Listen to a NPR 4-min Report: ‘Born Independent,’ Taiwan’s Defiant New Generation is Coming of Age (All Things Considered, 20 June 2018)
Read a BBC Article What’s Behind the China-Taiwan Divide? (BBC News Asia, 2 January 2019)
See What an Irish Expat in Taiwan Say in His Blog The 9 Tings Expats Love Most About Taiwan (Ciaran McEneaney, Culture Trip, 8 January 2019)
Read a Music Review The New Wave of Taiwan Hip-Hop Artists (Celia Ong, Bandwagon Asia, 7 Nov 2019)
Watch a Music Video Without You沒了你 ( 高爾宣OSN, Premiered 1 April 2019)
See Taiwan in a Photo Slideshow Photos of Taiwan (SmithsonianMAG.com, 31 July 2017)
Attend Taiwan Culture Night event on Feb 15, 4:30-6:30:
See event schedule and program
4:30 Door Opens
5:00 Introduction and Performance
6:30 Event ends
7:00 Film Screening
How to write your blog post: (about 800 words) DUE next Wednesday before class
1. Choose a title based on your experience learning about Taiwan, attending the Culture Night event and/or watching the film;
2. Talk about what you learned and compared the new info in another culture or context (similarities/differences);
3. What is so interesting about the new info? Find at least one credible source online to learn more about and share a quick recap.
4. Post on Chinese4u.edublogs.org Chin102 Blog Site or click here
27 thoughts on “About Taiwan Blog Post”
Study Abroad and Higher Education in Taiwan
Attending the Taiwan Culture Night opened my eyes to what studying abroad in Taiwan could be like. As I’ve written about before, one of my dreams is to study abroad to learn Chinese. With the rise of the Coronavirus and political tensions, however, those dreams seem to be becoming an impossibility (a heartbreaking realization as I always believe that study abroad is the main way to learn a new language). This has led me to consider alternatives from my original choice of living in Beijing. Taiwan quickly caught my attention for its intensive Chinese language study and the connection it had to Professor Perry. Attending the Taiwan Culture Night allowed me to learn more about the program, and draw parallels between it and my previous study abroad experience in Spain.
Firstly, learning about the sister schools setup was super interesting. Having a sister school in Taiwan ensures the transferal of credits and also provides a familiar structure when it comes to classes and student-teacher relations. When living in Spain, I travelled there with an outside organization, and so I had no connection to my high school back home. This was very confusing as the class structure was different, my credits didn’t end up being able to transfer, and the Spanish school wasn’t recognized by any of the American colleges I applied to as a legitimate high school. Students studying abroad in Taiwan also go with a group of other Americans from Puget Sound, so the worry of being isolated as a lone American student all but disappears. You do live with local students in a mixed environment, but classes are assigned to you based on your level of fluency so language study does not become too overwhelming. Again, in contrast, I travelled to Spain with a group of Americans but upon arrival to the country was immediately taken to a different town in which I was the only American student. This isolated me from my peers and caused some confusion throughout the first months as I was placed into classes based on my age instead of my ability to speak. I didn’t understand what was going on in my classes until well into the third trimester of the school year, and by then it was too late.
All of the students talked excitedly about the summer study abroad programs in Taiwan. From the photos and detail in which they talked about their adventures, it was clear that they had had the experience of a lifetime. There were photos from different cities they had visited while traveling, and explained that the cost of the program covers all of the excursions to cities around the one you live in. While you do get some time to spend on your own, most of your time is spent with the friends you came on the trip with as you navigate the streets of bustling cities. All of them said that they felt their Chinese had improved rapidly on the trip, with one student even saying that her summer study abroad had influenced her decision to switch from a Chinese minor to a Chinese major. This specifically had a huge impact on me because I had never heard of someone be so enamored with an experience that they changed their whole college career path. This made me reconsider Taiwan again as it has become a legitimate option instead of a second choice. This is also due to how everyone talked about the program. Being able to feel significantly more confident in just one summer is appealing as I wouldn’t have to spend a whole semester/year abroad. I don’t know if I would only go for one summer, however, as it typically takes longer to achieve fluency. However, the Culture Night has definitely positively impacted my take on how many options there are for study abroad here at UPS.
Something that I became more curious about was what higher education is like in Taiwan. After some research, I found that higher education has taken on a lot more importance within the country in recent years. In 2014, the country implemented a new law raising the mandatory education time from 9 to 12 years. It also has a literacy rate that matches that of America, almost 99%. I thought it was interesting that higher education is gaining popularity in Taiwan, and wonder if that is part of the reason the country has implemented new study abroad exchanges with countries like America. As colleges become more popular, having foreign students come in would demonstrate to the Taiwanese people all of the opportunities given to them through attending a university.
Website Source: “EDUCATION.” Government Portal of Republic of China, Taiwan, 2018, taiwan.gov.tw/content_9.php.
Word Count: 773
Taiwan, Tea and Hip-Hop
Attending the Taiwan Culture Night event was a fun learning experience and a fun way to learn about some aspects of Taiwanese culture. I think one of the major aspects of Taiwanese culture that I ended up learning the most about was hip-hop culture in Taiwan. Professor Liao’s PowerPoint cleared up a lot of aspects of hip-hop culture in Taiwan and also helped to put a lot of other things into context. It makes a lot of sense that hip-hop came to Taiwan in the 1990s. When listening to a lot of the “older” groups/rappers, their music really has that more old-school vibe to it. It’s very similar to the style of hip-hop that was popular in the U.S. in the 90s. I believe Dr. T even said he listens to a lot of artists from that time period and they are part of his inspiration. It’s also really interesting in the way that hip-hop music is used as a medium for expression. In the U.S., African Americans used hip-hop as a way to express themselves and their discontent with how things were at the time. It seems like a lot of more modern Taiwanese rappers also use hip-hop in a similar way. They use hip-hop to express their discontent with the politics and relationship between China and Taiwan. In both the U.S. and in Taiwan, people who feel like they are not being heard are using music, specifically hip-hop, in order to have their voices heard. I think a major difference though is that obviously American hip-hop and the culture associated with that style of music, has spread beyond just the U.S. Clearly, Taiwanese hip-hop while still being wildly popular, is not something that is on people’s radar if they are outside of the general area of its origin. It’s interesting to think about the reasons why this might be the case. Part of this may just be due to a language gap, but people often say that music is a universal language. It seems like a lot of early hip-hop artists and more modern Taiwanese artists are converging on a motive of discontent with political situations, and I thought that was really interesting.
Another aspect of the Taiwan Culture Night that was interesting to experience was the wide variety of food/drink that was present at the event. You had both ends of the spectrum covered with both traditional Taiwanese teas to the massively popular bubble tea (also known as boba). Something that I had never really thought about was why bubble tea has taken off in the United States. I had heard of boba/bubble tea long before I had ever heard about any traditional Taiwanese teas. I also found this interesting because at a lot of bubble tea stores, you can order more “traditional” teas alongside things like milk or Thai teas. Maybe it’s because in the U.S. we’re partial to the sweeter flavors that you get from milk tea or brown sugar tea. However, traditional Taiwanese teas also offer a wide variety of flavors and varieties that most people in the U.S have never tried or are just not aware of. Just within the teas at the Culture Night, there were two kinds of Taiwanese oolongs being offered that were vastly different from each other in flavor and aroma. There was also another kind tea, which was a red tea. Red teas are more similar to what we in the U.S. refer to as black tea, but in China and Taiwan, black tea often refers to a type of tea called puerh. Traditional Taiwanese/Chinese tea is not something that a lot of people encounter in the U.S., but there are a few select enthusiasts who are very passionate about it. Tea plays a large part in Taiwanese culture and even though the trend of bubble tea has traveled to the U.S., traditional tea culture is still a bit of a mystery to most.
I decided to do a bit more research about bubble tea in Taiwan, since I don’t know a whole lot about it, and wanted to learn more after attending the cultural night. I found a super interesting website explaining a bit of the history behind bubble tea. The plant used to make the tapioca pearls, is actually made from a South American plant that found its way to Taiwan while it was under Japanese rule. I never realized that the Japanese rule over Taiwan lead to something so culturally significant like bubble tea. The article also talked about the origin of bubble tea as a drink. Bubble tea was essentially invented in Taiwan and has now become a massive part of the Taiwanese culture. People drink it very often and even have their own personal boba holders to help them hold the cups it comes in. I found this article interesting because I knew boba was huge in Taiwan, but I didn’t realize it was this large of a phenomenon and that it had truly spread all over the world.
Rice Rice Baby
Word count: 812
At the 2020 Taiwan cultural festival there were many fun and interesting activities such as tea tasting and lantern making. However what particularly caught my eye was the rice ball making station in between the bubble tea stand and the tea tasting stand. At the table were pieces of square saran wrap which you placed the rice and its filling before wrapping it and eating it. I thought this was particularly interesting as I have grown up eating Asian cuisine, particularly Chinese cuisine and the rice balls gave me a very familiar and warm feeling. The fillings that were offered at the cultural festival were seaweed, white sesame seeds, and pork floss(one of my favorite snacks before I became a pescatarian). Rice has been a prominent feature throughout Asia and is a staple in just about every meal whether it is part of the main dish or served as a side or supporting dish to the meal. Thinking about it, Taiwan’s rice balls(oblong) have other variations in other countries such as Japan’s onigiri or Korea’s kimbap. oblong, onigiri, and kimbap all consist of a rice ball or roll that has veggie or meat fillings. Variance of the rice balls can be found in their shape as oblong is more like a cylinder while onigiri is shaped like a triangle and kimbap is a thinner tube shape.
I thought that the oblong was interesting knowing some history of Taiwan in relation to China. As we have learned in class the conflict and war between the ROC and PRC caused the ROC party to flee to Taiwan as they were losing the battle. But even despite ROC moving to Taiwan and subsequently staying there and eventually wanting their own independence from China, a taste for the same food remained the same. In China their rice ball is called fan tuan while in Taiwan it is called oblong. Despite the difference in name, the dish remains the same and gives a reminder to an older era of food peddlers and vendors on the streets selling rice balls from early in the day until late at night. The original rice ball was simple, made of glutinous rice, pickled radish, mustard greens, braised egg, cruller(deep fried dough), and pork floss. However, the modern rice ball of Taiwan has taken in many more fillings and even variations of the rice. Today, oblong can be found in many different colors and with over 300 different filling combinations. A modern rice ball for a modern Taiwan.
But even with the modern twists of the traditional fan tuan or oblong, tradition seems to stand strong. The rice ball is still a staple in many local’s lives, sometimes eaten multiple times a day for seven days of the week. This is not only due to the rice balls classic flavoring but also due to the convenience of the food. The rice balls at most stalls or shops are made to order and wrapped freshling in plastic wrap, making a delicious meal for on the go. In addition, the rice ball can be bought or made and then stored for later consumption for up to two days and still remain fresh. Nothing better to start the day off with especially for only about $1.50 per rice ball or a simple 50NT piece of Taiwanese currency.
Overall, I thought the 2020 Taiwan cultural festival or event was very impressive especially with the Taiwanese rappers performance, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was the oblong. I thought it was kind of symbolic that the oblong originated from the Chinese fan tuan but has changed in many ways and modernized itself, just as the people of the ROC fled from China to Taiwan and have continued to transform and enhance themselves. And just as the oblong is still connected to its roots and main ingredients, it branches out to new flavors while continuing to remember where it came from. To me, rice is a food of the masses and no matter the difference of preference for the filling, the feeling of familiarity while eating this dish will remain the same. As the younger Taiwanese generation continues to grow and demand their independence as a country from China, their roots will remain unchanged. But the people of Taiwan, no matter their age or which generation they are from, can change and modernize into a new flavor that is convenient for the people. To me, rice is consistent and adaptable. A small grain but it can be so filling and create wonderful dishes such as fried rice, rice pudding, sticky rice cakes, and of course rice balls. To me that is precious and why I decided to focus on the rice balls at the festival.
Rapping From Coast to Coast
In Taiwan, there is an awe-inspiring and inspirational underground rap world. This caught me by surprise because when thinking of censorship in other countries, I don’t necessarily think of Taiwan, I immediately go to some other state like North Korea. However, I was mistaken. It is amazing how this community comes together and spread music, which in time speaks about political problems that are occurring. Personally, I can draw a comparison to the earlier years of rap in the United States. One analogy that could be presented is the impactful rap scene in the U.S. is the story of the famous rap ansible N.W.A… I feel that there is some comparison here because, in similar situations, there are some forms of censorship being that in Taiwan, this music must be underground. The culture has to be kept undercover because of what they say one example of this with the group from America was in one instance the performers were on tour, and the FBI was sending them letters subliminally threatening them. This harassment went to the extent that during one performance, they were prohibited from performing one of their most famous songs, “F*** The Police.” Still, due to the nature of the group, they performed the song regardless of what local law enforcement ordered them to do, eventually leading them to be arrested. However, there is censorship in both situations, the extent to which it is allowed in the country varies. Being that in the United States, many people believed N.W.A’s music to be violent and inappropriate, they were still allowed to reach the mainstream and become international superstars. Whereas in Taiwan, for similar reasons, these artists are forced to suppress their talents or keep it undercover in fear of reproductions. This fact is fascinating to me because there are similarities within the culture; however, due to regional power structures, the level of restrictions or resentment for the acceptance of a new form of expression. Also, coming from a country where it is believed that all people have freedom of speech. A country that portrays that ideal as one of their morals, it is impressive how another place can be so upfront about censoring a community.
In contrast, the U.S. of cores they say that this land was built upon specific values. Still, they are made with exceptions and are bendable. All of these underhanded actions occur typically in a more discreet manner so that they can not be exposed to what they indeed are. Looking at another example, when people think of Taiwan, their initial idea specifically when it comes to the arts might not be their colorful rap industries. One might consider traditional painting or more melodic and classical singers. This experience is shared by the Mexican rap culture more so by the interpretations of the outer world. Along with older generations, in how Mexico can be recognized for their paintings or their more mainstream “corridos,” thus not giving enough exposure and publicity. In this case, there is a similarity in the amount of exposure; however, in Mexico, other forms of art such as “corridos” are moving to have similar themes as those of rap songs.
Nevertheless, in both cases, the rap world has so little exposure but such a colorful history, for example, “Taiwan’s first notable hip-hop act was actually imported from the U.S. in 1991 when a trio of Taiwanese-American teens (Jeff Huang, Stanley Huang, and their cousin Steve Lin, all born and raised in Southern California) formed L.A. Boyz.” However these artists followed in the footstep or even were set in the shadow of “Taiwan’s receptiveness to Western pop and R&B had been firmly established for decades, with the ‘70s and ‘80s dominated by pop singers like Betty Chung, Wang Xiang Ling, and singer/actress Tian Ya Ge Nu, who sang in both English and Mandarin.” Other than the fact that rap wasn’t as appreciated, the is also the fact that most Taiwanese rappers rap in English, which is very interesting to see the influence of English speaking countries on art forms in other countries. Especially considering that I assumed it would be in Taiwanese with maybe a hint of English here and there.
Learning About Taiwan
The article “Born Independent Taiwan’s Defiant New Generation Is Coming Of Age,” by NPR’s Rob Schmitz I was very interested in the nature of the ideological divide of generations. I feel like it is common to see differences in ideology between generations. For example, in the United States, we are seeing a surge of left-leaning political ideology in younger generations, while older generations occupy conservative standpoints. Taiwan’s circumstances are very unique with how the opposition between the generations revolves around identity, with identifying oneself as Chinese or Taiwanese. This made me curious as to whether this same generational divide exists in other “independent” territories that China claims like Tibet and Hong Kong. From the article, I read about Tibet I understand that there is no real generational divide, Tibetan people are very unified and the history behind occupation is very different from both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Hong Kong’s history and generational divide are very similar to Taiwan’s. In a New York Times article by Amy Qin titled, “A Father-Son Split on Hong Kong Protests Shows City’s Generational Divide”. Just like in Taiwan, there was a wave of emigration out of mainland China of people who were fleeing Mao Ze Dong’s communist regime for reasons like political exile. Despite the history with China’s government, the older generations still consider themselves Chinese in Taiwan, and in Hong Kong, this older generation opposes the protests young people have in response to what they view as an overreach of mainland influence. The article about Taiwan and the article about Hong Kong both use conflicts between parents and their children as an example of this generation divide.
I think it is worth noting that while there is a noticeable difference in ideologies between generations, there are still young people in Taiwan who view themselves at Chinese and are not as opposed to China as well as members of the older generation in Hong Kong who support the recent protests in opposition to Chinese influence. This preference for democratic freedoms and values reflects a lot of western ideas, and many of those living in Taiwan do speak English. As someone who has always grown up in the United States you typically only see multi or bilingual people when they are of a different nationality or have a familial background from another country. And while many American students take Spanish classes or another second language, I can say with confidence that most students do not pick up languages that are not spoken at home unless it is in higher education like University. This is not the case in Taiwan, and it is reflected in the “Born Idependent…,” article with Jui-Ting Hsi who speaks English, and also in the article by Celia Ong, “The Next Wave of Taiwanese Hip-Hop Artists,” who have many songs either partially or entirely in English despite it not being the primary language of Taiwan. An interesting part of Taiwanese artists is that many of them have an American and Taiwanese background like L.A. Boyz. I think the interaction between American, Chinese, and Taiwanese culture is really clear and very interesting to see when looking at the music and backgrounds of the artists.
Moving beyond Taiwan’s interactions with China or with the United States, the Culture Trip article called, “The 9 Things Expats Love Most About Taiwan,” was really interesting to read about just Taiwan things. I did have to look up what “expat,” meant, which google told me was, “a person who lives outside their native country.” While the other articles were really interesting addressed a lot of relationships and connections transnationally with Taiwan, this one provided a lot of insight into what living in Taiwan is like. I think the thing that caught my attention the most was the small section on healthcare, which compared the cost of seeing a doctor and getting a prescription to the cost of, “a meal at Burger King or KFC,”. I had to go to urgent care just last week and got no medications or treatment, only a blood test, and my co-pay was $75. Information like this makes me want to become an “expat”. Another part of the article that caught my attention was the general descriptions of scenery and urban life and comparing them to the photos in the Smithsonian Magazine.
For the Taiwan culture night, I attended the movie showing of, “Long Time No Sea,” with some friends and asked them what some things that stood out to them were. All of them talked about the strictness of teachers and other unfamiliar dynamics in school, like having food brought to the classroom and having exercise time. While students in the United States have things like detention, the boy in the movie had to do a physical punishment for tardiness and inappropriate shoes. This level of strictness mostly surprised my friends because of the boy’s age. Another thing we discussed was how it was common for the children’s parents to move to Taiwan’s mainland in order to make more money and bring home goods. Overall, I think this project researching Taiwan has definitely made me more aware of the Taiwanese/Chinese conflict and had piqued my interest in potentially traveling to Taiwan one day.
Hong Kong -https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/28/world/asia/hong-kong-protests-china.html
With the many activities that were available and the relatively short duration of my stay, I was sadly not able to try out all of them. However, the ones that I was able to try such as the boba and tea station were absolutely amazing. Having not have had boba in about half a year, I had forgotten the unique and distinct drink that boba was. With so many exotic and sometimes questionable flavors being offered in stores, it was particularly nice to try a good old standard milk tea boba. At this point, I considered doing more research on boba, but then I tried the pineapple cake and was blown away by its flavor. Receiving some pineapple cake upon entering Thomas Hall was a delicious greeting, and certainly left a memorable impact on me. While the pineapple cake itself was impressive, my interest was more drawn to the large pineapple production that Taiwan had. While it made sense that pineapples would grow well in the relatively warm climate of Taiwan, I had never even thought of Taiwan as a major exporter of pineapples before. While looking for further information, I stumbled upon an article from Taiwan Today, a news journal backed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan), reporting on the pineapple industry in Taiwan. It began with a description of what a pineapple looked like, which to me at least sounded quite funny as it tries so hard to describe it, yet fails to create a proper image of a pineapple, at least in my head: “It has rigid, spiny-margined, curved leaves and a short stalk with a dense oblong head of abortive flowers. […] Its fruit, a sorosis, has very juicy pulp and consists of succulent fleshy inflorescence, which ripens into a solid mass invested with tough persistent floral bracts and crowned with a tuft of small leaves.”(Taiwan Today). To be fair, most people probably know what a pineapple looks like, but I still felt the urge to share this description they used, because it made me realize how difficult it actually is to describe a pineapple. While the article itself is quite old (apparently it’s from 1954), and thus has some information that may not fully be accurate anymore, it still contains some crucial information such as the number of cases that Taiwan exported during that time, which may be an indicator as to how big the pineapple industry was.
It mentions for example that the export of cases in 1945 dropped to a mere 22,499 (1.3%) of their yield of 1940 due to allied bombs destroying canning factories and forcing huge areas of cultivation land into disuse. The earliest records of pineapple cultivation in Taiwan date back over 250 years to a vernacular geographical publication, with possibilities of it going back even further. In the 1980s the first pineapple canning factories were built, even before the canning factories that were built in Hawaii by Mr. Dole. Workers would painstakingly process the pineapples, only being able to treat approximately 200 a day. This dramatically changed when machines were introduced, allowing for upwards of 60 pineapples per minute to be processed. Further changes were made to also make use of the “waste” products of pineapples, which made up close to 60% of a pineapple. These were then processed into liquors, sauces, syrups, and many other products which increased the net profit 37% over their manufacturing cost. In 1922 they also built a canning factory in Kaohsiung which meant that Taiwan no longer needed to import the cans and produce them locally.
While all of this is extremely interesting, perhaps the most interesting information I got from reading the article, was the section dealing with the diseases affecting pineapples that came with importing more exotic types. The article in a way bashes these exotic species because they require a lot of fertilizer and care, with the soil requiring a two-year rest period after three years of harvesting, compared to the local species being a lot more robust. Additionally, the diseases, wilt caused by insects, and fungi that plagued pineapple plantations in other regions were not as prevalent in Taiwan because of its drastic climate changes throughout the year which cut down on the population of them, and the lack of use of artificial chemicals. This gives the Taiwanese pineapples an overall favorable impression over the artificially fertilized and care-heavy pineapples from places like Hawaii. Something as subtle as this says a lot about a culture and gave me the impression that Taiwanese farmers respect and value traditional methods and do not simply copy what others do. In the future, I would love to try some canned, and some fresh Taiwanese pineapples and compare them to other types since the processed pineapples contained in the pineapple cakes most likely do not do justice to the taste of the Taiwanese pineapples.
820 words, Taiwan Today article (https://taiwantoday.tw/news.php?unit=8,8,29,32,32,45&post=13806)
10 February 2020
Taiwan: Storied Past, Bright Future
Historically, the divide began after World War II when the Republic of China began ruling Taiwan with the consent of its allies the US and the UK. In the following years, the leader at the time Chiang Kai-shek’s troops were beaten back by the Communist armies under Mao Zedong. Chiang and the remnants of his Kuomintang (KMT) government fled to Taiwan in 1949. After decades of turmoil, relations between China and Taiwan started improving in the 1980s. China put forward a formula, known as “one country, two systems,” under which Taiwan would be given significant autonomy if it accepted Chinese reunification. The offer was rejected, but Taiwan did relax rules on visits to and investment in China. In addition, Taiwan ended the war with China in 1991. After a series of elections that put independence-supporters into office, China stepped up pressure on international companies forcing them to list Taiwan as a part of China on their websites and threatening to block them for doing business in China if they failed to comply.
The push of the younger Taiwanese generation for independence from China has largely divided the country. The young generation is angry and fed up with China and their treatment. They see China as a threat to them and they want Taiwan to be seen as its own country. China sees Taiwan as a breakaway province that will eventually be part of the country again, but many Taiwanese want a separate nation. More and more young Taiwanese are becoming uncomfortable with the status quo of avoiding formal independence from China, and they’re voting for politicians who feel the same way. As a result, 42-year-old Freddy Lim was elected to parliament in 2016. Lim first became politically involved in 2010, as the local head of the rights group Amnesty International in Taiwan. Lim soon became one of the leaders of the Sunflower Movement, a popular stand against China’s influence over Taiwan that revealed a widening generational gap in how Taiwanese see China’s claim over their island. “A lot of young Taiwanese see Taiwan as a country, a different perspective from their parents,” says Lim in his legislative chambers. “They were born in a democratic, free society, and China is a threat to us.”
After attending the Culture Night event and making a rice ball and having bubble tea, I decided to research further into Taiwanese cuisine. Taiwan is famous for its incredible local cuisine. Some of the popular dishes include pork and rice, beef noodles, oyster omelets, and ba wan (giant meat dumplings) (CNN Travel.) The pork and rice, called lurou fan, features finely chopped, not quite minced, pork belly, slow-cooked in aromatic soy sauce with five spices. There should be an ample amount of fattiness, in which lies the magic. The meat is spooned over hot rice. A little sweet, a little salty, braised pork rice is comfort food perfected (CNN Travel.) Ba wan is a Taiwanese mega-dumpling made with a dough of rice flour, corn starch, and sweet potato starch, it looks almost translucent after cooking (CNN Travel). Much of the food in Taiwan can be found in one of the many night markets. The sights, sounds, and smells of the night markets of Taiwan are apparently incomparable to anything foreigners have experienced. In fact, it’s often at the night market that many find their favorite Taiwanese street foods.
Wong, Maggie Hiufu. “40 Of the Best Taiwanese Foods and Drinks.” CNN, Cable News
Network, 24 July 2015, http://www.cnn.com/travel/article/40-taiwan-food/index.html.
Roots of Taiwanese Cinema and Japan’s Influence
Listening to the NPR broadcasts and attending the Taiwanese Culture Night, brought Taiwan’s culture to my attention and made me realize how much in common Taiwan had with my own western culture. From the heavy metal politician to the hip hop professors, I found a lot I could easily relate to. Before attending the culture festival I was already a huge fan of boba and tea, but I also found a new favorite snack in the pineapple cake. After listening to the presentation and performance by Dr. T I was interested in investigating other forms of media from Taiwan.
I’m not the biggest fan of hip hop music in general but seeing the similarities between Taiwan and America’s hip hop I wondered what Taiwanese cinema might be like. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to the showing of “Long Time no Sea,” but I decided to do some reading into Taiwanese cinema on my own. Being that I have studied Japanese for three years, what I found peaked my interest. Since Japan colonized Taiwan from 1895-1945, it was actually Japanese filmmakers and Japanese propaganda films that established the first film industry in Taiwan.
The first films to arrive in Taiwan in 1899-1900 were only shown to Japanese audiences which consisted mainly of war films. Japanese and local Taiwanese audiences were segregated, not attending the same screenings of films. Since this was the case the first films brought by Japanese businessmen were shown exclusively to Japanese audiences.Until the 1910’s there were no dedicated movie theaters. Films were shown in exclusive clubs and only after the initial screenings were they brought to the Taiwanese public. These were traveling shows, screening anywhere from Taoist/Buddhist temples to large empty lots. The films gradually diversified, showing European and American films, comedies, and even short fiction.
Perhaps the father of the first actual film industry in Taiwan was Takamatsu Toyojiro, he was brought in by the Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi. At first he also showed screenings in the travelling style, given the task to “educate” the Taiwanese natives and to entertain Japanese populations living in Taiwan. Takamatsu’s films focused on teaching local Taiwanese the power of scientific progress and the culture of both the western world and Japan. He also produced many films showing off the beauty of the scenery in Japan. In 1904 and 1905 Takamatsu debuted a series of over 90 screenings about the Russo-Japanese war that were much to the delight of the Japanese colonial government. There were about a dozen films made depicting the war, and with an estimated 160,000 Taiwanese viewers funds were raised to send to the Japanese who were suffering from the war.
In 1907 Takamatsu was commissioned by the government to create A film about the conditions in Taiwan under Japanese rule. It was called “An Introduction to the Actual Conditions in Taiwan,” and it is considered Taiwan cinema’s first film. Takamatsu became Taiwan’s first movie and only movie producer for the first twenty years of Japan’s colonial rule. He later focused on opening movie theaters across Taiwan, and bringing in theatre, magic, and “Taiwan Drama” shows. After Takamatsu dropped out of the market and returned to Japan, the duty of creating government propaganda films was delegated to The Taiwan Education Society.
Although “education” was the original and ongoing function of the film industry in Taiwan in the mid 1910’s independent Japanese film studios started to enter the market, as well as foreign films from the west. Movies became more for entertainment with audiences enjoying action adventure films from Europe and America, and Comedies from Japan. Before the introduction of “talkies” a large draw for Taiwanese audiences were the commentators, “benshi,” that narrated films. Most of these benshi were Japanese but there were some famous Taiwanese benshi as well. From all this excitement came the call for a native Taiwanese film, there was envy for the Koreans who were already making their own.
Local actor in a Japanese film Liu Xiyang quit his job to answer the call to make the first Taiwanese film. He teamed up with his friend Kishimoto Satoru and formed the Taiwan Cinema Study Association in 1925. The first “pure Taiwanese film” was written and shot by Liu, titled “Whose Fault Is It?” However this film was a commercial failure and bankrupted their association. From there Chinese movies from Shanghai dominated the market and the Japanese government began to censor and ban movies that came from Shanghai over fears of Chinese influence. It would be a long time before local Taiwan made films would come to flourish, due to the lack of infrastructure in Taiwan to support such ventures. The Taiwanese people would continue to be the audience of Japanese propaganda films until Japanese rule ended after World War II.
My exposure to Taiwanese culture in class and at the culture festival led me to do some research of my own on something that interests me. I learned a lot not only about the history of film in Taiwan but also of the colonization of Taiwan by Japan. I did not know before embarking on this research just how long Japan had control of Taiwan, and the extent of Japanese influence on Taiwanese culture.
A Brief History of Taiwan Cinema, Daw-Ming Lee
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Taiwanese Diversity and the Push for Independence
Whenever I hear about Taiwan I try and remember what kind of a relation it carries with China. After reading articles and listening to lectures in class I have been reminded that it is legally a part of the Republic of China but has recently been trying to gain independence. Taiwan has had a rocky history of being claimed by China, colonized by the Dutch, controlled by Japan and then being a place of refuge. Many if not all East Asian countries have dealt with histories of hardship involving colonization and period of being controlled by another surrounding country. Taiwan is unique in the sense that although it’s legally part of China, it has its own government and has a different form of currency than its mainland counterpart. Taiwan naturally has strong economic and some cultural ties with China yet the divide between the two has greatly increased in the near years.
“Long Time No Sea” tells of a young boy (MA Na-Wei) living off the coast of Taiwan on Orchid Island. A young new teacher (Zhong-Xun Yu) new to his school volunteers to work with some of the young boys to learn an Aboriginal dance that could bring them to perform on the main Taiwanese island. MA Na-Wei lives with his grandmother as his father works in Taiwan as a cab driver to earn money for the family as work on Orchid Island is scarce. The island is very rural, there are not many cars or public establishments. It’s assumed that many of MA Na-Wei’s friend’s parent(s) also work on the main island and send money back. MA Na-Wei finds pride in the new dancing group and finds a mentor in Zhong-Xun. As the competition grows nearer and nearer MA Na-Wei’s father returns and gifts him a new pair of brand name shoes. MA Na-Wei is very excited but disappointed as they prove too small. His father promises to buy him another pair. The group of boys and Zhong-Xun travel to Taiwan and perform their dance on television. Right before the competition MA Na-Wei’s father gives a new pair of shoes to Zhong-Xun to give to MA Na-Wei. MA Na-Wei is happy to receive the shoes but runs out to find his father and is devastated as he drives away and doesn’t watch the dance. MA Na-Wei’s grandmother also asks his father to be more present but he always seems disconnected and unsure about spending time with his son. This movie displays the hardships of living in rural places with weaker public institutions. It also reminds us of the importance of maintaining traditional parts of culture. It also demonstrates the diversity of Taiwan as the dance competition involved dances from the various Aborginal groups in Taiwan, a reminder that Taiwan is home to many different people.
China and Taiwan (and like all other countries) have very distinct rural and urban populations. As both their economies have grown, they’ve brought expensive urban cities and poor, agricultural based rural cities. This begs the question of how both China and Taiwan will help their rural populations grow. As work becomes scarce in these areas many move into the cities seeking employment and must settle on low paying jobs.
It seems like Taiwan is slowly emerging as an economic player and is gaining momentum and global attention with their push for independence. Taiwan’s economy is fastly growing as major electronic companies and bike companies have large stakes in Taiwan. They’ve gained “US admiration” for their “economic success and democratisation” (BBC). The US has also offered military support and I feel like they will play a big role in the fight for their independence. As cultural differences and identity begin to increasingly shift among the younger populations, issues regarding reunification or independence are hot topics among political parties. Complaints of “financial insecurity and economic inequality, as well as dissatisfaction with Taiwan’s political factions” (CFR) have also arose throughout. Taiwan’s history is more complicated than China’s and leaves lots of grey space for the future of the island. Although claimed by China, Taiwan has been largely independent but could be held back by their economic ties with China. China has also spoken for Taiwan and limited their interaction with the larger world. In response Taiwan has planned to increase its defense budget and strengthened its relationship with the US through arms deals.
International relations and global politics are not new sectors of science but they’ve gained momentum in public and academic circles. The inner workings of China have always been in the limelight in one way or another. They have a reputation to withhold and a powerful influence to maintain. Therefore making this China/Taiwan conflict more and more interesting as economic, cultural and US ties hang in the balance. Taiwan is gaining more cultural recognition and challenges some of China’s defining features. It’ll be a relationship to follow as actions must be taken strategically to avoid a breakdown.
“Long Time No Sea.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 15 June 2018, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt7475882/.
Maizland, Lindsay, and Samuel Parmer. “China-Taiwan Relations.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, http://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-taiwan-relations.
McEneaney, Ciaran. “The 9 Things Expats Love Most About Taiwan.” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 2 Jan. 2018, theculturetrip.com/asia/taiwan/articles/the-9-things-expats-love-most-about-taiwan/.
McEneaney, Ciaran. “What Is Taiwan Most Famous For?” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 2 Jan. 2018, theculturetrip.com/asia/taiwan/articles/what-is-taiwan-most-famous-for/.
“What’s behind the China-Taiwan Divide?” BBC News, BBC, 2 Jan. 2019, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34729538.
Music Culture in Taiwan
The Taiwanese Cultural Night and the film “Long Time No Sea” gave me some understanding of the music culture in Taiwan. At the Cultural Night, Professor Liao’s presentation provided me with a lot of information on the history of Hip-Hop in Taiwan and how it has shaped a lot of the music and musicians in Taiwan. The performance by Dr. T was really cool because it gave me more insight into what Taiwan hip-hop sounds like, and the songs he performed had deep meaning about his life and experiences, unlike most of the current Western hip-hop music that focuses on drugs and partying. The film provided a different view of Taiwanese music, where most of the music in the movie was traditional or folk. I do not really listen to mainstream hip-hop music and tend to listen to Pop or RnB, so I wanted to learn more about music culture in general in Taiwan.
Professor Liao’s presentation starts in the 1990s, and he emphasized that around 2000, hip-hop was “growing organically from the grassroots in Taiwan,” meaning that Taiwanese artists began to form their own version of Western hip-hop. He also talked about how people not only rap in Mandarin but Taiwanese Hokkien, and sometimes even in Hakka or other indigenous languages. There are four main labels in Taiwan, and each has its own developed identity, similar to how there are many different labels in America for different genres of music. Professor Liao also mentioned that the majority of famous artists in Taiwan, especially in hip-hop, are male. However, he stated that more women could rise in the future because Taiwan’s hip-hop underground is partly fueled by university hip-hop clubs, and in the yearly cyphers released by those clubs, there is often at least one female voice.
I found two articles that discussed the types of Taiwanese musicians and their influence in Mandopop, which I initially thought was concentrated in Mainland China. The first article talks about how popular music in Taiwan stems from historical roots, opera, and folk, and it still contains that culture even though it has evolved into different genres. The article also talks about how Taiwan is a multi-ethnic society, so the people in Taiwan grow up in a very diverse environment. This diversity allows for people to be fans of both Western and Eastern music, like hip-hop and Mandopop. The article emphasized that diversity prompts musicians to experiment with Western and Eastern music styles and genres. Additionally, the article focuses on how Taiwanese music can be in Mandarin and/or Taiwanese, and that the musicians reflect the realities of living in Taiwan in their lyrics. We talked briefly about this in class, where we discussed that the musicians in Taiwan are sometimes heavily influenced by Western music, so their lyrics could be in Mandarin or entirely in English. We also learned that many Taiwanese artists include their life experiences or even political issues in their songs.
The second article that I read focused more on Taiwan’s influence on Mandopop. Mandopop is generally associated with Mainland China, but the article states that Taiwan has been a great contributor ever since the 1970s. For instance, the article talks about how Taiwan has a diverse selection of Asian artists, that are not limited to local Taiwanese, and how they are able to be successful locally and overseas. The article also compares Taiwan and Mainland China by stating that the pop scene in Taiwan has elements of political dissent and a yearning for free expression due to Taiwan’s unique history and culture. Unlike artists in Mainland China, Taiwanese artists can more freely and openly express their thoughts and opinions through their music.
I am familiar with very few Chinese and Taiwanese artists because I mainly listen to Korean music, like Kpop or Korean RnB, and some American artists. The Chinese and Taiwanese artists that I listen to are Eric Chou, Jackson Wang, Zhang Yixing (Lay), Luhan, and Jay Chou. After attending the Cultural Night, I have started exploring more Eastern artists and listening to various Taiwanese rappers. One thing I found interesting is how a lot of Eastern artists model themselves after or are influenced by Western artists. For instance, Dr. T talked about how old Western hip-hop artists influenced his music style. Additionally, in Professor Liao’s presentation, he stated that one of the first hip-hop groups in Taiwan was L.A Boyz, who were heavily influenced by Western styles and were commercially successful. Another thing that I noticed, and it was also mentioned in one of the articles I found is that Mandopop tends to be seen as a less highly produced version of Kpop. However, with all the new information I have learned about Taiwanese music, I think that while Mandopop is not as globally popular as Kpop, it sends out more unique and genuine messages.
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My experience at the Chinese Cultural Night.
The Taiwanese cultural night was very fun to go to. We got to eat some very good foods, such as the pineapple cake, and rice balls. I did not actually try the pineapple cake, as I dislike pineapple very much, but it looked very tasty. I did not know any of the history behind Taiwanese hip hop, and seeing how it was a parallel to our own hip hop history was really interesting to see. When the artist said that he was inspired by Notorious B I G, and other American rappers, that surprised me, as those were people that I listened to, so that really bridged a gap between the two cultures. Even though I could not understand the songs that were being sung by the singer, I still enjoyed the feel and the flow of the music, so it was overall very enjoyable.
I went with my good pal Luka, and we both sat next to each other in the audience. We both were discussing the performance and told each other our thoughts and views on the songs that happened previously, and our speculations on what was to come. I think that Luka really enjoyed the performance, in fact, after the night, on monday, we listened to other Taiwanese hip hop groups, like MC Hotdog and Trout Fresh.
Another interesting thing about Taiwanese hip hop, is they often incorporate a lot of sociopolitical points into their songs. Dwagie was well known for his socio political statements in his music, and he collaborated with a ton of different artists and people, which allowed for his message to spread more and more. Furthermore, a lot of Taiwanese hip hop does not shy away from subjects that can make the artist look less in charge. For example, in one of MC Hotdog’s songs, he describes his anxiety towards joining the military. This makes him seem weaker, as he does not portray himself as an infallible god, but instead portrays himself as a normal person with normal fears and hopes. I believe that people should listen to more Taiwanese hip hop, as it offers a different perspective than one that Americans would be used to. Additionally, listening to music in a language that one cannot understand, adds to the intrigue, and it makes it feel so much better when you nail a verse in the car, as they are words that you learned just for that song. If we could have more people being influenced by cultures other than their own, the world would become a more tolerable place to live in.
I listen to a lot of American hip hop. Notorious BIG is one of my favorite rappers, and I really enjoy the music that he wrote. When I heard the songs in the cultural night, the songs were enjoyable, but they seemed to be a very different style than Notorious. Whereas American rappers verses seem to focus on living a lonely life where all they can rely on is themselves, it sounded to me as if Taiwanese hip hop was able to focus more on everyone’s loneliness, and how we can all coexist, even if we are strangers to each other. This message to me is a much more positive one to the youth and adults of the world, as violence and loneliness will only lead to a sadder and less fulfilling life, whereas learning to love one another and help each other out will lead to a much better life for everyone in the entire world. For this reason, I think that Taiwanese hip hop should be listened to more, as they preach a world where we can all live happily.
Taiwanese food, specifically rice balls, are very different from other ways I’ve eaten rice. Most of the rice I’ve eaten is used as a platform or vehicle to carry the more “powerful” foods, such as proteins and vegetables, and it served mainly as a little filler, to make the meal last longer. In this scenario however, the rice has trapped the protein or vegetable inside, and it is allowing the heat of the food to permeate itself, thus leading to a more warm rice that tastes better. Additionally, it is “storing” the foods flavor, so when you take a bite from it, you get a much more powerful tasting food, than if you were to just have the filling over the rice. Even though this is a much different way to eat rice than what I am used to, it is essentially acting as a dumpling of sorts, which works for the rice’s inherent weak flavoring.
Overall, this cultural night allowed for me to think more about how even if things can seem very similar on a base level, it is the small changes that make the biggest differences, and lead to a more interesting world we live in.
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American v.s. Taiwanese Hip Hop
While attending the Taiwan Culture Night, I had some of the boba tea, rice balls and I saw the performance! Before the performance, a professor talked about the history and background of Taiwanese hip hop across the world. There was a significant amount of male artists and not a lot of female artists. In America, it seems like there is a somewhat equal spread of both male and female artists but there is a large emphasis on male rappers. Something that I did notice was that while the artist at the culture night was performing, they were going in between Taiwanese and English. I have noticed this in other languages as well such as K-Pop but it almost never happens with American and English artists. Certain words in the Taiwanese songs would be in English and I was wondering if they only do that when performing in front of audiences who primarily speak English or if they always switch between the languages. As I stated before, this almost never happens with songs in English. As stated in an article that I read, LA Boyz wrote all of their songs in English even though it was not their first language because they wanted to please their English speaking audiences. It was stated that LA Boyz became the Asian equivalent of Michael Jackson which goes to show how big of an impact they made on hip hop culture in Asia. Hip Hop artists in Asia also examined those in the United States and adapted parts of their culture into their songs. LA Boyz and other artists were heavily influenced by OutKast which is a very unique and popular band in America. Something else that I also found interesting was the process of naming the bands. I would typically expect Asian bands to have names pertaining to their own culture but instead, they used American culture to name their groups such as LA Boyz and MC Hotdog. Another thing I noticed is the style and how they dress compared to hip hop artists in America. From the performance at the Taiwanese culture night, the performers were wearing clothes that seemed very similar to American hip hop artists as well. While seeing different artists from other countries, I typically expect a change in style just due to cultural differences. For example, K-Pop is very unique in the sense that bands like BTS have a very unique and almost feminine style. Artists in the United States are beginning to step out of societal norms especially established through gender and sexual orientation. Harry Styles is a prime example of the evolution of style. Something that I would have expected to change throughout the different cultures would be what each artist sings and raps about. In reality, both Taiwanese and American artists rap about sex, drugs, and love. Occasionally, when Asian rappers are rapping in Taiwanese or Chinese, they talk more about things that apply directly to their own culture. This makes it so they are able to connect to audiences all over the world. Something that is constant through both Taiwanese and American hip hop is their use of outside sources in their art. In America, artists will sometimes take parts of movie dialogue or remix the soundtracks of popular movies in order to gain a larger following. In the article that I read and other pieces I have listened to, some of these Taiwanese and Asian artists take more childish sounds and pieces that pertain to certain anime movies and incorporate them into their music. They do this in order to also reach other audiences but also to pay tribute to these unique aspects of their culture. Taiwanese hip hop artists have also realized that they want to touch the younger generation and inspire them to create this type of music. They are rapping about the more real things in life to portray that people can use music as an outlet to relay their feelings if they don’t feel comfortable talking about them. Rappers and hip hop artists in Taiwan are creating a larger spectrum of things to talk about which inspires others to create music and it also lets people know that their issues are accepted and they don’t need to be afraid. Taiwanese and American hip hop are very different in how they deliver their intended messages but they also share very similar qualities that make them appeal to audiences all around the world. Their similarities and differences were both portrayed at the Taiwanese culture night. The performance and history of these artists were very interesting and I found it intriguing to hear them perform in another language but also tie in American culture.
word count: 787
Music is an important aspect to many cultures especially traditional music. While attending the Taiwanese culture event, I have learned that music is important when it comes to expression of oneself. Even traditional music/dance, as represented by the film, is important when telling a story or showing the way someone/a group of people feel.
The film did a great job of looking into the powerfulness of traditional music and how over time, the music can tell the story of the current state of the people. The movie emphasized the idea that Taiwan is a place in which people could go to restart and could get a more sustainable career. Many parents of the students in the films worked in Taiwan in order to make a living and rarely were able to visit their families. The teacher took note of this and for the dance competition composed a song and choregraphed a dance that honored the customs of the island but told the story of missing someone, as like the children missing their parents. Traditional music is a key aspect to culture. In various cultures music and dance is important to history. It is typically a huge part of culture and it tells the story of the people and their history.
In the culture event it was brought to attention how hip-hop is on a rise in Taiwan. The music is used to express the artist’s passions and thoughts. The hip-hop industry is slowly changing and is becoming more popular. Some artists use this forum to express Taiwan and various political situations, such as Lim Freddy. Lim Freddy, one of the leaders of the Sunflower movement, came out with a song about the political movement, “UNLimited Taiwan.” In this song Lim uses the lyrics to express the power that the people of Taiwan have and essentially encourages people to stand up for a change in which will free Taiwan from China. He expresses the unfairness that is occurring in the chorus and through the lyrics and his own personal actions is encouraging people to get involved. As a listener, you can hear the passion in the lyrics and honestly would feel somewhat motivated to make a change, especially since his actions match his lyrics. The genre is even spreading to more of a gender balance. As seen in Professor Liao’s presentation, there are more female artist coming to light but slowly. Since music is quite influential and powerful the rise in female artist being brought to attention will hopefully help with gender inequality.
Upon further listening to Taiwanese hip-hop, I have realized that even though the songs are the same genre, the artists have various styles. The variant in styles can connect to a broader range of people while still getting similar messages across. I will say, much like American hip hop, there is a lot of songs about desires but there are also songs that deal with a deeper meaning such as the song “Life is a Struggle” by 宋岳庭. Looking at the lyrics of this song, the artist talks about his life but also the downfall of people. He mentions greed of people in sense of how powerful money is.
Listening to music can be an eye opener when you pay attention to the lyrics. Such as the lyrics in “Life is a Struggle,” it leads you to think about your own daily life and actions, at least it did for me. The lyrics can be motivating, not in every case, in sense that they can empower people to want and make a change. Listening to the music and hearing the artist’s passion can lead the listener to feel empowered to change their own desires, possibly releasing attachment to materialistic items. Granted the song is not encouraging people politically, but for me, I felt motivated morally in the sense that sometimes people’s morals don’t align with their actions or may not even benefit them or the people around them.
Through the Taiwanese culture event, the film, and further listening to Taiwanese hip-hop, I have learned that music is an important tool when it comes to motivating people to change. Even something as simple as listening to a female hip-hop artist is already empowering in the sense that it helps in gender balancing. Music can be used as a political motivator, such as Lim Freddy’s music, or connect to people on an emotional level and support change with something such as morals, like 宋岳庭 songs. Music is important to culture since it can be a way to tell the story of the past and present and represents the hope for the future.
Word Count: 777
Brown, Calin. “No, We’re Not Quite There Yet: Taiwan’S Road To Gender Equality – Ketagalan Media.” Ketagalan Media. N.p., 2016. Web.
Chthonic. Unlimited Taiwan. Taipei: N.p., 2007. Audio Recording.
Ong, Celia. “The Next Wave Of Taiwanese Hip-Hop Artists.” The Next Wave of Taiwanese Hip-Hop Artists | Bandwagon | Music media championing and spotlighting music in Asia.. N.p., 2019. Web.
Schmitz, Rob. “‘Born Independent,’ Taiwan’s Defiant New Generation Is Coming Of Age.” Npr.org. N.p., 2018. Web.
宋岳庭. Life Is A Struggle. Taipei: N.p., 2003. Audio Recording.
Word count: ~650
Pineapples in Taiwan
In Taiwan, it’s customary for a tourist to try a famous pineapple cake. Comparable to America’s Fig Newtons, the cake consists of a pineapple tart jam enclosed in a crust made with a few simple ingredients. However, these cakes have much more meaning than just being a tasty treat. The pineapple industry in Taiwan has been around for a while, and still exists today.
Pineapple canning and cultivating was introduced to the island of Taiwan during the Japanese Era. The Japanese would have the natives grow and industrialize the crop, so that it could be exported to other areas in the world. This caused a boom in Taiwan’s economy, and one that lasted for almost 50 years. It revived agricultural farming and rural tourism. Towards the end of World War II and as the second half of the 20th century began, Taiwan’s pineapple industry began falling. Rationing and shortage of materials halted production, and other areas of the world were finding ways to grow pineapples so they wouldn’t have to import them. Southeast Asia specifically began to grow and overshadowed the island. Instead of trying to find something new, local Taiwanese shifted their pineapple industry to staying domestic. It was around this time that pineapple cakes were created. There’s no concrete facts about the creation of these tasty treats, but it’s widely accepted that they began popping up in the 1970’s.
Taiwan loves their pineapples not only for their unique taste and texture, but because of a quirk in the language. In Hokkien, pineapple is translated as “ông-lâi” (王梨). This is almost identical to “ōng-lâi,” (旺來) which translates as a wish for prosperity. As a result, pineapples and any pineapple related goods are given as wedding gifts, as it wishes the new couple a happy family and a long marriage. They are also given to new homeowners, so that they may live long, successful, happy lives in their new house. Sometimes, pineapple cake fillings are tainted with the presence of winter melon, an almost tasteless fruit that serves as filler. This is seen as tacky and cheap, and often results in a lower quality dessert. Giving one of these cakes is seen more as an insult, as it gives the impression of a cheapskate almost. Today, Taiwan even has an annual festival celebrating the delicious cakes in Taipei.
Compared to other cultures, the importance of pineapple in Taiwan is similar, but not the same. While they represent prosperity, in most cultures pineapples represent both hospitality and luxury. They both give messages of peace, success, happiness, and luck but in different methods. Prosperity comes like a gift from another; if a family gifts you and your new spouse a pineapple they hope that your life together will be grand. Hospitality is more of a characteristic appointed by an individual. In Europe, people would leave pineapples on their porches to show how friendly they were, and how great their lives were. Often only wealthy people would have pineapples due to the practically nonexistent shelf life of the fresh fruit.
Today, Taiwan’s biggest exports are to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Canada. Due to Hawaii being the more well-known hub of pineapple culmination, the United States and Europe get their fruit from there. However, a unique attribute to Taiwanese pineapples is that they are often not pumped with artificial preservatives like Hawaiian pineapples. In 2011, it was reported that the pineapple industry alone contributed $845 million to Taiwan’s economy.
Taiwan Culture Night blog
Taiwan Culture Night Learning Experience
When I attended the Taiwan Culture festival on campus. There were various stations of activities to do and look at. Some were tasting foods and drinks (soba or tea) while others were informational (unique studying abroad in Taiwan) or even some arts and crafts like making a unique paper lantern. The activities that I tried were the tea stand and looked at the study abroad posters. The study abroad posters had fun pictures of fun and interesting sites in Taiwan. Afterwards, I hung out Kong Mao Ping while talking with him about Chinese. When Suen laoshi was about to announce the slideshow and teacher Liao about Taiwanese hip hop history of previous hip hop artists of Taiwanese citizens and Taiwanese citizens in America. After the slideshow, Suen laoshi introduced us to a famous rapper and performed some interesting and catchy songs in Chinese with two other singers. Each song was an interesting experience of music and singing in a foreign country. Everyone got up on their feet and threw their hands up in the air and danced to the rhythm of the singing and music. It was a real musical blast of cultural rapping. After the rapping was done, some questions were asked and offered a unique boxed lunch from Taiwan as a reward for a correct answer. Unfortunately, I didn’t answer a question, so I didn’t get a boxed lunch. But I enjoyed the unique musical performance that was given much more. After the performance and questions, I went to check out the tea stand and tried out different types of tea they provided for people to try. When I tried each tea, I couldn’t choose a favorite among them. But I did enjoy each one of them.
New info that I learned when I attended the culture night festival was of the different types of hip hop in Taiwan and its history of artists throughout time. In the 1990’s the group LA Boyz (group of American Taiwanese citizens) traveled to Taiwan from California and exposed a new wave of music to Taiwanese hip hop. In about the year 2000, a similar thing happened when Shawn (A life’s a struggle) went to Taiwan to perform his hit song. Hip hop in Taiwan evolved and grew in popularity in Taipei, Taichung, and Tainan. Musical groups and artists soon became popular with Taiwanese hip hop rapidly growing. Some examples of groups that were born were MC Hotdog and Tripoets grew in Taipei. T.T.M grew in Taichung. In Tainan, Bamboo gang, E.A.C, and Dwagie. In Taiwan, people not only rapped in Mandarin, other languages such as Taiwanese Hokkien or Hakka along with other languages. But along with the growth of Hip hop in Taiwan and various musical groups growing, something was missing: women. Throughout the growing popularity, the gender imbalance of hip hop had women not being seen when it was men who was rising and popping out as rap artists or groups.
In the 90’s, Taiwan’s exposure to Western pop and R&B was well received. As a result, local singers such as Betty Chung and Wang Xiang Ling emerged who could sing in both English and Mandarin. When LA Boyz came to Taiwan to perform, the local youths were ready to embrace them with ecstatic dancing and support to hip hop sound. Taiwanese hip hop began to grow when Taiwanese people came from America back in the 1990’s. Over time when bands began to perform in Taiwan, hip hop begun to grow in popularity and had musical groups or artists emerge and brought in a new wave of musical excitement to Taiwan.
The part the I liked the most at the culture night festival was trying out the different types of tea and looking at the posters from other students who went to study abroad in Taiwan. The photos had pictures of various tourist attractions like ancient and sacred temples and local food that is served there and group pictures of students from University of Puget Sound with locals from Taiwan who were studying with them. Aside from looking at the posters and pictures, I also took a small glimpse of the info packet that listed various information about the schedule, regulations, goals, and, etc… about studying abroad in Taiwan. The Taiwan culture night festival was a fun time that gave interesting exposures to students taking Chinese and those who came from Taiwan.
Long Time No Sea and the Cultural Differences Between Taiwan and the Aboriginal Communities.
Taiwan often is very strongly associated with China. When I think about the composition of the population of Taiwan I often think about the majority group, Han Chinese, frequently forgetting about the aboriginal groups that are there too. “Long Time No Sea” was a movie that follows the stories of a Tao boy and Taiwanese teacher and how their lives intercept. It was interesting because of how the movie contrasted the cultures of Orchid Island and Mainland Taiwan. It also highlighted the differences between the rural island and the city.
The urbanization of the big cities in Taiwan like Taipei and, like in the movie, Kaohsiung, leads to mass migrations. This was shown in the movie through the main character, Ma Na-Wei’s father. His father left Orchid Island and went to Kaohsiung to find work and rarely saw his son. This movie was interesting to me because at first when I think of Taiwan, I don’t think about the small islands surrounding it and how its growth affects those places too. Ma Na-Wei’s father was a taxi driver and the whole premise of the movie was how he was adjusting to not seeing his father everyday and living with his grandmother. The most striking part was how when Ma Na-Wei went to see his father, the father left in a taxi because he put work and finances first.
In many cases, urbanization leads to homogenization and loss of culture and this movie shows both sides to this. Long Time No Sea shows the struggle to keep this culture alive. The main evidence showing loss of culture was the movement away from traditional clothing. Most of the people on Orchid Island and in Taiwan wear modern clothing however they show the effort being made to be reminded of these traditions. Zhong-Xun Yun was a teacher who came from Taiwan and he ended up teaching the traditional Tao dance to his students. In this dance they highlight the fishing culture with the traditional clothing. They also feature a boat that highlights the importance of this artisan craft in Tao culture.
Something that I found interesting about this movie was that Zhong-Xun Yun built such a close relationship with his students. This shows the general continuation of the value of community and how an understanding teacher can help students grow. The teacher became more understanding of Ma Na-Wei’s situation based on his family’s source of income and father being away and almost became a father figure to Ma Na-Wei. It reminds me of the “It takes a village” proverb. Even though Ma Na-Wei’s father was prioritizing his work as the main breadwinner for the family, the teacher was able to support Ma Na-Wei to the best of his ability. This can also be shown in the living situation of Ma Na-Wei. He lives with his Grandmother but his Uncle also takes care of him and he has those support systems.
In general Taiwan is mostly Han Chinese as well as immigrants from China. Taiwan tried to become a sovereign state and and for me, my assumption of the situation was that most Taiwanese people identified as their own entity rather than a part of China. I did not realize that there is quite a large population that do actually feel like they are still part of China. Similarly to the Hong Kong independence movement, they both ended up continuing to be a part of China even though they did not want to. Another thing that is relatively similar was that the populations of both of these regions are divided. In the podcast we listened to in class, families avoid talking about this to stay away from conflict. In Hong Kong, people have been set on fire for expressing their beliefs. People on both sides of the conflict were reacting violently and for the most part it is easier to avoid talking about to stay away from that topic.
In a Bloomburg article talking about the Hong Kong Umbrella Protests, they talk about the symbolism and use of the umbrellas. It highlights the violence taking place on both sides which shows the divide between the population, similar to Taiwan just more violent. I found this article interesting because often times people only hear one side of each story and the protesters are often held on a pedestal and you don’t always hear about the side of the population that isn’t fighting.
Taiwan and Hong Kong are interesting examples of the split between two populations in their Chinese identities. The movie Long Time No Sea was interesting in also showing the contrasts between the rural areas and the major cities in both economic and social situations.
Hip Hop in the Era of Golobalization
One of the most interesting parts about the Taiwan Cultural Night for me was the performance of Taiwanese hip hop. Over all, the performance raised one major question for me; if music has historically played a formative role in counterculture movements, how does Taiwanese hip-hop serves a similar purpose today, if at all? This further raises questions about the expression of a distinctly Taiwanese identity.
Because of hip hop’s origin in the U.S. and subsequent exportation to Taiwan in the form of the LA Boyz, as well as its reputation as a form of expression unique to a younger generation, I was curious about the reaction of the older generation to hip hop (Morrison 2019). All though I could find very little about the attitudes of older citizens (apart from some groups of dancing seniors), it appears that the primary source of disapproval towards hip hop comes from Chinese officials, who dismiss it as “low-taste content” and offensive (Willhoft 2018). This official discontent is particularly directed at the content of some newer iterations of Taiwanese hip hop. According to both Morrison at Bandcamp as well as Aaron Wytze Wilson at the Taipei Times, Taiwanese hip hop is increasingly being used by a new generation of Taiwanese rappers to express a new, distinct sense of Taiwanese identity that is separate from, and in fact mutually exclusive with, Chinese identity. The controversy that this can create is evident in a story published in the Taipei Times, in which a Taiwanese rapper invited onto a show with broad Chinese and Taiwanese viewership disparaged Chinese tourists during a freestyle (Wilson 2015). The backlash from Chinese viewers was immediate, with thousands “jumping the firewall” in order to criticise the rapper, Junsheng (俊升), as well as the show, Here Comes Kangxi (康熙來了), on the internet. Frustrated viewers even went so far as to send death threats to Junsheng.
This occurrence suggests, as we heard in the NPR piece “‘Born Independent’; Taiwan’s Defiant New Generation is Coming of Age,” that young Taiwanese people identify as distinct Taiwanese. Furthermore, it suggests that they are becoming increasingly bold in expressing that opinion. This boldness might have troubling consequences, as the Chinese government has been explicit in its condemnation of Taiwanese sovereignty.
Another issue raised by the ascendance of Taiwanese hip hop is that of the role of media and globalization in social movements around the world. With the rise of technology, even repressive governments like that of China are having an increasingly difficult time controlling the diffusion of information and culture. As the growing global popularity of hip hop in general, and Taiwanese hip hop in particular, exposure to new ideas and forms of entertainment is becoming an incontestable fact of life. This carries significant cultural and political implications. If, as it has in the instance noted above, Taiwanese hip hop continues to provide a voice to alternate, somewhat subversive (depending on where you’re sitting) ideologies framed in a way that is both accessible and hard to contain, the potential for political movements to gain momentum across borders seems to me to be fairly monumental. From a cultural perspective, the increasing globalization of entertainment seems to me to have two possible outcomes. The first possibility appears to me to be the death of tradition. As more and more people are exposed to global entertainment, regionally and culturally distinct art forms will become increasingly diluted and/or coopted by big business. To a pessimist, this phenomena may be evident in the commercial success of LA Boyz, a group that rapped exclusively in English. On the other hand, I think there is also reason to believe that the globalization of entertainment will result in a plethora of distinct, culturally specific adaptations of various styles of global media and music. This may be evident in the subsequent generation of Taiwanese rappers, who often rap in English, Chinese, and Taiwanese, and do so in a way that makes use of uniquely Chinese and Taiwanese cultural elements.
As a side note, I was very interested in the number of early Taiwanese rappers who have pursued careers in education or academia. Although this career path is not necessarily unique to Taiwan, it does not seem to be as prevalent among hip hop artists in the US or elsewhere. This makes me curious as to the place that Taiwanese hip hop occupies in Taiwanese society and how that compares to the place of American hip hop in our own culture. As an upcoming Taiwanese hip hop artist studying at the University of Oregon observed, artists tend to address their own personal experiences in their work. The differences in what personal experiences hip hop artists in different cultures have to draw off of therefore impacts the message of their music, and therefore who listens to it and what purpose it serves. As music continues to spread globally, it will be interesting to observe the new and different perspectives that are expressed, as well as how those perspectives are received by audiences.
Hip Hop and Queer Culture in Taiwan
As someone who loves music, the most interesting part of the night was learning about the history of hip hop music in Taiwan. Growing up with American music meant taking a lot of genres for granted because they’ve just been around for so long, so it was a shift in perspective to learn that hip hop is a fairly new wave in Taiwan. After further reading, one thing that stuck out to me was the lack of female participation in the rap scene. Here, the hip hop scene is definitely male-dominated, but there are still female artists interrupting the imbalance. This is a contrast to Taiwan, where there is only one well known artist who is fairly new to the scene, no professional female MCs, and very few professional female hip-hop DJs (Schweig 385). What’s really interesting about that is that the lack of female representation comes from Confucian gender roles, which say that women are inherently more inward, while men are more outward (Schweig 385). Although not quite so derived from Confucius, America has similar gender roles for males and females; however, these gender roles are being challenged by feminist and queer theories.
One thing that has been emphasized about this particular genre of music is the artists’ advocacy for change, encouraging listeners “to participate in the island’s fledgling democracy,” as well as supporting other “progressive causes such as Taiwan’s environmental, animal rights, anti-nuclear, and indigenous rights movements,” yet those same figures resist feminist and queer politics (Schweig 385). I actually feel like this is similar to beliefs held in the American hip-hop scene as well. Older generations of artists may advocate for various types of social justice, but they are resistant to feminism and queer empowerment. In contrast to the resistance of the new generation hip-hop artists in Taiwan, new generation hi-hop artists in America are beginning to advocate for feminist and queer policies, expecially as queer artists begin to emerge on the scene.
Despite this, the emerging scene is considered a positive because it creates a space for male self-empowerment and new male social roles. In historical context, this makes sense and is a positive for men. However, that doesn’t make up for the exclusion of female artists from the hip-hop scene. Feminist theory would argue that men have always had a place to express themselves, supported by the context of the Confucian gender roles that still influence the social dynamics in Taiwan. Not only are female artists very rare in the hip-hop scene, there was no mention of queer artists at all, in both the presentation during culture night as well as the article I used to support my previous ideas. This was something I was curious about, so I did more research. Through this, I found out that Taiwan has been considered a “queer safe haven” for Asians since before same-sex marriage laws were passed (Timmerman). Taiwan is a place where members of the LGBTQI+ community in Asia can feel comfortable and safe expressing gender identities and sexuality that is still looked down upon in many Asian countries. People travel from South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia to celebrate at annual Pride parades in Taipei (Timmerman). After reading about the more conservative policies of other places, this is pretty incredible.
Overall, Taiwan Culture Night made me really curious about other aspects of Taiwan, including music and the queer community. Since learning more about the history of hip-hop in Taiwan, I have found Taiwanese rap artists that I really like, which inspired a little more digging to find Taiwanese indie bands. I’m still sorting through them, but this was a fantastic opportunity to expand my music taste. Initially, I was unsure of what would come back in my quest to find out about queerness in Taiwan, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Taiwan is a leader in queer acceptance and representation in Asia. After learning all of this, it makes a lot more sense that the younger and older generations are so split between their identities, as so much has changed in Taiwan over the past decade.
Links to Sources:
Taiwan’s Unique Culture
February 18th, 2020
Word count: 811
Taiwan is a fascinating place with most of its population coming from mainland China after the communist forces, and the red army drove out the nationalist Kuomintang party. The Kuomintang members moved to Taiwan to set up their government with the eventual goal of returning to mainland China. This all happened in the late 1940s, and still, to this day, the Kuomintang remains in Taiwan. Throughout the years, this has created a divide between cultures and generations. The separation between Taiwan and China has caused a unique culture to develop in Taiwan.
One example of Taiwanese culture is the self-identity of people living in Taiwan, and the younger generations claim to be Taiwanese. In comparison, the older generations still believe that they are Chinese. The younger generation believes in Taiwan, and they have known nothing else. They are the second or third generation to be born in Taiwan, so of course, they identify themselves as Taiwanese. While the older generation still believes that they are just displaced Chinese and naturally identify themselves as Chinese. I find this divide between the generations to be fascinating. I find it bizarre that children and parents self identify themselves as members of different cultures. Compared to the culture in the U.S., it is different where I believe that most families identify themselves as from the same nationality and culture.
Another part of Taiwanese culture is their Hip Hop scene, first started by the L.A. boyz who were active between 1991 through 1997. Taiwanese hip hop started as an underground movement, and now many artists are signed by Taiwanese labels. Taiwanese Hip Hop is influenced by traditional American Hip Hop but with there own twist. Many artists in the scene sing in either English Chinese or a combination of both, many songs are also about love. Most songs include explicit language and minor drug references. The Hip Hop scene definitely has similarities to the American Hip Hop scene. With similar beets and some similarities between the meanings of some songs. There is also quite a difference in the two hip hop scene with the American one being a lot larger and most of the meanings of the two styles of songs being different. Another similarity between the two is that both the American and the Taiwanese hip hop scene is prominently male with just a few female artists. Finally, another unique part of the Taiwanese hip hop scene is many OG’s in Taiwanese Hip Hop became professors later in life.
Taiwan’s Hip Hop Scene is growing fast and out of the underground. I was interested in how the Hip Hop is developing in Taiwan and where its support was coming from. I found an article titled; Taipei’s hip-hop scene that emerges from the underground Written by Amire Rasool. The article talked about how the hip hop scene is growing in Taiwan and some of the American influences on Taiwan’s Hip Hop scene. Rasool explains the American influence by writing, “Musically, the golden age of hip-hop and trap music reign supreme in Taipei. The J Dilla and N.W.A Beats that once defined the city’s underground scene still remain, however, newer trap artists like Migos, Future, and Young Thug have seen a major boost in popularity”. Even though American Artist is prominent in Taiwan, “local hip-hop musicians are attracting a great deal of mainstream notoriety. These artists record in Mandarin and seek to tell a more personal story about their experiences living in Taiwan that other Taiwanese people can relate to” explaining why there own hip hop is growing and booming. Another critical element to the Taiwanese Hip Hop that Rasool told is “Unlike China, however, hip-hop has garnered a lot of support from the Taiwanese government, specifically in Taipei. Last year the mayor of Taipei, 59-year-old former trauma surgeon Ko Wen-Je, teamed up with local rapper Chunyan to produce the trap single “Do Things Right.” In the video, the mayor and Chunyan appear under flickering lights to encourage viewers to do right in the community”. This support of the artist from the government is entirely different then Chinas view of Hip Hop, which shows why the Taiwanese Hip Hop scene is so unique to Taiwan. The support that Taiwan is giving its artist is priming Taiwanese hip hop to grow in a big way as the artist continues to develop their style and voices.
Taiwan’s unique history has created a new culture and a new cultural divide between the generations. Taiwanese culture has also developed its own thriving Hip Hop culture. The new Hip Hop culture, which is influenced by the American Hip Hop culture, is growing rapidly with the support of the government and a growing fanbase. The separation between Taiwan and China has caused a unique culture to develop in Taiwan.
Rap Music And Identity In Taiwan
On Saturday February 15th, I attended the Taiwan Cultural Night Reception at Thomas Hall. While I was there, I sampled boba tea, spoke to a student about study abroad opportunities in Taiwan and watched the Taiwanese rap performance. One of the first things I did was sampling boba tea. While I already knew that boba tea was a mixture of tea with bubbles made from tapioca, I had never tried it before. I was reluctant to try it as I am not a regular tea drinker however I enjoyed it much more than normal tea. Shortly after trying boba tea, I sat down as the introduction on Taiwanese rap by Professor Liao began. Professor Liao started by talking about the geography of Taiwan and how the cities of Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung have different styles of rap music. The thing that is most interesting to me about the popularity of rap music in Taiwan is how quickly the popularity of rap music began to grow. Taiwanese rap music started in the 1990’s after Taiwanese Americans living in the Los Angeles area began rapping in Chinese instead of English. The Taiwanese rap scene then spread to Taipei, where artists such as MC HotDog began to become some of the most well known rappers in Taiwan.The themes in Taiwanese rap are similar to the themes in American rap where struggles and newfound success are popular topics. One of the first Taiwanese rap groups to enjoy success was L.A Boyz, a trio active from 1991-1997 that along with MC HotDog and MJ116 began to shape the key concepts of Taiwanese rap. One of the popular concepts in Taiwanese rap music and other forms of music in Taiwan is cultural identity. After World War II and civil wars in China, many Chinese families fled mainland China for refuge in Taiwan. The children who came over from China and the future children of immigrants were taught in school that their identity was Chinese, not Taiwanese which led older Taiwanese people to being more tolerant of China’s influence on Taiwan. The younger generations who were born in Taiwan and were either performing or listening to rap music began to question their identity. They began to think of themselves as Taiwanese instead of Chinese and they expressed frustration with the amount of influence China exerts on Taiwan and the lack of recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign state by the international community to avoid angering China. The generational divide in Taiwan has been present in different types of music since 1975. The older generation that identifies as Chinese first listened to Teresa Teng and other Mandopop artists, who were known for writing songs about love and relationships, that were not politically charged. The younger generation that identifies as Taiwanese listened to Taiwanese rap music and other new forms of music at the time, where the Taiwanese identity and national pride are themes that are discussed often. The younger Taiwanese generation feels that they are not people of Chinese descent living in Taiwan but that they are their own group of people that want to be recognized as Taiwanese only. Like all other forms of rap music, Taiwanese rap music features themes with political undertones and cultural commentary. However unlike America, in the 1990’s the democracy in Taiwan was still in its infancy. Many Taiwanese rappers and other musicians were brought up in a free society, full of independent thinkers. The rappers and musicians then took these ideas from their free society and began expressing these views in their music. These views then began spreading throughout the population in turn becoming more widely accepted and popular. As a result of this, rap music in Taiwan has come with a growing generational divide between families over the Taiwanese identity. Older generations still feel some loyalty to China and are reluctant to embrace the label of Taiwanese while younger generations are proud to be Taiwanese and are upset at the lack of recognition of Taiwan in the Western world. The generational divide will still persist as China and Taiwan head down diverging roads that seem unlikely to reunite both entities. The rap music of Taiwan is representative of the struggle for Taiwanese identity and the pride in being Taiwanese.
Word Count 807
I Brought My Dad to a “Rap Concert”
Hey everyone! Welcome to my blog post, today I am going to be writing about a Taiwanese culture night at my school and my dad came along with me. So, a little background, my dad came down to visit me for the weekend because he had some business in Seattle to do Thursday and Friday. I told him there was this required Taiwan culture night thing I had to go to for my Chinese class and he said he would come with me.
In my head what I expected was something along the lines of a bunch of booths and little activities and displays that gave information about Taiwan and the culture there. I was kind of expecting maybe some old Taiwanese guys playing traditional music in the background to listen to. I was sort of right, but also very wrong. While there were cute little food and information booths there was definitely not some old guys playing traditional music in the background. Someone grabbed a mic and said for everyone to start sitting down in the rows of chairs. At this point I am kind of thinking like oh yeah, we will watch a little performance and clap and then get back to the booths; it will be cute. Once again, I was sort of right, but also very wrong. My dad and I get some seats and then a professor starts a presentation about Taiwanese rap and the history of it. I then think to myself Oh. Oh, this isn’t going to be good… We’re gonna start to listen to rap any second now. My dad absolutely abhors rap music. I did not want to hear his continual complaining that would be teasing for the next couple of hours or something. I don’t know. I don’t know what I was thinking. It all made sense now why my professor kept showing rap stuff in class. I thought she was just trying to connect with youth music or something. I then turn to dad and he is still relatively clueless on the fact that there is going to be a small rap performance. I can just see it on his face. Then the rapper comes out, Dr. T. He looks at me and goes “well I think this is the part where I leave” and then when everyone stood up to be a part of the little concert; he books it to the back of the room. I stay for the rest of the little concert I mean it was not bad, but I felt slightly awkward being there to be completely honest. After everything is all said and done, I find my dad outside of the room. He just has this blank stare that looks dead inside. All he says is “I’m ready to go back to the hotel” and so. We go back to the hotel.
In high school I took four years of French and we learned about today’s music and the culture around the club scenes in Europe etc. I think it is interesting how for French rap, hip hop, R&B it is relatively different compared to the US’s style of it. It has just a different kind of vibe to it. It is hard to articulate it. But for Taiwanese rap/ hip hop it sounded like it was heavily influenced by American music artist. The only thing similar between the French and Taiwanese rap was that they would incorporate English into it occasionally, although the French did it significantly less than what the Taiwanese did.
Although I have not done extensive research on Taiwanese hip hop, I think that because they follow the Americanized style that the main topics of the songs often are related to the three topics of sex, money and drugs. And while that is also the case for French hip hop; it is a lot more common for the songs to have a lot of metaphors and political statements incorporated into them. I think that is another reason why I personally enjoy a lot of French hip hop is because I like to jive with the message it gets behind too. I think this exposure, for lack of a better word, to Taiwanese rap definitely makes me wonder how many other countries follow the American model for music. I would not be surprised if a large amount of countries do follow the American model with music because of America being known as the land for opportunity, like an easy example is how so many English people will come over when they are in search for fame. So I think that would be my next step but until then! Thanks for stopping by, hope you had fun reading my blog. –Jocelyn
Taiwanese Culture Night
The Culture Night Reception at Thomas hall this Saturday featured a handful of Taiwanese food, drinks, and music. One of the featured foods was a snack called a pineapple cake. A Taiwanese pineapple cake isn’t some sort of westernized pineapple upside down cake; it isn’t an overly sweet, sticky full sized cake that might populate an after-dinner table. It’s a small, handheld snack that reminds me of a fig newton, except it actually tastes good. The interior doesn’t actually have any pineapple chunks, but consists of what feels like a tough jam. Despite my crippling phobia of fresh pineapples and refusal to eat anything that even smells like a ripe pineapple, the pineapple cakes were a very sweet mellow taste and had the texture of almost hard but still malleable play dough. In a good way. They were traditionally used as wedding gifts, and were considered good luck. When moving into a new house, it was customary to leave some pineapple cakes out for good fortune. Nowadays, they’re used as regular snacks, often offered to guests to be paired with tea, Speaking of tea, the (insert club name here) club made everyone bubble tea, which was nice of them. It was alright, but I’ve destroyed my taste buds from drinking 200 percent Thai boba tea for the past two years, so having genuinely good, hand crafted bubble tea threw me off. Instead of having to overwhelm the taste of semi-drowned, week old boba with enough sugar to give a 400 lb, motorized wheelchair-ridden whale of an American the fear of diabetes, the tea served at the culture festival actually had genuine flavor and texture that didn’t remind me of a washed up jellyfish drowning in syrup. The tea genuinely tasted like milk tea, a sweet, creamy taste with the perfect hint of bitterness, and the boba had a nice, springy texture that complemented the tea well. Bubble tea originated from Taiwan in the early 1980s, and quickly became one of the most popular drinks for Taiwan’s youth. It migrated to the United States about two decades ago, planting its seed in California, accompanying meals in Chinese restaurants. From there, bubble tea kind of just vibed for a decade and a half before really taking off about 5 years ago, populating almost every street corner and attracting America’s youth. Speaking of vibing (smooth transition, I know), I had zero vibes when it came to the music. The Taiwan Culture Club got a Taiwanese modern musical artist, I think his name was Doctor Tea, to come and educate us about the history of Chinese and Taiwanese rap and hip hop. It was interesting to hear how American artists inspired/produced a new wave of Taiwanese rappers. However, things started to teeter off when the man plugged his YouTube channel, and it got worse when he genuinely used the word “swag” in a sentence. When the beat started playing, I had to leave. I’m not a huge fan of hip hop and rap, some might even say that I hate it, and having this man grooving to an emotionless crowd while dropping the mic to his hip every other word just wasn’t something I wanted to spend any part of my life watching.
The Tacoma Twenty-Seven and the Push for Chinese Expulsion
This past Thursday, I attended a presentation by Beth Lew-Williams, a professor at Princeton University and author of The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America. The focus of her book is to explain the often-forgotten Chinese expulsion that occurred in the western United States in the late 1800s, and in her talk, she elaborated more on the specifics of what happened in the Tacoma area during this time. Before going into this talk, I knew nothing about the expulsion of the Chinese or their history here. In addition, I didn’t even know what the Chinese Reconciliation Park near the water actually represented, but I quickly learned after a city council member and the woman behind the creation of the park spoke and elaborated more on exactly what it means to Tacoma and to the Chinese people. Following their short intro speeches, Lew-Williams dove right into her talk, and I started learning a lot that surprised me. She first showed us some photos of scenes from the Chinese expulsion back in 1885 that illustrated just how brutal and outright hateful the expulsion was, especially in places like Wyoming where the most violence occurred and postcards were made with photos of the Chinese being lynched being used as the front. To me, this was pretty sickening to see, learn, and hear about because I had no knowledge of it before, which suggested how much this event had been hidden from America’s history. Although the number of people that died in the expulsion is relatively low in comparison to other wars and conflicts within America, I think that the hiding of it proves just how common outward racism and violence was and still is common in the U.S. Comparing the Chinese expulsion to other cultures or parts of the world is sadly quite easy because it still happens so often in our modern world. For example, the Uighur population in China has recently been pushed out of their own communities by Han Chinese people taking over. However, not only have they been pushed out, but the Uighurs are being put in “re-education camps” that many consider to be concentration camps where they are being forced to forget they’re traditions and become more like the Han Chinese people. While both the Chinese expulsion and the Uighur re-education are hateful, identity-robbing crimes, the Chinese expulsion wasn’t even an effort to change the Chinese. The notorious “Tacoma’s Twenty-Seven” led the charge in pushing the Chinese out by going door to door in the Chinese community and forcefully coercing and threatening the families until they left their homes and Tacoma. This group was made up of many of Tacoma’s leaders, including the sheriff, the mayor, government officials, and other prominent political leaders. On a website called The Tacoma Method that goes into further detail explaining the actual expulsion, it says that none of the twenty-seven men faced any consequences for their actions, and most were actually seen as heroes by the other people of Tacoma. In her talk, Lew-Williams suggests that one reason for this expulsion relates to the idea of aliens. She said that today, the saying “alien invasion” has a negative connotation because it suggests that the aliens are probably incapable of communicating clearly and might be trying to “take over.” In the context of the expulsion in Tacoma, the men that led the raid could have been worried about the fact that they couldn’t communicate with the Chinese and more importantly, that the Chinese might steal their jobs because they were so hard-working and industrious. As leaders of Tacoma, the idea of the Chinese taking jobs was likely a precursor for them eventually taking over and holding more power than the white man did. Most of the twenty-seven either owned significant amounts of land in Tacoma or had power in the way Tacoma was run and thus they were worried about being overrun by Chinese and losing their wealth and power.
While the Tacoma Twenty-Seven are more well-known in the context of the Chinese expulsion, there were other members of the population who didn’t agree with what was going on. On The Tacoma Method, it mentions two men: Reverend W.D. McFarland and Ezra Meeker. Reverend McFarland didn’t believe in the Chinese expulsion at all and faced significant backlash from white men including members of the Twenty-Seven. The website says that McFarland spoke against the Chinese expulsion during a service, and people started to get up and leave because they didn’t agree with him. As a result, he started to receive threats and then carried a couple of guns for protection. Ezra Meeker, while not as radical as McFarland, was also discriminated against by other citizens because he didn’t support the violent and aggressive pushing out of the Chinese. While he still wanted them to be pushed out of Tacoma, Meeker didn’t think that violence was the answer, and he faced hate from the Tacoma Daily Ledger, saying that “he expressed his differences in a calm, high-minded, temperate manner.” While there were a few people who outwardly pushed back on the expulsion of the Chinese, many were deterred or publicly embarrassed because they were in the minority, and the Tacoma Twenty-Seven possessed the power and money to force them into submission just as they did to the Chinese.
Taiwanese Cultural Night Blog Post
For starters, I’m very glad this event took place. I think it’s super cool that the space was taken and there’s representation for those who may align with Taiwanese culture. At this school especially, I can see how this event can potentially make people feel more comfortable how such a thing even took place. The food, drinks, activities and performance were all really good. I came out drinking boba, trying the rice balls for the first time ever in my life, and a lantern that I’ve made that’s now hanging in my room! Haha.
In this blog post in particular, I will be focusing on the performance. Specifically, I will be analyzing the performer’s words “we are like the NWA of Taiwan”. For starters, rap has transplanted itself globally, but, I think understanding its roots, particularly how one reason for its emergence is due to rap being a platform to counterstance and resist anti-black police violence, is important to acknowledge and understand to not replicate anti-blackness. In other words, understanding the reasons why rap emerged as a platform is important to understand to not be anti-black because it was ‘born’ out of anti-blackness. Police violence, everyday microaggressions, and race being historically and present-day synonymous with death, particularly with the marking of the black body as deviant, dangerous, and to be silenced, are reasons why black people began to produce rap – to challenge these notions and speak their narratives. With the instance of the performer saying “we are like the NWA of Taiwan” sparked my curiosity towards understanding how rap emerged in Taiwan. Although the event covered reasons for the emergence, I became interested in exploring why and how rap truly emerged in Taiwan so I can understand whether the performers words were a hijacking erasure of black struggle and resistance, or a genuine stand in solidarity through sharing a similar narrative, therefore using a similar platform, but the Taiwanese way, to express similar struggles. Although I’m still exploring the emergence of how Taiwanese rap came to be, for the remainder of this blog post, I will be exploring the potential scenarios of either the performers words being a hijacking erasure, or a genuine similarity in exclusionary struggle, and analyzing their impacts and significance.
Before exploring the potential scenarios, it’s crucial to understand the historical context and significance of NWA and applying it to what was occuring at the time. NWA, also known as “Niggaz Wit Attitudes”, is a hip-hop group from Compton, California who were active from 1987 to 1991. However, during half of their time, Ronald Reagan was president, which he held from 1981 to 1989. To provide a glimpse of what was occurring at this time, Killer Mike in his song “Reagan” rapped the following:
“The end of the Reagan Era, I’m like number twelver
Old enough to understand the shit’ll change forever
They declared the war on drugs like a war on terror
But what it really did was let the police terrorize whoever
But mostly black boys, but they would call us “niggas”
And lay us on our belly, while they fingers on they triggers
They boots was on our head, they dogs was on our crotches
And they would beat us up if we had diamonds on our watches
And they would take our drugs and money, as they pick our pockets
I guess that that’s the privilege of policing for some profit
But thanks to Reaganomics, prisons turned to profits
Cos free labor is the cornerstone of US economics”
It’s critical to note that these lyrics are non-unique to the experience of Killer Mike, but rather, the norm for Black America; anti-black police violence and surveillance has occurred for years, ultimately leading to the death – both physical and emotional/spiritual – , brutality, and destruction of the black body. Through one of NWA’s famous song, “F*ck da Police”, the following was expressed:
F*ck the police comin’ straight from the underground
A young nigga got it bad ’cause I’m brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority
F*ck that shit, ’cause I ain’t the one
For a punk motherf*cker with a badge and a gun
To be beatin’ on, and thrown in jail
We can go toe to toe in the middle of a cell
F*ckin’ with me ’cause I’m a teenager
With a little bit of gold and a pager
Searchin’ my car, lookin’ for the product
Thinkin’ every nigga is sellin’ narcotics
Through the two verses, we can get a glimpse into the experience of Black America in the context of when NWA was active. Now comparing this to Taiwanese rap, it sounds like a hijacking erasure of black struggle and resistance. Although some may say it may be familiar due to Taiwanese rappers being excluded, marginalized, and outcasted, the signification of blackness is marked through deviancy, which can be seen and felt when Eazy E’s said “They put up my picture with silence cuz my identity by itself causes violence”. Ultimately, the struggles of Taiwanese rappers and Black American rappers may seem distinct, but I lack the historical context and narrative of Taiwanese rappers to get a glimpse into the full picture. Despite this, given that rap was born out of such struggle, I still wonder how as a Taiwanese rapper, how does he pay homage to the emergence of rap coming from anti-black police violence?
Taiwan: The Pineapple Place
The Taiwan cultural night was a fun and exciting event. It was very interesting to learn about a bunch of different aspects of modern Taiwanese culture such as Rice balls, boba tea, and pineapples. I had never had a pineapple cake before, but I did try it at the event. I’m not a huge fan of fruit in general, and that did apply to the cake, it wasn’t my favorite, but it’s always good to try new things and I’m glad that I did. My stay at the event was sadly pretty short, but I was interested in the Taiwanese pineapple industry afterward. I hadn’t heard of pineapples in Taiwanese culture before, as I had the other foods, so I wanted to know the history and why id developed the way it did.
After doing a little bit of research I was able to learn that Taiwan was and is one of three main preserved pineapple exporters in the world, along with Hawaii and British Malaya. Later on in my research, I learned that pineapples require a very unique climate to be able to efficiently grow. Pineapples require moderate rainfall, hot and humid temperatures, and very fertilized soil. Taiwan is an island that is capable of providing these factors. Being one of the few areas capable of exporting, its only natural that it would capitalize on its own situation. During World War 2, all three areas of pineapple export were damaged and worldwide pineapple supply went down. It took a long time for Taiwan to regrow its pineapple industry, but today, Taiwan is again the pineapple place of the world.
There are three different families of pineapples: the Golden Pineapple, the cayenne, and the Spain. As the canning industry grew new more exotic species of pineapple emerged, such as the Smooth Cayenne, the Red Spain, the Sarawak, and the Yellow Mauritius. Prior to the rise of the canning industry, nearly all of Taiwan’s pineapples were of the Golden Pineapple family, but in more modern times Taiwan has adopted all kinds of pineapple families. This is due to different families costing less to grow and more to sell.
Pineapple cake is a very historic tradition of Taiwan and is sold in many bakeries and tea shops. It’s not exactly known when the first pineapple cakes were made, but in the ’70s when there was a surplus of pineapple, bakeries started pumping them out. In 1975, a shop named The Chia Te Bakery was founded, they quickly became one of the top pineapple cake shops. In 2006 the first pineapple cake festival was held. There was a cook-off to see which shop’s pineapple cake was the best. The aforementioned Chia Te Bakery won that competition. The following year, Chia Te won again with a different take on the traditional pineapple cake.
Traditionally homemade, the recent growth in pineapple cake demand has seen that the item becomes highly mass-produced. So to stand out in the field one expert says to use no preservatives, as the mass-produced versions are. To advertise about how traditionally your pineapple cakes are made. For, as all mass-produced things are, the pineapple cake is losing its originality. Small shops such as Chia Te must stick to tradition if the original Pineapple cake is to survive.
The American Alien
The making and oppression of “the other” throughout US history
The US has been a place of great opportunity, it offers people from all over the world a fresh start. For some people though this idea gets destroyed by xenophobic and racist culture. There have been a multitude of surges of anti immigrant movements that have targeted specific groups based on differences in culture and appearance. One of the most devastating of these movements was against the Chinese communities that came to America for the same reason every other group throughout history has, to work and start a family. A large reason for this xenophobic movement was the fact that the Chinese look different and have very different culture. They were said to be stealing jobs from “white” Americans and causing trouble. Neither of these things are true of course. The Chinese were actually creating industries of their own and helping to support the economy in a multitude of ways. This rhetoric is eerily similar to what is said today about people from Latin America. It is really scary to see how this history has repeated itself over and over again and has caused some of the most horrific instances of mass hate crimes in US history.
During the anti-chinese movement there were a huge number of violent and intimidating crimes committed in a large number of communities in America. The crimes consisted of lynching and the use of fear to drive people from their homes and destroy everything they had worked so hard to achieve. One of the most important places these acts occurred was right here in Tacoma. It was called the Tacoma method and it’s one of the most terrible things that has happened in our city’s history. Before the event happened. About 700 Chinese people called Tacoma their home and were a big part of the community. Many of them came to work on the railroad and stayed in order to work more and support their families. What took place first was a mass message to all the Chinese residents that if they did not leave by a certain date they would be forced to leave. This was obviously very scary to these residents as violence was threatened, so in order to protect themselves and their families 500 of them left. 200 though decided to stay either out of necessity or the want to stand up for what’s right. When the aforementioned day came about a group of Tacoma citizens including the Mayor and other high ranking members of society formed a mob and violently drove the remaining Chinese citizens from their homes and marched them through the downtown area. They were met by nearly the entire town as they were driven from Tacoma. This was such an incredibly cruel act but wasn’t seen as such at the time, in fact, many of those who participated saw it heroic and were proud of what they had done. This was evident by the way they talked about and shown in the group picture they all took commemorating the event. After driving these poor hard working, resilient people from their homes they decided to go and burn down what was known as Little Canton, and area by the water where many of the banished Chinese once called home.
This vile act of expulsion was a landmark moment in Tacoma history and shaped the future of the city we know today. Another important part of this story is how long it took the Tacoma government to own up to what was done and apologize. It wasn’t till many years later that they actually admitted that what was done was wrong and that something needed to be done to right it. Part of this apology was the building of the Chinese Reconciliation park located at the spot where Little Canton once stood. This park symbolizes many things including the obstacles Chinese Immigrants faced and still face today, and the ability of the Chinese to overcome these obstacles despite the overwhelming nature of them. The park itself is not yet complete and requires community support to fully be finished. It is crucial that the community of Tacoma continues to remember what happened with the Tacoma Method and continues to do what it takes to right such an egregious wrong.
I also wanted to take time to draw more similarities to what happened all those years ago and what is happening in this country today. They say that if we do not remember history we are doomed to repeat it. To me this statement means a great deal. People around this country need to know about what mass xenophobia and the creation of the “other” can do to communities and the country as a whole. When something like the Tacoma method happens it not only hurts those who are expelled but everyone in the community as well. Our differences are what make us great and it is only when we embrace those differences and come together that real progress is made. When it comes to hate speech and acts of racial violence against people from Latin America today, it is crucial we remember that and don’t allow for people in our community to be treated in such a horrible way. In fact the NWDC is located right here in Tacoma and is where countless families are being separated and harmed. If white citizens had stood up for what’s right years ago the Chinese wouldn’t have been driven out and the hundreds of families that were destroyed because of it wouldn’t have been. Today is no different, it takes those of us who do have privilege standing up and saying that what is happening is unjust for real change to happen. We need to stay united and not let children be separated from their parents any longer. If we don’t years from now this moment in history will be viewed in a similar light as we see the Tacoma Method now.
Censorship in Hip Hop
By reading through the various descriptions of Taiwanese hip hop artists in Celia Ong’s article, “The Next Wave of Taiwanese Hip-Hop Artists,” I was able to pick up on some general shared themes expressed by popular artists in the Tawianese hip hop scene. Almost all of the artists Ong talks about are heavily influenced by R&B, pop, and funk, and incorporate many characteristics of those genres into their own music. While they incorporate styles of Western hip-hop, many rappers also draw upon traditional Chinese musical styles and instruments, and some rap in their local dialects. Taiwanese hip-hop has been heavily influenced by the musical style of 90’s rap, and we can trace back the rise of popular Taiwanese hip hop to a group called the L.A. Boyz. The L.A. Boyz are a trio of young Taiwanese-American men that came over to Taiwan from California, bringing their musical influence with them. Many rappers of today also draw inspiration from Western rap groups such as A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, OutKast, and DJ Cam. Like the emergence of any new music genre such as hip-hop or rock n roll, the youth of the era are drawn to it because of their desire to form their own beliefs, values, and goals separate from that of their parents. Rappers like NICKTHEREAL, “[hope] to convey the struggles of today’s generation as they chase after their dreams, career, and love.” The rise of Taiwanese hip hop is a textbook example of how the youth of the era find their freedom of self expression and autonomy in a type of music that relates to their struggles and rebels against the status quo.
Recently the Chinese government has implemented standards of what is permissible to appear on television. This seems like an especially difficult transition for the hip-hop culture in Taiwan, as it originated as an underground movement rooted in freedom of expression and anti-authoritarianism. Gao Changli, the director of the SAPRFT (The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People’s Republic of China), enacted four “Don’t” rules to govern the content that airs on TV. These rules are:
“Absolutely do not use actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble.
Absolutely do not use actors who are tasteless, vulgar, and obscene.
Absolutely do not use actors whose ideological level is low and have no class.
Absolutely do not use actors with stains, scandals, and problematic moral integrity.”
Even given these constraints, Chinese rappers are still able to produce meaningful and popular songs. Many artists rap about social/political issues such as social alienation, class division, and environmental degradation. Al Rocco, a Chinese rapper, made another important point in a L.A. Times article titled, “China Embraces Hip-Hop Even a Government Censor Can Love.” Due to government restrictions, many topics that American artists often rap about, such as guns, violence, and drug use, are taboo. However, in China, the situations these Western rappers talk about are much less common. Rocco states that “fans will be less engaged with imaginary scenarios they haven’t experienced before.” This isn’t the first case of art flourishing under censorship. After the Film Censorship Act was put in place in 1952, films that featured content seen to be overly sexual or violent were banned from showing in theaters. Despite the act’s extensive list of restrictions, writers were able to work around them by relying more heavily on elements of suspense and off-screen actions, leaving the audience more room for imagination and reflection.
Reading about the censorship implemented around Chinese hip hop made me wonder about the laws regarding obscenity in the United States. By reading David L. Hudson Jr.’s article, “Rap Music and the First Amendment,” I found that there is a similar set of rules to Gao Changli’s “Don’t” rules applied to art in the U.S. The Miller Test is a set of guidelines for judging obscenity cases, created in response to the case of Miller v California (1973). The rules are as follows:
Whether the average person applying contemporary community standards would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”
All three standards for this test must be met for a piece to be considered obscene. There have been numerous Supreme Court cases evaluating whether rap lyrics are “incendiary and [contribute] to violence.” A Florida sheriff in Broward county once took it so far as to prosecute record store owners that carried 2 Live Crew’s album As Nasty As They Wanna Be on the grounds that many songs on the record were violent or sexually explicit. Despite hip hop’s constant battle with conservative community standards, we have seen time and again that art and freedom of expression will always find a way around the authority they are rebelling against.
Credible source: https://www.mtsu.edu/first-amendment/article/1582/rap-music-and-the-first-amendment