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Meinung for Chinese New Year.

The year of the Snake began in January 2001, and we went to friends' home town for a day or three...

LEANING WITH THE LIUS. On Monday 22nd January, we took a train to Taiwan's 3rd-biggest city, Taichung, where we were picked up by friends Derrick and Ella whose kids have been students of ours for ages. They'd invited us to spend a few days celebrating Chinese New Year in Derrick's hometown of Meinung, a small tobacco- farming town in the far south of the island.
ELLAVATIME! Laetitia with former student and now friend Ella Liu, ex-entertainment journalist, now mother of two of my fave former Kindergarten kids. This was taken at a Buddhist monastery in Yellow Butterfly Valley in the area of Meinung Town. The region has a very important place in the history of the Hakka population of Taiwan, and is considered the spiritual heart of things for many Taiwanese.

You can read more about the history of Meinung here.

VILLA D'ESTE: We spent two days in Derrick's family home, a traditional- style courtyard place, complete with family shrine and appropriately-marked gateposts. This was it. Nobody'd lived there for ages, but everything worked perfectly (though it did take some dusting before we could settle in). WHERE WE STAYED IN MEINUNG.
BUNCHABUDDHISTS: Near Meinung is a place called Yellow Butterfly Valley, famous for its Springtime clouds of (yellow) butterflies which swell to around 50 million. It's also the site of a Government dam-construction project which was recently shelved after years of protests by Meinung residents. Here we are at a Buddhist monastery in the area. BUNCHABUDDHISTS!
AGE BEFORE BEAUTY: Taiwan was a Japanese colony for almost 50 years, and most of the island's senior citizens were brought up speaking Japanese. Most of them, though, weren't around BEFORE the Japanese arrived, though we think that THIS old lady might have been. At 100+, she's one of the town's most famous residents, and we were taken to meet her by Derek whose brother lives in her building.
THROBBING TEMPLES: During the Second World War, there was a lot of fighting on the island as the Japanese were slowly pushed back to Japan. During that time, many Meinung people hid in this temple to escape the pitched battles being fought around them. Now, 50 years later, the most dangerous things around are the scooters on the road outside. We're posing with Ella and her kids (and our students) Johnny and Danny.
POOPED OUT IN THE PAGODA: Despite the fact that it was supposed to be the middle of winter, New Year temperatures in Meinung climbed to the mid-20s, so any sight-seeing walk was bound to get a tad steamy. Here, L and I enjoy some welcome shade in a Taoist temple at the foot of Moonlight Mountain near the house. To the left of the hill in the background, the landscape was carpeted with tombs and graves all the way from the road to halfway up the hill. MEINUNG NOONTIME IN A PAGODA
GATED GALS: We got the chance to view Meinung's famous East Gate, the only surviving part of the old city wall which was built to defend the Hakka locals from attacks by the Hokkien people from Mainland China. 

Much more contemporary viewing pleasure was provided by Laetitia and Ella, who bring things right up to date. Leather trews, anybody? In this pic, I've actually done the local tourist board a fave by editing the pic, removing the web of telephone and other wires and cables that actually clutter the place. Aren't I nice?

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