After saying farewell to Tainan 台南, where I have been living in for the past three months, I set out by bicycle for Měinóng 美濃 today, but only made it as far as neighbouring Qíshān 旗山. The long stretch of lonely backcountry roads from Guānmiào 關廟 to Qíshān 旗山 offered no respite from the relentless sun—and without any place to fuel up I ran out of water high up in the hills, a major no-no in this 35 degree heat. When I finally made it into town I was in no state to be going anywhere—and so here I am, sick with heatstroke in a cheap hotel, but not without at least a small spark of adventure coursing through my veins. I rested for most of the evening so I could go out and grab a bite to eat and see at least a little of this historic town before (hopefully) moving on tomorrow.
At some point after a quick and easy dinner I wandered into a historic Taoist temple dedicated to Mazu, perhaps the most import goddess in Taiwan, revered by Taoists and Buddhists alike. At the very back of the temple, accessibly by a side entrance, I found this handsome god with striking green eyes resting on an elaborate altar before an offering table on which slabs of bacon and cartons of fresh eggs had been left. Oh, and a bottle of booze—all the things a celestial carnivore might covet.
With some help I was able to find out a little more about this particular god, whose formal name in Chinese is the Golden Tiger General 金虎將軍, or just Hǔ Ye 虎爺 for short. This idol has a Facebook fan page where you can see him touring the country, appearing at various ceremonies, and generally looking quite pleased. Of course there are many Chinese language blogs about this famous temple, for example here, here, and here).
Tonight I rest. Tomorrow I will cycle around Meinong and see how strong I feel after today’s near-disaster. Is there a god of cycling, I wonder? I might leave a sporting beverage behind just in case.
Quite creepy, especially with those green eyes!