Friday, 29 August 2014

"Little Thirds" (小三) - Taiwanese Businessmen and Chinese Mistresses

One day I went with a friend of mine to a nice coffee shop near the campus of National Taiwan University. I don't know how or why, but we began talking about family values. I don't recall the details of that conversation, but one scene I remember vividly as if it had happened yesterday. She smiled at me and said, "We are more responsible."

What she meant, of course, was that Taiwanese people care more about their families than Westerners. I have challenged this view several times, showing that terms like 'love' or 'responsibility' have different meanings in the West and in East Asia. In this and the next posts, I would like to talk about the phenomenon of the "little thirds" (xiaosan, 小三, also called 二奶), which, as I will show, derives from traditional East Asian concepts of family life.

In this post I will tell a few stories of Taiwanese businessmen who took mistresses during their stay in mainland China. In the second post I will show how "cross-strait families" (husband in China and wife in Taiwan) actually reinforce traditional values and social roles. In the third post I will provide ancient examples of concubinage, and in the fourth one I will explain the concept of "feeding", or "nurturing" (養) a mistress, and what this has to do with traditional family structures.

Nightclubs, 'Company Girls', and China's 'Little Taipei'

According to the Washington Post, in 2010 more than a million Taiwanese lived in mainland China, half of them in Shanghai, most of them for work. Stories of Taiwanese men who spend almost the whole year apart from their families in Taiwan are therefore not uncommon. And while men in East Asian countries may keep mistresses and concubines according to their financial possibilities, men who live far from their family and native social environment are often even more tempted to do so. 

As Taiwanese businessmen face tougher competition in China, they are also experiencing greater difficulties in keeping a mainland mistress. Since the economy of the mainland has developed rapidly, Taiwanese are no longer as wealthy as they used to be when compared with the local population. A Chinese mistress may demand a monthly allowance of 300,000 NTD (around 10,000 US dollars), which is more than many Taiwanese can afford. Many men can't make a "deal" with potential mistresses if they offer a lower price. 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

42 People Injured in Clash Between Students and Military in China's Hunan Province

On August 24 at about 16:30 a fight broke out between students and military instructors at Huangcang Middle School (皇仓中学) in China's Hunan Province. 42 people have been injured, including a teacher and a military instructor.

According to an eyewitness, one of the students was unhappy about how a military instructor joked with a female student. He argued with the instructor and an altercation followed. The other instructors intervened and punished the whole class: they had to do push-ups, were kicked and beaten with sticks. The student who had started the quarrel apologised to the instructor he had attacked and the incident seemed over. 

However, in the evening the commander of the instructors' team sought revenge. As the classes gathered for the evening session, he ordered the students to be punished. 20 instructors assaulted the students and beat them severely. Female students began to cry. At that point, the teacher of the class, surnamed Liu, thought the situation had got out of control and called the emergency number, but was surrounded by the instructors and beaten, as well. The other teachers intervened and were, too, attacked. The students from the other classes tried to defend their teachers and a fight between students and instructors ensued. 40 students, 1 teacher and 1 instructor were injured; on August 25, 25 people were still in hospital. One of the students later stated that the instructors were drunk.  

According to Chinese state newspaper People's Daily, the same instructors had been involved in similar clashes last year.

Military drills are common in schools in the People's Republic of China. Their purpose is to prepare students for defending the country, and instill in them a sense of collectivism, perseverance, and organisation. The drills often include harsh physical exercise and marches. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Bao'an Temple (保安宮) in Taipei's Datong District

Bao'an Temple (保安宮, pinyin: Bǎo'āngōng) is one of the major temples of Taipei's Datong District. It is located on Hami Street, in an area known as Dalongdong, one of the oldest Han settlements in the Taipei Basin. Bao'an Temple is just a few minutes walk from the Confucius Temple, and close to Chen Yueji Residence as well as Yuanshan MRT Station

The first nucleus of Bao'an Temple was built in the 7th year of Emperor Qianlong (1742) by Han settlers from Tong'an, in Fujian Province. The temple is devoted to Baosheng Dadi (保生大帝, literally "Life Protector Great Emperor"), a deity of the Chinese pantheon worshipped in Fujian Province and Taiwan. As is often the case in Chinese folk religion, Baosheng Dadi is a deified historical figure, a doctor and Daoist practitioner surnamed Wu (吳), born in the village of Baoliao, near Xiamen, in Fujian Province. He is said to have performed medical miracles, and after his death in 1036 he began to be worshipped as a god. He was subsequently deified by emperors of the Song and Ming dynasties.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Cisheng Temple (慈聖宮) in Taipei

Cisheng Temple (慈聖宮, pinyin: Císhènggōng; literally "Palace of kindness and holiness") is a temple located in Taipei's Datong District. Along with Xiahai Chenghuang (霞海城隍廟) and Fazhugong Temple (法主公廟), Cishenggong is one of the three major temples of Dadaocheng, an area of Datong which under Qing rule used to be a small port town outside of Taipei walled city. As one of the oldest parts of what is now Taipei City, Dadaocheng has retained its "Chinese" character, shaped by the immigrants who came to Taiwan from southern China over the centuries. 

Cisheng Temple was built in the 19th century by immigrants from Tong'an, a district of Xiamen city, in China's Fujian Province. It is devoted to the Sea Goddess Mazu, one of Taiwan's most popular deities. In imperial times, crossing the strait was dangerous and the Chinese settlers who went there often risked their lives; this explains why so many of them were eager to thank Mazu after they had started a new life on the island. At the beginning, the people from Tong'an lived in Mengjia, one of the oldest Han settlements of the Taipei Basin.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

German National Sentenced to Death in China

Yesterday (August 20) a court in Xiamen, a coastal city in China's Fujian Province, sentenced a German national to death. The man, whose name has not been revealed to protect his privacy, was found guilty of manslaughter: he allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend on a street of the Southern Chinese city. This is the first time a German citizen faces the death penalty in China. 

According to reports, the 36-year-old German had met his Venezuelan girlfriend in Munich, where they both studied sinology. They broke up in 2005, but allegedly the man did not get over the end of their relationship. The woman and her new boyfriend later moved to China. They have a child together, who lives with relatives in Germany. 

Chen Yueji Residence - Taipei Qing Dynasty Historic Site

The Chen Yueji Residence (陳悅記大厝, also called 陳悅記祖宅), commonly referred to as "Teacher's Mansion" (老師府), is one of Taipei's lesser known treasures. It is located on Yanping North Road, in Taipei City's Datong District. It is one of the few remaining residences built during the Qing Dynasty era. The residence is close to other major tourist attractions, such as the Confucius Temple. It can be reached on foot from Yuanshan MRT station

During the Qing Dynasty, the Chen Yueji Residence was part of Dadaocheng, which at that time was a city of its own. When the Japanese occupied Taiwan in 1895, they set about building a modern colonial capital. They tore down Taipei city walls as well as nearly all buildings constructed in Taipei walled city under the Qing. The only Chinese buildings that they did not destroy were four out of five city gates and a part of Taiwan provincial administration hall. On the ruins of Qing Taipei they created the government and business district of Jonai; an entirely modern, Western-inspired district where nothing Chinese was left that could awaken the Taiwanese people's nostalgia for their past. That part of the city still maintains its Japanese colonial structure. 

In the 1920s Jonai, Dadaocheng and Mengjia were united to form Taipei City. Dadaocheng and Mengjia were the more traditional and "Chinese" districts, where mostly native Taiwanese lived. That's why up to this day several Qing era buildings, especially temples, survive in these two areas, giving them a characteristically "Chinese" flair. 

The Chen Yueji Residence began to be built in the early 19th century by members of the Chen clan (陳氏) in the traditional style of a Chinese courtyard house. The Taiwanese branch of the family was established by Chen Wenlan (陳文瀾), a doctor who came to Taiwan from mainland China during the reign of Emperor Qianlong (乾隆; reigned from 1735 to 1796). Chen Wenlan's eldest son, Chen Xunjing (陳遜經), set up a store that sold ship components, since trade between mainland China and Taiwan prospered at the time. The store was called 'Chen Yueji' (陳悅記).

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Jackie Chan's Son Jaycee and Taiwanese Star Ke Zhendong Arrested in Beijing for Drug Use

Yesterday the Beijing police confirmed that Jaycee Chan (房祖名; Fang Zuming), the son of martial arts film star Jackie Chan, and Taiwanese Actor Ke Zhendong (柯震東, also spelt Ko Chen-tung in Taiwan's Wade-Giles system) were arrested on August 14 in the Chinese capital on charges of drug use. 

The 23-year-old Ke Zhendong had achieved notoriety on both sides of the Taiwan Strait with the 2011 romantic film You Are the Apple of My Eye (那些年,我們一起追的女孩, literally "Those Years, The Girl We Chased Together"). Ke is accused of drug consumption and faces 14 days in prison. 

Jaycee Chan, however, is accused of a much more serious crime. The police found in his Beijing residence 100 grams of marijuana which was probably destined for other people's consumption. He faces a prison sentence of up to 4 years.  

Monday, 18 August 2014

Taihoku: The Modern Capital - Taiwan Under Japanese Colonial Rule

We - the Westerners who have had the privilege to stay in Taiwan long enough to know it at least a little bit better than the occasional traveller - are not the first generation of foreigners who have been to this island and have had the chance to discover its treasures. Most of the people who came here long ago did not write down their impressions, feelings and observations, and their memories are now lost to us. Yet some of them did, passing on to future generations their invaluable knowledge and experience.

One of these Westerners was Owen Rutter (1889-1944), a British historian, novelist and travel writer, who visited Taiwan in the 1920s, during the Japanese colonial era. In this post I share with you the 7th chapter of Rutter's book Through Formosa, in which he describes Taipei (called Taihoku by the Japanese) and the general development of Taiwan as a colony. This part of the book is interesting for several reasons. 

First, it shows us the Taihoku of the 1920s from the perspective of a foreign traveller. Second, it sheds light on how the Japanese wanted their colonial capital and their colonial enterprise on Taiwan to be perceived by the outside world; in fact, Rutter's 'tour guides' were Japanese officials who, as a matter of fact, explained to him the development of Taihoku from their own point of view. Third, it proves how successful the Japanese colonial administration was in the eyes of Western imperialists; Rutter was very impressed by what Japan had achieved on the island in merely thirty years, believing that the Japanese were better colonisers than the British. 

Obviously, Rutter was a man of his times, and his thinking reflects prejudices and stereotypes of early 20th century Westerners (some of which still exist).

The following chapter is divided into sections. Some parts have been omitted to make the reading easier. 


Owen Rutter: Through Formosa - an Account of Japan's Island Colony. London 1923, Chapter VII


We arrived at Taihoku in a blaze of glory. A host of officials was waiting for us on the platform as the train drew in; there seemed to be a never-ending procession of them as they were introduced, card in hand. Among them were Mr. Kamada, head of the Foreign Section (the immediate chief of Koshimura, who now effaced himself), Mr. Hosui, also of the Foreign Section and chief interpreter to the Governor-General, Mr. Yoshioka, an official of the Monopoly Bureau, and Major Akamatsu, who was on the Headquarters Staff of the Formosan garrison. All but the latter spoke English and all were very anxious to do everything they could for us. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The 1979 Kaohsiung Incident

The Kaohsiung Incident of 1979 (Chinese: 高雄事件, pinyin: Gāoxióng Shìjiàn) marked a turning point in the history of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan. It was one of the last acts of repression of political dissent carried out by the Guomindang one-party state. Although in the short-term the old brutal ways of the regime triumphed, in the long run the opposition was strengthened, and the most progressive forces of Taiwanese society, including many liberal Guomindang politicians, realised that the days of authoritarianism were numbered. 

Many opposition leaders involved in the Kaohsiung Incident were soon to form a new political elite of the ROC, who would advance the cause of democracy, human rights, and constitutional government. Although many within the ruling Guomindang also endorsed democratisation, the contribution of those people who were unjustly arrested and punished by the state because of their ideas to the progress of Taiwan's political system and civil society cannot be underestimated. They were and still are a driving force of liberalism and pluralism, and even if they remain opposed to the Guomindang ideologically, the standards they set also helped the Guomindang change its autocratic style and implement the programme of democratisation envisioned by its founder Sun Yat-sen.

The Origin of the Kaohsiung Incident - Taiwan's Opposition before 1979

When Taiwan was handed over to the ROC in 1945, the Guomindang one-party state extended to the island its authoritarian system of government. The party's performance in Taiwan was, economically as well as politically, as poor as it had been on the mainland. The ROC administration under Chen Yi (陳儀/陈仪), the ex-governor of Fujian Province who was appointed Chief Executive and Garrison Commander of Taiwan after 1945, was unable to restore the economy to prewar levels. Chen believed in a form of economic statism popular among Guomindang cadres since the late 1920s. He thought that the state should establish large industrial conglomerates and manage the economy from the top in a way that echoed the principles of Soviet-style planned economy  (see: Tse-Han Lai / Ramon H. Myers / O. Wei: A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of February 28, 1947, 1991, p. 84).

The Taiwanese economy was already in bad shape by the time of the handover to the ROC. As part of the Japanese Empire, Taiwan had had to give its contribution to the war effort, so that the production system had been subordinated to military needs. After the war, it wasn't an easy task to reconvert the economy to its normal peacetime structure. Moreover, Taiwan was now cut off from Japan, its major trading partner.  

However, the Chen administration is likely to have contributed to the deterioration of the Taiwanese economy with its unwise policies. The state took over all Japanese-owned property, including factories, and handed them over to mainland bureaucrats. Soon the government controlled 70% of industrial and agricultural enterprises. Through a newly established Monopoly Bureau, it also controlled the supply of salt, camphor, opium, matches, liquor, tobacco, and other items. Only licensed vendors were allowed to sell these products, and private competition to state monopolies was repressed by the police. Moreover, the state regulated trade, which bureaucratised exchanges between private parties, who were compelled to conduct business through the Trade Bureau (ibid., pp. 85-86). 

These and other examples show that Chen Yi's statist capitalism was very different from the successful model of state-promoted capitalism which led to Taiwan's economic boom in later decades. Chen's economic policy, in fact, discouraged private enterprise, competition and productivity, while it established an inefficient form of bureaucratic planned capitalism that did not deliver results.

As a consequence, by 1946 railway capacity still stood at 80% of its pre-handover levels. In 1945 factory production had declined by 80% compared to 1942. Lack of infrastructure and supply shortages plagued trade and industry. Since import of fertilisers from Japan had stopped, rice output in 1945 was below that of 1904. To meet its current expenses the government began to print money, causing dramatic hyperinflation. The tremendous increase in food prices hit the population hard. For instance, between January and February 1946 the price of rice increased by 230% (ibid. pp. 81-82).

The Guomindang's inefficient administration was made even worse by the ongoing Civil War on the mainland. Chiang Kai-shek's autocratic style, the government's endemic corruption and economic inefficiency had already beset the ROC before 1945. But after the war, the showdown between the Guomindang and the Communists led to increasing violence, economic instability, and further restrictions of civil liberties. 

In 1948 the National Assembly of the ROC enacted the "Mobilisation for the Suppression of Communist Rebellion Provisional Act", which gave President Chiang Kai-shek enormous personal power and de facto nullified the democratic foundations of the ROC Constitution and of Guomindang ideology. The Act was extended to Taiwan in 1949 and became the "legal" basis for the martial law era and the white terror. 

But despite its authoritarian one-party rule, the Guomindang regime did have several democratic elements. First of all, the party had a democratic ideological component in Sun Yat-sen's principle of democracy. Second, after retreating to Taiwan the Guomindang needed the support of the American public opinion and its allies; therefore, it portrayed the ROC as "free China" as opposed to the inhumane despotism of Communist rule on the mainland. The idea that Taiwan was a better, a free China was of course contradicted by the martial law and the white terror. But limited democracy through local elections allowed the Guomindang to at least partly soothe its critics. Third, after the humiliating defeat of 1949 the ROC government realised that ruling by force alone wasn't sufficient. The state needed the support of the people; and if not of all the people, at least of those who were willing to be co-opted. One of the means the Guomindang chose to mobilise the masses was the electoral system. But how could the Guomindang maintain its one-party rule and at the same time permit free elections?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Donghe Bell Tower and Soto Zen Temple in Taipei

One evening I was walking along Ren'ai Road (仁愛路), close to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, when suddenly I noticed a peculiar old building on my left. I was surprised because I had never seen it on any Taipei guide. On second thought, though, I wasn't sure whether it was an old building at all. It actually looked brand new. Was it one of those neoclassical oriental structures so beloved by the old KMT guard? After all, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, too, looks like an ancient building, but in fact it was constructed in the 1970s. 

I drew closer and saw that it was a bell tower. It stood lonely behind a huge high-rise building and next to a gloomy construction site. I looked around to see if there was any plaque that explained its history. I went into the archway at the centre of the tower. Suddenly I heard a coarse coughing and the sound of steps, and I stopped. An old man emerged from the other side of the tower. His scrawny upper body was naked, his skin was dark, and he looked as if he hadn't taken a shower in a while. In the distance I saw an improvised bed made out of several blankets. It was probably a homeless man that I had disturbed in his sleep. I turned around and decided to return another day.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Hungry Ghost Festival - Its Origin and Meaning

The Hungry Ghost Festival (中元節 or 盂蘭節) is a Buddhist festival celebrated throughout the Chinese-speaking world, from mainland China to Hong Kong, from Taiwan to Singapore. This "festival of the dead", which falls on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, differs from similar ones. While, for instance, during the Qingming Festival people pray for the spirits of their ancestors, the Hungry Ghost Festival is devoted exclusively to ghosts of strangers, i.e., of people who do not belong to one's family. As we will see later, this separation between family spirits and strangers' ghosts reflects important characteristics of traditional Chinese thinking.

The 7th month of the lunar calendar is the period of the Yulan Assembly (盂蘭會) or the "Passage of Universal Salvation". In a cosmic process of transformation, the spirits of the dead are temporarily released from the underworld and are free to wonder about in the world of the living. This is a moment of threat and danger, as the ghosts may harm the living, who therefore need to pacify them through sacrificial offerings. Among the spirits coming from the shades are the souls of those who have no family that could pray for them either because they died too young, or far away from their homeland, or because they remained childless. These souls are particularly menacing and must be placated through sacrifices of food and by burning "spirit money". Spirit money derives from the ancient practice of burying the dead with objects and riches they could need in the afterlife: 

When the person died and faced the initial journey to hell for the great trial that would determine his assignment in the netherworld, relatives provided all of the amenities: horses, carriages, servants, food, and money. In ancient times some Chinese rulers were buried with horses, servants, and the like. After the classic period these were no longer items of the "real" world, but facsimiles for use in the other world--often paper items. And the money was the famous "spirit money," made of cheap paper and foil, but ritually transmitted to have full value in the other world: It was backed not by bullion, but by the religious merit and ritual prowess of the living (Judith A. Berling: Death and Afterlife in Chinese Religions. In: Death and Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions, ed. Hiroshi Obayashi, 1992, p. 189).

Only by sacrificing to the ghosts can the living hope to appease the spirits' wrath and avoid being haunted by them.

Tables with offerings for the ghosts could be seen on almost every street of Taipei last weekend

In temples in Taiwan the ghost festival culminates in ceremonies where actors perform operas, and then priests, assuming the role of deities (Guanyin for the Buddhists and the Great Unity Heavenly Worthy Who Relieves Suffering for the Daoists) read sutras and perform mudras. Afterwards the priest invites the ghosts to come forward, while he describes to the worshippers the sufferings the ghosts have had to endure. In a symbolic ritual, the priest multiplies the food brought to the temple by the community as offers to the ghosts. The food is then thrown at the hungry ghosts to feed them. At this point, the worshippers, especially children, reach for the awaited candies and other delicacies which, although meant to feed the hungry spirits, are eaten by the living who brought them (Carol Stepanchuk / Charles Choy Wong: Mooncakes and Hungry Ghosts - Festivals of China, 1991,  pp. 71-75).

In Taiwan, there is also a ceremony called "Release of the Water Lanterns" (放水燈), in which paper lanterns or paper boats are set afloat on rivers.

Burning of spirit money

The Origin of the Hungry Ghost Festival

The term "hungry ghost" (餓鬼) is a Chinese rendering of the Sanskrit word preta, which describes beings suffering from extreme hunger or thirst. In the Chinese-speaking world, the concept of hungry ghosts was incorporated into the ethics of filial piety and family ideology.

Ancestor worship played a central role in traditional Chinese thought. Hungry ghosts were the wrathful, suffering souls of those who had not been buried properly, or who were not properly worshipped by their descendants. For instance, people who died in mass executions, or died far away from home etc., could not be worshipped according to custom and thus became hungry ghosts.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Qing Dynasty Taiwan Provincial Administration Hall (臺灣布政使司衙門)

A few weeks ago on a Saturday I decided to go to Taipei Botanical Garden to take a walk and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Established during Japanese rule in 1921, the botanical garden is in itself a tourist attraction worth visiting. Located just a few minutes walk from Xiaonanmen MRT Station, the park has about 1,500 species of plants, and there are also animals such as frogs and squirrels. However, I didn't go there to enjoy the nature, but to see a building that I'd been wanting to visit for a long time.

It is a small, Chinese-style building, with a traditional curved tiled roof, white walls, and full of Chinese-style decorations. It is hard to believe that only a century ago, this structure stood in the middle of present-day downtown Taipei, on the location of today's Zhongshan Hall

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Foreigner Goes Berserk, Assaults Taiwanese Bus Driver

The case of a foreigner that assaulted and insulted a bus driver in Taoyuan has become a major piece of news in Taiwan yesterday.

On August 4, a US national of Taiwanese descent named Jason accused a bus driver of not halting at a stop. The driver, surnamed Chen, claimed that the passenger had not pressed the stop button on time, while Jason himself argues that he did. Jason was travelling with his pregnant wife. 

A female passenger sunamed Lin uploaded a video in which Jason can be seen shouting at the driver and threatening him. He can be distinctly heard saying to the driver: "I will f*** kill you, bitch". Jason was furious because the driver had not stopped after he pressed the button. He insulted him repeatedly. The word "f***" can be heard 17 times. Jason also demanded the driver apologise to him. Several elderly people intervened and apologised on behalf of the driver in order to soothe the man who had turned violent and had entirely lost his temper. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Taiwanese Peeing in the Street, Chinese Peeing in the Street

Over the past few years Taiwanese and Hong Kong media have often exposed cases of mainland Chinese children urinating or defecating in public areas. The anger felt in Hong Kong and Taiwan against mainlanders' misbehaviour has even prompted China's Xinhua News Agency to publish "Six Guidelines and Six Taboos", a guide for Chinese tourists travelling outside the mainland. 

As I have argued in one of my posts, I believe that, although it is right to expose and criticise those individuals who misbehave, it is not acceptable to blame 1.3 billion people for the faults of a few. It is also necessary to try and understand the background of these people. Only a few decades ago, China was a predominantly poor and rural country, and old ways of life may have survived despite the country's recent economic development. Furthermore, it must be noted that in mainland China itself public urination and defecation has led to violent altercations. Admittedly, there seems to be a certain level of acceptance in China towards children who "can't hold" their urine any longer. This has probably to do with education. It can only be changed through public campaigns. A successful example of government-enforced bans of bad behaviour is Singapore, where public spitting has been outlawed (as it is considered a form of littering) as a habit that is not only unhygienic and could spread diseases, but may also hurt other people's sensitivities (see David A. Mackey: Crime Prevention, 2011, p. 393). 

As habits have changed and are changing in East Asia, so are they in the West, as well. Ross Coomber, professor of sociology at Plymouth University, once stated: "There are reports of people spitting in parliament right up to the end of the 19th century. I like to remind people that we were still building pubs in the 1930s with spitting troughs at the bottom of the bar." Smoking, too, used to be a universal habit tolerated in almost all public areas

Despite frequent complaints about mainlanders' misbehaviour, I must say that I have never witnessed any such case myself when I was in Hong Kong or during my brief stays in Beijing and Shanghai. I must have seen hundreds if not thousands of mainland tourists during my long walks in Central, Admiralty, Tsim Sha Tsui etc., but nothing strange ever happened.  

However, I have seen people urinating in public in Taiwan. Usually, I just look at them in astonishment and keep on walking. But yesterday, I decided to take a picture of a man who was peeing in the street near Guting MRT Station.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Links to the Kaohsiung Gas Explosion

Last week a gas explosion that killed at least 28 people and injured more than 300 shocked Taiwan. I usually don't like to write about these things on my blog, which is focused on culture, society, history and places to visit. But while the tragedy was happening I thought it would be ridiculous to ignore it and instead write about something else. 

In this post I would just like to share some links to the Kaohsiung explosion and its aftermath. I hope that the number of dead and injured won't rise, and that the authorities will learn some lessons from what happened. The loss of life was tragic, and there are no words to express the sorrow. My thoughts are with the families of the victims.

The Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance Taiwan has launched a fundraising campaign. It is great to know that donations by individuals and businesses have been numerous. Among others, Formosa Plastics Group, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering Inc., Hon Hai Group, Kinpo Group, Acer Inc. HTC Corp. etc. have donated a total of 4.8 million US dollars.

Modern Love, Confucian Values - The Case of Huang Yuting (婷婷)

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an article about Huang Yuting, commonly known as Tingting (婷婷), the ex-wife of Taiwanese actor Shao Xin (邵昕). The article appeared on the popular Taiwanese tabloid Apple Daily, a newspaper that often talks about the private lives of celebrities.

Tingting and Shao Xin divorced two years ago. This year, a friend introduced Tingting to a man who is now her boyfriend. They have been together for about half a year. He has already proposed to her and they are planning to get married. 

What interests me about this article is not the gossip. What I find fascinating is how Tingting and her boyfriend explain and articulate their relationship by using a mix of traditional Confucian values and of modern concepts of love. Let us examine the text a little closer. In an interview, Tingting stated:

There is almost no resistance [on the part of our families] to our being together. My mother likes him. His parents, too, have accepted me (我們在一起幾乎沒有阻力,我媽很喜歡他,他家人也接受我).

Friday, 1 August 2014

Latest on the Kaohsiung Gas Explosion - 25 People Confirmed Dead

In Taiwan the new month begins with yet another tragedy. The country was still trying to recover from the shock of the TransAsia plane crash that killed 48 people when yesterday at around midnight a series of explosions rocked the southern city of Kaohsiung, devastating houses and streets, killing and injuring hundreds of people. At first only 7 people were presumed dead. But as the night hours passed the list was revised upwards over and over again. 

According to the latest figures (published by Apple Daily at around 1 pm), a total of 25 people have been killed, four of whom were firefighters, while 267 have been injured. 

Yesterday evening a gas leakage occurred in Qianzhen (前鎮), a District of Kaohsiung City. Firefighters were on the spot at 9 pm to take safety precautions. People in the neighbourhood were alarmed by the strong and persistent gas smell. A woman interviewed by Apple Daily said that she had already noticed a strong gas odour as early as in the evening of July 30 while she was going to an international business school on Sanduo Road. 

At 12 am of July 31 a series of explosions rocked the entire district, ripping streets open, damaging buildings, overturning cars and scooters. Flames blazed up from the earth and a fire spread through the district, which lasted for several hours.

At Least 15 People Killed and Over 200 Injured in Gas Explosion in Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Tonight at around 12:00 am a series of explosions wrecked houses and streets in Qianzhenqu (前鎮區), a district of Kaohsiung, Southern Taiwan. The explosions were caused by a gas leakage. According to Focus Taiwan, the leakage began in the evening of July 31 at a construction sight of the city's light rapid transit system.

According to witnesses, there were multiple explosions at midnight which rocked streets and houses. At least 15 people have been killed, among them 5 firefighters, while 228 have been injured.