Archive for the 'Cultural things' Category

Ghost Month in Taiwan

Religion and belief in Taiwan are a mish mash of Buddhism, Taoism and traditional Chinese folklore.  From what I’ve learned so far, some of the things that play a big role in traditional Taiwanese beliefs are ancestral worship, luck and ghosts.  Like everywhere else, the younger generations are slowly letting go of a lot of the older beliefs, but Taiwan still has a lot of people who hold on to the traditions that they’ve grown up with.  One such thing is Ghost month. Continue reading ‘Ghost Month in Taiwan’


What’s my age again? (East Asian age reckoning)

Just like a lot of Taiwanese people have 2 names (their REAL one that westerners have a rough time pronouncing and their FAKE English one to be able to deal with wai guo ren), they also seem to have 2 ages.  One is calculated by the standards westerners are used to.  After one year of life, you are 1 year old.  The other is a bit different.

Commonly known as East Asian age reckoning – I’ve discovered how the traditional Chinese determine age.  Age begins from the time one is conceived, not born, so you are already 1 year old when you come screaming into this world.  You are considered a living being from the time of conception. Continue reading ‘What’s my age again? (East Asian age reckoning)’

Taiwan’s education system produces robots

A while back, I wrote about the stresses and intense academic life of a regular Taiwanese student.  This was largely based on my own observations and chats with students.  Basically, they begin their day early (6:30 – 7 am), and end late (11:30 pm – 12 am).  I’d imagine this is to prepare them for real working life in Taiwan, where 9 – 5, 5 days a week is actually a luxury, cushy job.  More often than not, it’s 7am – 7pm at the office, 6 or 7 days a week (depending on the job).

Taking away that this basically robs the children of any vestiges of childhood they may enjoy, and making them a serious, sour bunch, you would imagine that this intense training would put them at the forefront of being incredibly successful individuals – kind of like an academic version of the Spartans -when you put so much training time into something, the rewards should be nothing less than an intellectual version triumph of Thermopylae-ic proportions.

But this doesn’t happen.  Insead of producing visionaries and world changing, iconic people, the education system in Taiwan seems to produce robots – at least according to this article in Taiwan Today. Continue reading ‘Taiwan’s education system produces robots’

Why do Taiwanese people want to be white?

I don’t mean white as in Caucasian, but as in not tanned.  Which, if you live on a tropical island, is pretty damn hard to do.  It leads to all sorts of uncomfortable clothing choices.  While myself, and most other westerners are running around in shorts, wife-beaters (sleeveless T-shirts) and sandals, lots of Taiwanese are plodding along in long sleeve shirts, wide brimmed hats and long trousers – during million degree days.

Just watching these people walk around in clothes hot enough to fry a phoenix gives me heat induced comas.

One could argue that this is a style thing, and Taiwanese put a lot of emphasis on looking professional and not “bummy”.  But there is clothing available that’s comfortable as well as stylish, so I don’t think it’s all style.

And then there is the curious sight of people (mostly Tawanese women, but sometimes also men) walking around with umbrellas on a perfectly sunny, rainless summer day: Continue reading ‘Why do Taiwanese people want to be white?’

Pigs of God festival, Sanxia, Taipei

The Pigs of God is an extremely controversial festival that’s celebrated by the Hakka people of Taiwan.  It takes place in Sanxia (at the Zushi temple) every year,  around Chinese New Year.  In the Roman calender this falls around end Jan / beginning Feb.

Here’s what happens.

Farmers from all over Taiwan spend about 2 years fattening up pigs to enter this competition.  The pigs are sequestered, force-fed and ballooned up to 10 times their normal weight.  During the last few days before the competition, the pigs are fed sand and metal (reportedly lead) in order to increase their weight.  At this point, the pigs cannot even stand – they just lay around.  Because of their excessive weight, they may have massive internal injuries – basically, they are slowly and painfully dying. Continue reading ‘Pigs of God festival, Sanxia, Taipei’

Hakka Tung blossom festival

If you aren’t up in the mountains, snow is non-existent in Taiwan.  So when the Tung flowers bloom, and the trees look like they have a smattering of downy snow, people flock in droves to catch the sights.

In 2002, the council of Hakka affairs formalized this into the Tung blossom festival.  This annual event runs every year during the end of spring, around April – March.

The Hakka are a group of people from southern China who came and settled in Taiwan.  They are located mostly in north-west Taiwan (Miaoli and Hsinchu counties).  In days past, they used the Tung tree extensively for Tung oil, wood, and food.  During the Japanese occupation of Taiwan (1895 – 1945), many Tung trees were planted in the hills of Miaoli county, and now they’ve spread all over the hills creating a tourist opportunity for Taiwan.

While the Tung tree can be found all over Taiwan, most of them are in Miaoli county.  When they bloom, from far off, it looks something like this: Continue reading ‘Hakka Tung blossom festival’

The Taiwanese Princess

If you’ve been in Taiwan for 24 hrs. or more, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If you haven’t, you’re not missing out.

What I’m referring to is the fashionably dressed, accessory carrying, irritating female embodiment of sickening “cuteness” that refers to everything as “Hen ke’ai” (Soooo cute).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about real, normal Taiwanese women.  They are fantastic, no complaints here.  No sir!  I’m talking about the under evolved variants – the walking, talking avatars of annoying and fake.  The epitomes of corny, the mistresses of cheesy.  The ones you want to slap in the face just for being born.

Yes, I’m talking about the Taiwanese Princess.  Here’s a gaggle of them: Continue reading ‘The Taiwanese Princess’

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