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In Taiwan folk customs , each time the birthday of a deity comes around , the faithful hold a festive parade
around the temple area , with colorfully made-up folk artists and kaleido
scopic performance troupes , to
express gratitude for divine beneficence?.
These artists and performers are known collectively as yi—chen(??) , which simply mean
s ”arts and
troupes .Traditional yi –chen (??)have deep religious significance , as well as admirable artistic skills .
Modern troupes are mainly in it for the fun or interest, and reflect a slice of contemporary life .
Hundred—Footed Humanity –The Centipede Procession
This year , the acceptance rate in the national university entrance exams is expected to reach 50percent . But the acceptance rate for youngsters to play “spirit children ”(??)in this year’s Centipede Procession at the Chihe Kung(???) temple near Hsuehchia (??)in Tainan(??) County was only five percent .What’s its attraction ?
“All boys and girls aged six to nine and weighing under 40kg who wish to play spirit children in the
Centipede Procession , please apply .”
After this notice , written on red paper , appeared at the Chihe Kung (???)temple at Houshe(??) near Hsuehchia(??) , there were as many as 695applications , but of these only 36would be chosen .
“My 11 grandchildren all put their names do
wn , but only one was picked ;it’s harder than coming
first in the Imperial Examinations!”says one old man . Joining in the fun , an old lady next to him
exaggerates even more wildly :”I put in over 20 names , to make sure of one getting in , but not even one of
them came up !”
When a bystander asks :“Grandma , are you really so lucky as to have more than twenty
grandchildren ?”the old lady can only explain in embarrassment :“No , I’ve only got three, I used neighbors’ names for the rest .”
Everyone has a chance to be Emperor :
On the tenth day of the third lunar month , the day before the Paichiao Festival (?????)in Hsuehchia(??) , a boisterous crowd gathers in front of the Chihe Kung (???)temple in the nearby village of Houshe(??) , The 36 children lucky enough to have had their names drawn from among the 695 applicants stand in the center of the temple forecourt , with their mums , dads , grandmas and grandpas in a dense crowd around them , waiting for the roles to be allocated .
This year ‘s theatrical theme , chosen by castings crescent blocks , is “The Water Margin .”(???)(Crescent blocks or chiaopei (??)are pairs of wooden crescents , flat on one side , used to divine the will of the deities . The blocks are thrown onto the ground while making a request;if they
fall with one flat side up and one do
wn , this indicates the god’s approval .)Wu Chun –hsi(???),the make –up artist , allots roles according to the children’s features and character:“A lively lad like this can be a clown;a graceful pretty girl can play a female warrior such as Sun Erh-niang(???) ;and anyone can see that a stocky young chap like this one here is just right for Li Kuei(??) , the ‘Black Whirlwind .”’(???)
Most of the roles are cast by the make –up man on his own authority , but the final choice of the Emperor who will ride at the rear of centipede is left to the temple gods . Three candidates selected by the make-up man are led inside the temple together , and the choice is made by throwing do
wn crescent blocks . At this moment the grown-ups from the three families are all burning incense and praying fervently , each hoping they
will have the good fortune to be chosen . But what
’s so great about taking part in the centipede procession ?Why do so many parents join the crush ?
The centipede procession is an artistic performance with a strongly religious character , of a type often seen in the coastal areas of Tainan(??) County where belief in wnagye(??) (heroic figures venerated as deities )is widespread .
The “centipede ”comprises segment after segment made from wooden boards, joined together to mimic the shape of a centipede, and with seats mounted on top for children in theatrical costume to sit as the procession advances . In folk legends , the centipede acts as vanguard for the wangye(??) , clearing a path and driving out all things impure , and so it can always be found at the very front of the long processions as it winds its way all around the locality . “Without the Lord Centipede at the front , the Great Lord of the Tao (Ta Tao Kung(???) , another name for Pao Sheng Ta Ti (????), the Great Emperor Protector of Life )could not come out;and wherever the centipede goes is where the firecrackers are loudest , “stresses Liu Cheng –shang(???), chairman of Chihe Kung’s(???)temple management committee.
But the main reason why so many parents flock to take part is not just because the centipede drives corruption from the path of the deity , but because they
believe that the centipede procession wards off evil from the people along its path .
Peace and safety for those above a
A Galapagos Sea Lion basking in the foreground as a Land Iguana makes it's way across the landscape in the background on South Plaza Island.
The Galapagos Land Iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) is a species of lizard in the Iguanidae family and is endemic to the Galapagos Islands, primarily the islands of Fernandina, Isabela, Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Hood and South Plaza. The Galapagos Land Iguana varies in morphology and coloration among different island populations. There are two taxonomically distinct forms of Conolophus inhabiting the western part of the islands (C. rosada and C. pallidus) and one in the central part (C. subcristatus). Its generic name, Conolophus, is derived from two Greek words: conos mean
ing "spiny" and lophos mean
ing "crest" or "plume", denoting the spiny crests along their backs. Its specific name subcristatus is derived from the Latin words sub mean
ing "lesser" and cristatus mean
ing "crested," and refers to the low crest of spines along the animal's back which is not as tall as in most iguanids. Charles Darwin described the Galapagos Land Iguana as "ugly animals, of a yellowish orange beneath, and of a brownish-red colour above: from their low facial angle they
have a singularly stupid appearance." The Galapagos Land Iguana grows to a length of three to five feet with a body weight of up to twenty-five pounds, depending upon which island they
are from. Being cold-blooded, they absorb heat from the sun by basking on volcanic rock, and at night sleep in burrows to conserve their body heat. These iguanas also enjoy a symbiotic relationship with birds; the birds remove parasites and ticks, providing relief to the iguanas and food for the birds. Land iguanas are primarily herbivorous; however, some individuals have shown that they are opportunistic carnivores supplementing their diet with insects, centipedes and carrion. Because fresh water is scarce on the islands it inhabits, the Galapagos Land Iguana obtains the majority of its moisture from the prickly-pear cactus that makes up 80% of its diet: fruit, flowers, pads, and even spines. During the rainy season it will drink from available standing pools of water and feast on yellow flowers of the genus Portulaca. It is estimated that the Galapagos Land Iguana has a 50 to 60-year lifespan. Galapagos Land Iguanas become sexually mature anywhere between eight and fifteen years of age, depending on which island they are from. Mating season also varies between islands, but soon after mating, the females migrate to sandy areas to nest, laying 2-25 eggs in a burrow 18 inches deep. The eggs hatch anywhere from 90 to 125 days later. On South Plaza Island, where the territories of Marine Iguanas and Land Iguanas overlap, the two sometimes interbreed, resulting in a mixture of features from each species; resulting in what
is known as a Hybrid Iguana. The most likely unions tend to be between male Marine Iguanas and Female Land Iguanas. Despite their long separation time and their being two distinct species from different genera, the offspring are viable, although likely sterile. It is estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 land iguanas are found in the Galapagos. These iguanas were so abundant on Santiago Island at one time that naturalist Charles Darwin remarked when it was called King James Island that "...when we were left at James, we could not for some time find a spot free from their burrows on which to pitch our single tent". In the years since then, entire
populations (including all the animals on Santiago Island) have been wiped out by introduced feral animals such as pigs, rats, cats, and dogs. It has been suggested that a pink morph of the Galapagos population is actually a genetically distinct subpopulation. This would warrant a separate species designation for the pink subpopulation. Subsequent genetic analysis of the pink morphs have suggested that the subpopulation split off from the main C. subcristatus one at least five million years ago. Beginning in the early 1990s the Galapagos Land Iguana is the subject of an active re-introduction campaign on Baltra Island. These animals became extinct on Baltra by 1954, allegedly wiped out by soldiers stationed there who shot the iguanas for amusement. However, in the early 1930s, William Randolph Hearst had translocated a population of Land Iguanas from Baltra to North Seymour Island, a smaller island just a few hundred metres north of Baltra because he could not understand why no iguanas were present there. Hearst's translocated iguanas survived, and became the breeding stock for the Charles Darwin Research Station captive breeding program which has successfully reintroduced the species to Baltra and a number of other areas. Visitors today frequently see iguanas on both the runway of the Baltra airport or while they cross the road.
Galapagos Sea Lion
The Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) breed