Jin Bao Mountain

This will be Amah's final resting place. Unfortunately, all the photos I've taken here turned out grey and gloomy (too many clouds!) so I've borrowed this from Wikipedia and will post my pics as soon as I've adjusted them.

On Saturday, I took my second trip (since arriving) out to Jin Bao Shan Cemetery with Mom, Aunt Loretta and Uncle Michael. It's about an hour and a half drive north of Taipei. Covering over 800 acres and the resting place for
Teresa Teng (one of Asia's biggest popstars), Jin Bao Shan is considered the most famous cemetery in all of Taiwan. Tsao Rhy-Chang, a huge patron of the arts (especially in sculpture) in Taiwan, commissioned a sculpture garden at Jin Bao Shan years ago. Flocks of tourists visit the site each day. Burial plots covering the mountainside get a breathtaking view (on a clear day) of the ocean.

Amah's plot was purchased a few years ago. We visited it my first week in Taipei. It was rainy rainy rainy. Our first stop when we arrived was at the restooms. The cleanest restrooms ever! There was artwork everywhere -- you wouldn't have guessed you were at a cemetery. My favourite painting depicted a Taiwanese funeral procession.

Funeral procession Funeral procession Funeral procession Funeral procession
The sales rep met us at the office and gave us disposable rain ponchos and large black umbrellas; then we proceeded up the hill to see Amah's plot, checking out other graves for design ideas. The rep gave us advice on materials to be used ("Look how dirty the white stone will get! Go for the polished grey") and showed us all the roof/bench/garden options imaginable. Since Amah is to be cremated, her urn will be placed in a cubby hole built into the 'hut' located at the back of the plot. ("We can install up to nine compartments for your family!") All we had to do was design the plot and request the type of material to be used. My uncle John sketched out something fairly simple, which included a skylight ("Amah likes a lot of sunlight"), a couple of benches ("not too many or it will be too crowded -- not everyone needs to sit anyway") and space for shrubbery along the sides. This was decided on the first trip up.

This past Saturday, the sun was shining. So my aunt decided to take another trip up to Jin Bao Shan to see the site. Ever since Amah's death, she hadn't slept well; as Amah's oldest child she felt somewhat responsible for ensuring that Amah would be happy with all of the arrangements. We were met by a different rep, Miss Tsang, who showed us the other 'burial' option: the mausoleum. The first building we visited housed seven levels of cubbyholes, each with a different theme. We were invited to removed our shoes before taking the elevator up to the third floor.

Miss Tsang was the queen of the upsell. We went from the third floor (homey, yet too traditional -- I didn't care for the fluorescent lighting) to the fifth floor (much cozier, warmly-lit) to the sixth floor (very clean -- but we still preferred the fifth floor). My aunt and my mom decided that perhaps it would be better to place Amah in the mausoleum, so that she'd always be surrounded by other souls and visitors, and there'll always be music playing. She'll also be in a cozy building, sheltered from the wind and the rain. We wanted the fifth floor. Unfortunately, all compartments facing the picture window with a view of the ocean (we thought that would be Amah's preference) were occupied. But then...

"Would you care to see the new building?" asked Miss Tsang.

It felt as if we were walking into an art gallery. The newest mausoleum was sleek, all granite and glass, complete with Zen rock garden in the lobby. (And the restrooms, wow.) Each cubbyhole had a glass cover in front of it, providing a surface for loved ones to customize the epitaphs with laser technology. Miss Tsang showed us examples of markers where a man selected his favourite idiom and had it etched onto his wife's glass cover. One school principal chose a poem for his own epitaph. Another marker showed a child's drawing, depicting a happy family, over his father's compartment. There was plenty of sunlight in the building, skylights everywhere. Everything was clean, peaceful. We were sold. My aunt reserved a nice two-urn compartment for Amah.

During the whole ride back, my aunt worried about whether she'd done the right thing. Both her husband and Mom loved the new mausoleum. So did she. She called my uncle John in China to make sure it was OK with him, since he was the one who had originally designed the burial plot; he liked the idea and just wanted Amah to be happy. My aunt still couldn't sleep. The next day, when she went for her daily prayers with Mom, they asked Amah's spirit whether the new resting place was acceptable. This Buddhist ritual is comparable to asking the 8-ball a question; once asked, my aunt tossed these two wooden pieces on the floor. If both pieces end up face-down, then the spirit's answer is "no;" if one is up and the other is down, then "yes." If they both end up face-up, then the spirit really really approves. The verdict? Amah approved wholeheartedly! Ever since, my aunt's sleep's been nothing but restful.

As for the plot of land on the hill, it shouldn't be a problem re-selling, since there's already a waiting list -- Mom says Amah will be disappointed if we don't make a profit from it. :)


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