Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wasai--- Cute little castles on the hills of Taiwan

Not long after my arrival in Taiwan, while traveling to and fro through the land, I noticed these “little castles” on hills around the island. I kept looking at how pretty they are and how nicely colored some of them were and I told myself, one day I got to go and visit these little castles and see what the deal with them is.

A few more weeks passed and I made a couple of more trips around the island and I kept seeing more of those little castles and I finally said, “that’s it, I’m going to go up to that hill and investigate the situation.

So, I planed out my adventure, approached my Taiwanese friend, and said “ok, you’re going to take me up to those little castles so I can take pictures and see what is the deal with so many of them around the island. I ignorantly told my friend “is it because the island is so small that Taiwanese people decided to make or build mini castles? J You should see the size of some of the castles in Europe, Central, and South America”!

My friend smiled calmly told me to relax because no matter what, we’re not going to see and investigate any little castles because they are someone’s grave or resting place, and it will be very impolite and disrespectful for anyone to go and wonder around through someone’s burial place. Wow! What a shock that was to me when I heard that! “Graves… but they look nothing like graves” I thought! “They definitely don’t look anything like graves from other countries (especially the western countries) but nevertheless, that doesn’t make them any less graves than they are” my friend said. Fair enough, I though, but why all of them are on hills? “Well, in the Taiwanese tradition and belief, it is important that the person that died has a good view” my friend continued. At hearing this, I was so astonished; I could hardly keep myself from laughing. I knew and I saw all the things other cultures laugh at when they see what we do in the west, especially USA, and I thought how rude for them to do so, therefore, I forced myself not to even squeak out a smile at hearing all the stories about the dead, the little castles, the grave or tomb sweeping day, and so forth.

The whole experience just made me realize how different people are and how tradition and beliefs makes us even more different around the world. Although some things may look ridiculous and seem beyond absurd, we should respect the culture, traditions, and practices around the world. It is unimaginable for a westerner how a dead person might be interested in a good view, and as anyone can see, graves in the USA are always on a flat field and far from anything close to a good view, but then again, if the Taiwanese believed the same we did, I would have never seen those “cute little castles on the hills of Taiwan”. I did manage to quickly take an unnoticed photo of the Taiwan graves, and everyone that saw the photo and heard the story was just as shocked as I was. On the other side, they all agreed that unless people are different in beliefs and traditions, no beauty and variety would be seen anywhere.

Submitted to Wasai Taiwan by: Daniel Clinciu
(Sacramento, the U.S. --- Hinchu, Taiwan)


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with your opinion. But, do use the term "Chinese" instead of "Taiwanese" please.

The Foreigner said...

Reading this reminded me of a few occasions when I've shown pictures I've taken in Taiwan to Taiwanese.

Things will be going nicely until they see I've taken shots of a grave somewhere. Suddenly, they start glancing at each other nervously and muttering in Mandarin.

I've asked them what's the matter. Apparently, the ghosts of the dead are supposed to follow people who photograph their tombs.

Anonymous said...

:) ha, funny reading this entry. btw. Wasai attracts my curiosity right away. You have picked up a very Taiwanese term. keke