and Kaohsiung is my heritage city on my mother’s side of the family. One of the must-see attractions of the city is the Lotus Pond, which is a large lake that has a series of temples built on it. We stayed at a hotel right next to the Lotus Pond so that we could do a hike around it first thing in the morning on our own before another Taiwan Tour Bus charter took us to a less central destination later that day.
Probably the best way to start off the morning is with a hearty breakfast complete with man tao bread.
The Pond itself really adds a nice feel to the area with its mirror view of the city and the temples lining its shores.
The first stop we made it to was the Dragon Tiger Tower, twin pagodas that sit right on the edge of the pond. To enter, you need to jump into the bowels of the tiger or dragon, both sitting with their mouths invitingly agape.
Inside the belly of these two beasts are many religious images of spirits, gods, and/or stories.
We didn’t have a guide with us to tell us all the cultural, religious, and historical details, but I’m going to use my general understanding of Eastern religions and guess that this first temple was a Daoist one, given what looked like depictions of multiple gods.
My favorite part of this whole experience was coming out of beasts’ butts. Felt like I was getting pooped out by a celestial creature.
The pagodas themselves added to our hikes with their dazzling spiral stair cases inside.
Going through the effort of trekking up these stairs, we were rewarded with lovely views of the Lotus Pond, the other temples, and the adjacent twin pagoda.
The next temple looked like a Buddhist one to me on account of the fact that there were statues of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy or Bodhisattva of Compassion. Generally, this goddess is a Buddhist figure, but given that religion (not just Eastern) can get to be quite hodgepodge and the fluidity of adopting different gods, spirits, and figures, it’s not enough to guarantee that the temple was necessarily Buddhist. This temple had a pretty cool bridge that shot straight out pretty far into the center of the pond.
Finally, there was another temple we were able to make it to that led out to a large temple and massive statue of a god. For some reason, I want to say it’s the god of war, and the temple looks Daoist, but I’m going to qualify that with a “I really don’t know what I’m talking about”. I took that Eastern Religions college course in 1997, so yeah. Nevertheless, the statue was pretty awesome.
There was one more temple/structure that we couldn’t make it out too because of our time constraint (we had to make it back to our hotel for our chartered tour), but I believe is was a temple of Confucianism. This I’m pretty sure of because it said so on the sign. Hold the applause.
Before we headed back, though, I did have the pleasure of bumping into an old friend, with whom I had a friendly little chat and dance with.
Next up, definitely a Buddhist temple, Fo Guang Shan.