Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Oct 26 2008

Double Ten Day and an opera monkey

I’ve just now gotten around to uploading pictures from Double Ten Day. That’s how far behind I am, photography-wise.

CKS Hall and cloudsOn that day, I took the MRT up to CKS Hall Station, where I was going to meet some friends to go watch the parade near the Presidential Office. The morning light was nice, shining through the clouds over the hall, so I found some nice puddles to get the scene with its reflections, and sat down to take some shots with my 20D. After I took a couple of shots, I noticed the sound of approaching footsteps. A middle-aged woman draped with two cameras, including a Canon 5D and a 1DmkIII as well as numerous top-grade L-class lenses and bags, ran over and sat beside me to take some shots of her own. I commented on her camera collection, but she just shook her head. “These cameras just don’t last!” she said. “I’ve had to take them in for shutter repair twice in the past few years!” Then she aimed the 5D at the hall with the reflection and promptly fired off what I would conservatively estimate as approximately 663 rapid-fire shots of the basically static scene. Then she changed composition slightly and fired off another few hundred shots, effectively explaining just how her shutter wore out so frequently.

I joined my friends, but we weren’t able to get through the police cordon by the East Gate. Disappointed, my friends decided to go elsewhere, but I stuck around with the aim of getting some breakfast in a nearby alley. Afterwards, I found that Chongqing South Road was easily accessed, so I made my way through the crowd taking pictures of the floats and people. At one point I ran into our movie fight choreographer Eddie Tsai, who was part of the parade as well. The day was perfect for a parade, and the scene was lively, with policemen chatting with aborigine kids, giant balloons and people in furry costumes sweating on top of floats as they waited for their turn in the parade.

A few days after that we went up to Neihu to the National Taiwan College of Performing Arts. The students range from elementary-school students all the way to university-level. We watched some of the younger children performing flawless backflips and other acrobatics during classes. “About two thirds will end up dropping out,” our guide said. I couldn’t blame them; the training is very rigorous; students in the US would sue the hell out of any school that asked them to anything like that. One can’t deny that the results of the training are impressive, though. Most of the old Kung-fu theater stars of decades past came from this school and others like it, she told us. Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung underwent the same training. It made me wonder what kind of a future these kids have, in this age of computer-generated stuntmen and flashy editing. There’s some serious talent there, and it would be a shame to see it go to waste.

We went backstage at the campus theater to get our faces painted by two guys who specialize in the art. I, of course, chose Monkey. Out on stage, students were performing acrobatics involving tables, flowerpots and dishes for a handful of Japanese tourists in the otherwise empty theater. “The last administration wasn’t very keen on funding what it sees as a ‘Chinese’ art,” we were told, “even though many of the operas are conducted in Minnan.”

On each side of the stage were printed slogans: “The stage is your classroom,” and “The audience is your teacher.” The staff provided me with the whole Monkey get-up, including a staff! Maybe it was something in the regalia, but suddenly I felt like jumping around on the stage and put on a little show.

That next show was the “Flooding the Golden Mountain Temple” scene from the White Snake opera, and it was brilliant. The two guys who had painted our faces were part of the production, water devils twirling through complicated flight paths in the air above the wooden floor of the stage. It was an amazing show, full of action, sound and color. We clapped as hard as we could to try to make up for the silent, empty seats.

posted by Poagao at 11:14 pm  


  1. Hello there
    I want you say thank you to you for posting all these wonderful pictures on your picasa account. Having been living overseas for quite a while now, your great photos really “quench” my homesickness. I especially like your appreciation on the things constantly overlookeded – be it back alleys or ordinary folks, they are just magnificent. They seem to contradict my memory of the taiwan I used to take for granted. great job man!

    Comment by Chiou — October 28, 2008 @ 2:24 am

  2. Picasa? Oh, right. I put most of my photos on Flickr.com, though.

    Comment by Poagao — October 28, 2008 @ 3:06 am

  3. Yes I meant Flickr, always mistaken the two..

    Comment by Chiou — October 28, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

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