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

Dalai Lama arrives in Taiwan

The Dalai Lama arrived in Taiwan on a China Airlines flight from Delhi late last night. He was welcomed by Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu before taking a specially chartered high speed train to Kaohsiung. Given the short time frame between the Dalai Lama’s invitation and his arrival in Taiwan it is not surprising there have been some changes to his schedule. However, many of these changes may have been for political rather than practical reasons.

Today’s Liberty Times (自由時報) has an article titled, “Friends of Tibet blames Ma for restricting Dalai Lama’s activities” (台灣圖博批馬 限制達賴活動). I have translated the first part of the article.

The Dalai Lama arrived in Taiwan late last night. Compared to the Dalai Lama’s respects and good wishes, Taiwan’s has shown its hospitality by cancelling the press conference and public speech in Taoyuan. The venue of the public speech in Kaohsiung has also been changed.  Chow Mei-li, President of Taiwan Friends of Tibet, indignantly blamed Ma Ying-jeou for his double-handed tactics. On the one hand he respected public opinion by allowing the Dalai Lama to come, on the other hand he restricted the Dalai Lama’s entire schedule in Taiwan. Chow said, “This is definitely a result of pressure from the Chinese Communist Party. It is becoming more apparent that the Ma government is not acting autonomously, it is not even a good puppet emperor!”

Continue reading

Will Ma meet the Dalai Lama?


His Holiness the Dalai Lama is set to visit Taiwan next week to provide comfort to the victims of the Typhoon Morakot. He was invited by DPP city and county chiefs in Southern Taiwan. President Ma Ying-jeou subsequently gave his approval for the visit. In December last year Ma rejected the possibility of the Dalai Lama visiting Taiwan even though no formal invitation had been issued at the time. However, with his approval rating plummeting in the wake of the central government’s inept response to the typhoon Ma couldn’t afford to say no this time. It was a smart political move by the DPP.

I took the above photo of a poster at the 50 years of Tibet in Exile exhibition that was held at Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in July this year. I think it is interesting on a number of levels. First it shows the Dalai Lama meeting various world leaders including several Presidents of Taiwan and the USA. However, under the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act it is not possible for the Presidents of the USA and Taiwan to meet each other in person.

The Dalai Lama previously visited Taiwan in 1997 and 2001. The photo shows the Dalai Lama meeting with the three most recent Presidents of Taiwan. Lee Teng-hui, presumably on the Dalai Lama’s first visit to Taiwan in 1997. The Dalai Lama met Chen Shui-bian on his second visit to Taiwan in 2001. The KMT actually prevented Chen from meeting the Dalai Lama when he was the Mayor of Taipei in 1997. Lastly the photo of the Dalai Lama meeting Ma Ying-jeou who is now the President, but I presume the photo was taken in 2001 when Ma was the Mayor of Taipei.

Of course the big question now is whether Ma Ying-jeou, as the incumbent President, will meet with the Dalai Lama this time. Sadly there seems to be no chance for former President Chen Shui-bian to meet the Dalai Lama this time as he is still being held in detention waiting for the verdict in his trial to be handed down on 11 September.

Thai New Year in Taoyuan

Thousands of Thai people gathered at the Taoyuan Stadium today to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year. The festival is also known as the Water Festival and often includes riotous water fights. It was a beautiful sunny day for the event in Taoyuan, although the water throwing was rather tame in comparison to what goes on in Thailand.


The event began with the monks chanting blessings before accepting alms. Here the people are lined up ready to offer food to the monks.


Later there was more chanting by the monks on the stage. Continue reading

Some more books about Taiwan

cover of Democracy\'s Dharma by Richard MasdenDemocracy’s Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan is a new book by Richard Madsen. Madsen was formerly ordained in the Maryknoll Order which brought him to Taiwan in the late 1960s. He later left the order for an academic career. He is currently Professor of Sociology at the University of California.

Democracy’s Dharma studies four religious groups in Taiwan. Three of them are Buddhist: Fo Guang Shan (佛光山), Tzu Chi (慈濟) and Dharma Drum Mountain (法鼓山). The other is the Taoist group of Xingtian Temple (行天宮). It is based on the thesis that these groups have contributed to the development of democracy and civil society in Taiwan. Robert Green has reviewed the book in the July 2008 Taiwan Review. Continue reading

Candlelight vigil for Tibet

candles spelling out FREE TIBET, Taipei, 17 March 2008

A candlelight vigil for Tibet was held at Freedom Square (自由廣場) in Taipei tonight. The event was organised by the Taiwan Friends of Tibet and the Tibet Religious Foundation of HH the Dalai Lama (representative office of the Tibetan Government-in-exile in Taipei).

Tibetan monk being interviewed at Freedom Square in Taipei, 17 March 2008

I only found out about the event in the afternoon, but was able to get there before the six o’clock start. There were many Tibetan and Taiwanese monks and nuns who came to join the vigil.

Nuns from Buddhist Hongshi College at the Free Tibet vigil in Taipei, 17 march 2008

I wondered if the nuns from Hongshi College (佛教弘誓學院) would come. It wasn’t long before a small group of them appeared. It was wonderful to see them there.

candles spelling out FREE TIBET, Taipei, 17 March 2008

Hundreds of candles were laid out on the ground spelling out the words “Free Tibet”. They were lit as dusk approached and looked quite wonderful as night fell. As well as the monks and nuns, members of Taiwan’s Tibetan community, supporters of Tibet and a media contigent were all present.

Tsegyam, representative of the Tibetan Government in exile in Taiwan, 17 March 2008

The first speech was given by Mr Tsegyam, the official representative of the Tibetan Government-in-exile in Taiwan.

DPP Presidential candidate Frank Hsieh arrives at the vigil for Tibet, 17 March 2008

Later DPP Presidential candidate Frank Hsieh arrived. He did not speak at the event. Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) spoke on behalf of the DPP, expressing her concern about the situation in Tibet. Hsieh stood solemnly as a Christian prayer was said and then joined the monks and nuns and the public in walking three circuits around the “Free Tibet” candles.

Hsiao Bi-khim speaks at a vigil for Tibet in Taipei, 17 March 2008

Hsiao Bi-khim being interviewed by Voice of America

Other speakers included Chou Mei-li (周美里), President of the Taiwan Friends of Tibet, and Khedroob Thondup, nephew of the Dalai Lama who spoke at the breakfast meeting in November last year. (He is also married to Chou Mei-li). There were several other speakers whose names I don’t know.

Monks and nuns pray for Tibet, Taipei, 17 March 2008

After the speeches and cirumambulating the monks and nuns began leading the chanting of “Om Mani Padme Hum”. It is the most popular Tibetan prayer which is the mantra of Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Everyone in Tibet certainly needs our compassion now.

*more photos at flickr.

Free Tibet march in Taipei

at the start of the Free Tibet rally in Taipei, 9 March 2008

A march to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising was held in Taipei today. The march was organised by the Taiwan Friends of Tibet. Several hundred people including members of the local Tibetan community and supporters of Tibet gathered at Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. From there they marched through the streets of Taipei to the finishing point at Taipei 101. Many people in the march shouted slogans like "Boycott Beijing Olympics!" and "Free Tibet!".  

It should be noted that although many Tibet Support Groups are campaigning for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, His Holiness the Dalai Lama supports the games. His position on the issue is clarified on the Tibetan Affairs blog.  

Monks lead a chant at the Free Tibet march in Taipei, Taiwan

Two monks say a short prayer at the start of the rally.  

Official representative of HHDL in Taiwan at the Free Tibet march in Taipei

The official representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Taiwan, Tsegyam, gave a short speech at the start of the rally.  

Freddy Action team, the DPP youth campaign, at the Free Tibet rally in Taipei

Amongst the groups participating in the march was the "Freddy action team". They are members of the DPP's youth campaign team in the Presidential election.  

11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the world’s youngest political prisoner, whereabouts unknown since 1995

This poster is a sobering reminder that the whereabouts of the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, remain unknown. He went missing, presumably taken prisoner by the Chinese government, shortly after he was recognised by the Dalai Lama in May 1995. The sign says, "youngest political prisoner, Panchen Lama". 

Two women holding a sign on the Tibetan flag at the Free Tibet march in Taipei, 9 March 2008

Two women holding a Tibetan flag with the words, "Tibet will be free".

Free Tibet march on the streets of Taipei, 9 March 2008

The march went on a route through the eastern part of Taipei. The photo above was taken on Zhongxiao East Road. 

Free Tibet march at Taipei 101, 9 march 2008

The march came to an end at Taipei 101. An announcement was made that the Tibetan Olympic torch will return to Taipei on 3 July.  

*more photos in the Free Tibet march set at flickr.  

Update: Report on the march in the Taipei Times: Parade marks Tibetan uprising.

Religion and Gender Ethics Conference

poster of the 2007 International Conference on Religious Culture and Gender Ethics

The 2007 International Conference on Religious Culture and Gender Ethics (宗教文化與性別倫理國際學術會議) was held over the weekend at Hsuan Chuang University (玄裝大學) in Xinzhu.

David and Doris, MCs at the Religious Culture and Gender Ethics Conference

I was one of the MCs at the conference. I made all the announcements in English, while Doris made the announcements in Mandarin.

Dr Mettanando at the 2007 International Conference on Religious Culture and Gender Ethics

On the first day of the conference the keynote speech was given by Dr Mettanando. The topic was “The First Council and Suppression of the Nuns”. Ven. Sujato also gave a talk about the status of nuns in early Buddhist history based on study of the Pali texts. Some more of his research on early Buddhism can be found at the Sects and Sectarianism website. It was very interesting to hear these two experts give their analysis of Buddhist history. Kate Crosby also spoke about early Buddhism looking at representations of the female in Theravada Buddhism. She noted that many Western scholars looking for Buddhist feminist writings draw on Mahayana and Vajrayana texts, yet the Theravada canon also contains feminist writings.

The first day was also notable for various feminist perspectives of Buddhism. The papers of David Schak and Elise A. DeVido showed that even though women have played a prominent and important role in Buddhism in Taiwan, there hasn’t really been a transformation in attitudes about gender roles.

Ven Sujato and Ven Chao Hwei at the 2007 International Conference on Religious Culture and Gender Ethics

Ven. Chao Hwei (昭慧法師) and Ven. Sujato from the Santi Forest Monastery in Australia.

The second day of the conference focused on other religious traditions, mainly Christianity and Islam. There were more excellent talks and lots of issues to think about. Overall there was an excellent line up of speakers from overseas and Taiwan.

Many thanks to Ven. Chao Hwei for giving me the opportunity to be involved in this conference.

* More photos at flickr. Also see the photos from Hongshi College.