Note: I’m posting this about three weeks later.
Friday May 20th. Arrival in Taipei.
The flights from Missouri to Taipei, though long, were largely uneventual compared to what might have happened. Flying from St. Louis – Denver – LA – Taipei; a total of 22 hours traveling, arriving a day and a half after I started, staying just ahead of the sun as it was rising.
I almost missed the flight from LA to Taipei, due to a delay from Denver, and confusion as to which terminal I was to leave from. There was lots of construction at the LA airport in the terminal I arrived at, which made it super confusing. Plus, there seemed to have been no personnel around to assist wayward travelers like me. However, after a scramble and a speedy procession on one of those electric people carts, I managed to arrive at the plane and leave with everyone else.
My luggage, though, wasn’t so fortunate. They said they would send it to me the next day (which it did).
Ven. Changkuan （常寬法師) from Dharma Drum Mountain picked me up at the airport. He is the monk I had been communicating with regarding this move to Taiwan. He was formerly the Director of the male sangha (Bhikkhu), as well as the Principle of the male students at DDM’s Sangha University, their training seminary for monastics. Fortunately, he speaks English quite well.
He took me to DDM’s branch monastery, called Tian Nan temple (天南寺), which means something like “Southern Heavenly Temple” or “Temple of Heaven in the South.” Tian also means ‘day,’ as well as ‘sky.’ Generally in a religious context, it refers to heaven.
(About two weeks after arriving in Taiwan, I had to reformat my harddrive, and I lost the few photos I took of the temple. The ones in this post I took from the internet):
The temple is fairly new, and quite large. It is mostly unadorned, seemingly deliberately so. There are few statues and little artwork, but the whole grounds are very peaceful and help instill a quiet and inward-focused mind. The temple is set up in the hills above a large town quite near Taipei, but still a bit of a distance from the capital. They seem to have some acreage, but I’m not sure. There is a lovely walking path into the hills, with large flat stones underneath each step one takes. It must have been quite an effort to place all those stones, as the trail is probably close to 3/4 of a mile up and down.
When we arrived at the temple, I met most if not all of the monks, around eight of them currently. There are four monks with the romanized name Chang-yuan. All the monks have the same first character, Chang (常), and they each have a different second character. The four monks named Chang-yuan have 遠, 源, 願, and 緣 to differentiate their names, three of them with a different tone (two are pronounced the exact same). For an English speaker, this is a challenge!
I have a single room, up on the third floor. The window over looks the Sanxia area, a distant of Taipei. It is a lovely view, even with what appears to be a constant pollution haze. I can see the mountainous region that is behind the temple. It reminds me of a wilderness area, but I’m not sure how undeveloped it actually is. The mountains are quite steep. (Again, my photos I had hoped to post are now in photo heaven.)
I was asleep this first night by 7:30pm, as I was exhausted. I woke numerous times in the night, my body thinking it was day time. I managed to fall back asleep and rise a little after four am.
Here are some additional photos from the temple: