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Mountainside school in Keelung

Summer vacation starts later in Taiwan then it does in the United States. This gave my daughters an opportunity to attend school, make new friends, and practice their Chinese. The school is situated half-way up the mountain and occupies several buildings of multiple levels.

Even though it was early in the morning, my shirt was soaked with sweat by the time we climbed first a road, then more steps leading to the first building, and then the steps leading to the second. I was still trying to catch my breath when my sister-in-law drove up the  road between the two buildings. Dismounting her motor scooter, Teacher Chen looked fresh and eager to meet her students. Her route was longer than ours, but required far less exertion.

 

Guan Yin statue in Keelung's  Zhongzheng Park

After we met my daughters’ teachers, my wife and I climbed the road to Zhongzheng Park. In front of the temple on the mountain top, a tall white statue of Guan Yin looks out toward the harbor. This statue is the tallest depiction of Guan Yin in Asia.

Like the Statue of Liberty, you can look out from the statue’s top. Unlike that statue, Guan Yin symbolizes something more practical than liberty. Guan Yin (called Kwannon in Japan) is a Buddhist bodhisattva. These enlightened beings could have entered nirvana, but chose instead to remain in the world bringing enlightenment to others. Guan Yin, like the Virgin Mary is associated with mercy. Looking out upon Keelung Harbor, she protects seafarers from drowning.

Later on we visited the Fairy Cave on the other side of the harbor. This cave got its name from the fairy (or minor deity) who was said to have lived there at one time. The poems carved upon the cave walls are as much as 350 year old.

Inside the Fairy Cave

The cave contains statues of Guan Yin, Buddha, the Earth God, the Birth Goddess and several others. We paid our respects to all of them. As we were leaving, a woman told us that there was a barely noticeable, narrow cave branch on the left wall behind Guan Yin. We went back to explore. Walking sideways between the damp walls, and on one occasion ducking our heads, we came to a wider chamber where we came upon a smaller statue of Guan Yin.