Monday, 2 January 2012

Lion Head Mountain, Miaoli/Hsinchu

Shitoushan (鄉獅山; “Lion Head Mountain”) straddling the Miaoli-Hsinchu county border is a popular hiking and tourist attraction due to its pleasant location and historic temples growing out of caves in which aesthetic monks and nuns sought escape from the beginning of the period of Japanese rule (1895~1945).
        While these cave temples fall far short of the size, artistry and spectacle to be found at Luoyang or Datong (in China) or Ajanta or Ellora (in India), the hill nevertheless provides some attractive views, an enjoyable 2-hour walk, and some interesting architecture and history.
Most of the temples welcome visitors, while others tolerate them only on Sundays. The Quanhua Temple (勸化堂) nearest to the southern end of the trail is the most open, offering accommodation for NT$1,000 per two-person room in its Shishan Dalou (獅山大樓; “Lion Mountain Building” [no English]), and vegetarian breakfasts, lunches and dinners in its canteen.
        Sad to say this is not where the monastics eat—unless of course they have separate sittings at 4am and 10am and no dinner in typical Buddhist style—so visitors will not be dining elbow-to-elbow with shaven-headed, rosary-twirling, sutra-reciting nuns and monks. There remains something of a pious atmosphere, however, with talk restricted to low intensity and definitely no food[buns] fights.
        Served on canteen-style metal tray/plates, the rations include cold food that should be hot and a bowl of warm soup. On the day of NOMM’s visit, these included spoonfuls of leafy greens, bamboo shoots, seaweed, vegetarian chicken and doupi (豆皮; thin layers of tofu); bottomless bowls of white rice, wet rice or fried noodles, and miso soup with lumps of carrot, turnip, mushroom balls () and fake meat.
Baroque-style Lingxia Cave Temple
Fake meat not withstanding, the soup was the best bit. No; the view was the best bit. And the food won’t poison you, in fact, it’s probably very nutritious.

Address: No. 242, Neighborhood 17, Shishan Village, Nanzhuang Township, Miaoli County (苗栗縣南庄`鄉獅山村17242)
Tel: 037 822 563
Breakfast ~ (NT$60), lunch ~/ on weekends (NT$80), dinner ~ (NT$80)
NOMM fake meat index: 2 (low)

There is also a Hakka food stall with vegetarian options in the car park at the southern end of the trail, and on weekends hawkers sell vegetarian snacks on the steps leading from there up towards Quanhua Temple.

Text and photos © Jiyue Publications

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