My parents visit Taiwan

Mum and Dad at Hotel One

My parents have just spent the past week in Taiwan. This was their second visit to Taiwan following their first visit in 2008. The week long visit was just enough time to see a few of Taiwan’s highlights.

Fengjia night market in Taichung

The first day was spent relaxing and enjoying some of the good things in Taichung. We drank Taichung’s best coffee at Orsir. Then we had lunch at Hotel One with a great view of the city. In the evening we visited the Fengjia Night Market. Thankfully it wasn’t too busy and crowded on a Monday night. Continue reading

John Seed in Taiwan

Paiwan artist gives carving to John Seed

I have just spent ten days accompanying John Seed on a trip around Taiwan. John is an environmentalist from Australia well known for his efforts protecting rainforests around the world and also as a philosopher of Deep Ecology. I met John at the Taoyuan Airport on the morning of 28 March. We then took the high speed train to Kaohsiung where we met Dr Lin Yih-ren who arranged John’s visit to Taiwan.

Wutai in Pingtung County

After lunch in Kaohsiung we went to visit the Qimei Community University and then went on a tour around the Meinong area. By the time night fell we were high in the mountains of Pingtung County staying at the Rukai village of Wutai. The photo at the top of this post shows Paiwan artist E-tan presenting one of his works to John. We met E-tan at the Autumn Moon Cafe (秋月e店) just above the town of Sandimen. The cafe is an amazing spot and is filled with great artworks.  Continue reading

Visit to the Bunun community of Kalibuan

Bunun Museum in Xinyi Township

Over the weekend I visited the Bunun community of Kalibuan (Wangxiang, 望鄉部落) with a group of students from Providence University and National Chengchi University. The first stop on the way was a small museum in Xinyi Township of Nantou County. The museum contains a range of materials related to Bunun culture.

The picture above shows a reconstruction of a traditional slate house in the museum. There are also some items related to hunting and farming and a reproduction of a Bunun calendar. The Bunun were the only group of Austronesian people in Taiwan to develop a writing system. The calendar contains information about phases of the moon, hunting, farming activities and significant events like births or marriages. The knowledge about making the calendars was only held by a few families.  Continue reading

Taiwan becomes ‘the heart of Asia’

Taiwan: The Heart of Asia

The Taiwan Tourism Bureau has launched a new logo and slogan. “Taiwan – The Heart of Asia” replaces the grammatically incorrect “Taiwan, Touch Your Heart” which had been in use for ten years.

Focus Taiwan reports the logo was designed with the assistance of London design firm Winkreative. It  packs in a bunch of symbols of Taiwan — Taipei 101 features prominently while the building at the top might be the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall although it could also be a generic representation of Taiwan’s temples. There are also fireworks, lanterns, a teapot, a bird, flower blossoms, a butterfly, two people eating and an aboriginal motif. The only obvious thing that is perhaps missing is an image of Taiwan’s mountains.

One good thing about the slogan “Taiwan — The Heart of Asia” is that it places Taiwan at the centre. While the actual geographical centre of Asia is near Urumqi in East Turkestan (Xinjiang), Taiwan does occupy a special position in Asia that connects it to other Asian countries and the Pacific Ocean. I detailed this in an earlier blog post, Perspectives of Taiwan.

The slogan invites comparison with the slogans of some other Asian countries which are actively promoting international tourism. Other countries are using slogans such as “Amazing Thailand”, “Malaysia Truly Asia”, “Wonderful Indonesia”, “Incredible India” and “Korea, Be Inspired”. There is an obvious preference for the emphatic here. Whether Taiwan’s “heart” can compete with these is the real question.

Day trip to Dajia in Taichung County

Wenchang Shrine in Dajia

I took the opportunity to do a bit of local tourism today heading out to Dajia (大甲) in Taichung County.  The first place I stopped was the Wenchang Shrine (文昌祠), a beautiful little temple with neatly kept grounds.

Worshipers in the temple

Next stop was the Dajia Matsu Temple (大甲鎮瀾宮). The temple is one of the busiest and most important religious centres in Taiwan. It is the starting point of the annual Matsu pilgrimage held in March or April. Continue reading

Approaching storms and millet harvest in Smangus

millet harvest in Smangus

I went on a trip to Smangus this week. I carefully checked the weather forecast on Sunday night before I left. I was aware that Tropical Storm Lionrock and the low pressure system to the northwest of Taiwan would influence the weather during the week. However, it seemed unlikely that either of them would directly impact Taiwan. By the time I arrived in Smangus on Monday afternoon the potential tracks of the storms had changed. The low pressure system had been upgraded to a tropical storm named Namtheun and was heading for the north of Taiwan. Continue reading

Trip to Marqwang and Smangus

I spent last week visiting Marqwang and Smangus, two communities in the houshan (後山) area of Jianshi Township (尖石鄉) in Hsinchu County. The visit was to conduct field work for a research project about the management of the Shimen Reservoir Catchment following the implementation of the Shimen Reservoir and Catchment Area Remediation Special Act (石門水庫及其集水區整治特別條例) which was passed by the Legislative Yuan in January 2006. The act created a special budget of NT$25 billion to upgrade the facilities of the Shimen Reservoir and management of the catchment area.

The Shimen Reservoir suffered severe impacts following Typhoon Aere in 2004 and several other typhoons in the period from 2001 to 2005. These typhoons caused large inflows of the sediment into the dam and compromised the ability of the reservoir to supply water to Taoyuan and Taipei counties. Michael Turton recently published a post detailing some of the problems based on an article that was published in CommonWealth magazine (天下雜誌). These two articles provide excellent background information. Continue reading

In the land of the Seediq

Seediq woman playing bamboo mouth harp

Over the weekend I joined a trip organised by the Research Centre for Austronesian Peoples at Providence University to Ren’ai Township in Nantou County (南投縣仁愛鄉). We visited several villages in the area to learn more about Seediq (賽德克族) culture. The main purpose of the trip was as an orientation for professors from several universities who are working on a project to improve science and maths education for indigenous children. They plan to include various elements of local culture and knowledge into the curriculum to make it more relevant and improve learning outcomes.

Presbyterian Church in Sadu

The first place was visited was Sadu (靜觀), which was at the end of the road at an altitude of 1,500 metres. In the church Pastor Kumu Tapas gave us a talk about various aspects of the local culture and history. Actually the people in this village identify as Toda, a sub-group of the Seediq. The other two sub-groups of the Seediq are the Tkdaya and Truku. The Seediq groups were classified as Atayal until the Truku gained official recognition 2004. Then the Seediq (Tkdaya) were officially recognised in 2008. However, the Toda haven’t gained recognition as a separate group. Continue reading