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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Count your blessings

There's a god for everything at Longshan Temple--the largest buddhist temple in Taipei, which dates back to 1738. So, depending on what's on your mind, you might want to get a blessing from the patron of pregnant women, the god of scholarly pursuits or the god of business people. But the gods getting the most visitors this week is Guanyin and Matsu, which watch over people while traveling.

CNN reported that 1,800,000 people in China are making their way back home for the Chinese Lunar New Year this week. That's more than the population of many countries. So, Guanyin and Matsu (shown at right) are getting a lot of action. I even stopped by to ask them to keep me and Chris safe on our trip to Taiwan.

I noticed a strange ritual taking place in front of the shrine devoted to the love god. People were grasping red crescent-shaped wood blocks between their praying hands, then tossing them on the ground. It turns out they are oracle blocks, which perform the same function as a Magic Eight Ball. You ask a question and the way the blocks land tell you the answer.

If the blocks are both face down, it means one thing, if the blocks are both face up, it means another. However, the ideal configuration is to have one block face up and the other face down. That means you got the answer you wanted. If you didn't get the right answer, rephrase the question and try again.

William, Marci's husband, put it this way:
If you have a problem with your neighbor, you might see if it's the neighbor's fault. And if it isn't, you re-ask to see if it's your fault. And then it'll help you to figure out the next course of action to fix the problem.

No matter how people cope with the things that come their way, there is no doubt that Longshan Temple is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city that surrounds it.

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