Lonely Planet; 8th edition (April 1, 2011)
Robert Kelly and Joshua Samuel Brown's redevelopment of the Lonely Planet Taiwan guide is 400 pages of excellence packed with beautiful maps, useful information, sidebars of historical and cultural information, and (not enough!) lovely pictures.
Kelly sent me the book for review as I was heading out the door for trips down south to Tainan and Pingtung. It proved a highly reliable and useful companion for the trip. The Tainan section alone is worth the price of the book. The detail map of the temple area has a very clear map with many major sites and a recommended walking route. Good thumbnails of history are provided for many of the city's innumerable temples. A sample:
Medicine God TempleThe rich detail of this book, as well as its great scope, means that it makes for great pleasure reading in addition to its effectiveness as a guidebook. This guide also features copious amounts of information on Taiwan's excellent cycling and hiking. There is also an extensive section on the offshore islands, and discussions of culture, history, and the future of the island at the end of the book. You'll find this blog there too. Thanks, guys.
Just south of Anping Road on Gubao Street, this small temple boasts a lovely example of a swallowtail eave roof, and two small lion statues with an interesting tale (not tail) behind them. Long ago in the days of the Qing Dynasty, a young scholar prayed to the Medicine God to help him pass an imperial exam. Since Chinese religion is largely based on quid pro quo, he promised that if successful he would reward the god by paying for two stone temple lions to be carved and placed out front. Well, the scholar did pass the exam, but poor man that he was, could only afford the two diminutive felines you see outside the temple today.
The sole truly annoying feature of the book is its constant reference to the "Japanese Occupation Period", a time that exists solely in the minds of Chinese Nationalist propagandists. Japan did not "occupy" Taiwan -- the term is used in an attempt to create unbroken Chinese "sovereignty" over Taiwan. Japan had full and legitimate sovereignty over the island and the book should simply refer to the "Japanese colonial period" instead.
If you are traveling or moving to Taiwan, this book should be considered mandatory. It is the most comprehensive guidebook now available on Taiwan. A labor of love from an author who loves Taiwan and knows it intimately, it should be on every Taiwanophile's bookshelf.
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