Friday, 24 October 2014

Old Houses in Taipei

A while ago I wrote a short post about an old house in Taipei's Roosevelt Road which I'd been often passing by, wondering if it was a building from the Qing Dynasty or from the Japanese era. I thought there weren't many such old houses left in that area, but, while taking long walks around Gongguan, Taipower Building Station, Guting and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, I found out that I was wrong.  In fact, there are several of them, scattered all around this part of Taipei City. However, they are not very visible, and if you don't look carefully, chances are you won't even notice them. There are three reasons for this. First, they usually stand isolated among modern buildings, sometimes sandwiched between or hidden behind them. Second, they are usually surrounded by high walls. Third, they tend to be so decrepit and neglected that they lose much of their charm. 

Just a few days ago, I found a house that might be from the Japanese era. It is so far one of the best preserved I've seen, and apparently the building is being renovated, so we may hope that it won't be torn down for the sake of some new high-rise apartment block, of which Taipei has already more than enough. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Real or Fake News? - Mainland Chinese Boy Pees At Restaurant Inside Taipei 101

On October 19 Apple Daily published an article about a mainland boy who peed in public at the famous restaurant Ding Tai Feng (鼎泰豐, often spelt 'Din Tai Fung') inside Taipei 101. 

According to the report, at the beginning of October a group of 5 tourists from China's Shanxi province went to Ding Tai Feng, a chain of restaurants renowned for its xiaolongbao (小籠包, a kind of dumpling). During the meal, a 3-year-old boy had to pee and his mother let him urinate inside a plastic bottle in public. Although there is no toilet inside Ding Tai Feng, there is one just about 100 meters away from the restaurant but still inside Taipei 101. Allegedly, other customers saw that the boy had pulled down his pants to pee and felt shocked. Moreover, the boy 'missed his target' and sprinkled the table and the food. 

The group consisted of a 37-year-old mother and her two children, her 73-year-old father and her 41-year-old sister-in-law. They arrived at the restaurant at around 12:30 of October 2. When the incident occurred, the waiters didn't know how to handle the situation and called senior staff members with more experience. 

A spokesperson of the restaurant told the media that the waiters "immediately went to the table and told the customers how to get to the restrooms. They also reminded them that they [should] avoid disturbing the other customers." She added that the area of the restaurant where the mainland group had sat was disinfected after what had happened.

A mainland group leader defended the woman. "There's no reason to blow the thing out of proportion," she said. "This kind of thing will happen. It's the same on the mainland. The child is still very young, if he needs to pee there's nothing you can do. As a mother, you will sympathise with your child. I have children, too."

Friday, 10 October 2014

Tiu Keng Leng - A Former Guomindang Enclave in British Hong Kong

Tiu Keng Leng (調景嶺; pinyin: Tiáojǐnglǐng) is an area in Hong Kong's Sai Kung District. Today it is a modern neighbourhood with high-rise buildings and shopping malls, but in the past it used to be a settlement of Guomindang sympathisers and supporters of the Republic of China (ROC). 

Tiu Keng Leng is often called 'Rennie's Mill', after Alfred Herbert Rennie. Born in Canada in 1857, Rennie moved to Hong Kong in 1890. He found work as a clerk at the Government Public Works Department but he resigned in 1895 to start his own business. He wanted to build a flour mill, since Hong Kong imported flour from abroad at the time. He bought land at Junk Bay (Tseung Kwan O) and built his mill between 1905 and 1906. However, the business turned unprofitable and failed. Desperate and disillusioned, Rennie drowned himself in 1908 (Bard 2002, p. 234). 

The Chinese-speaking population henceforth called the area 吊頸嶺 (Tiu Keng Leng, literally "hanging neck ridge"). As the name was considered too inauspicious, it was later changed into the similar-sounding 調景嶺. 

As the ROC government collapsed during the Chinese Civil War and retreated to Taiwan in 1949, many Guomindang refugees and ROC supporters moved to Tiu Keng Leng from mainland China. A community arouse which was in many respects unique; it was a semi-autonomous Guomindang enclave made up of huts and improvised buildings constructed by the refugees for lack of government housing. It had its own schools, and flags of the ROC were displayed publicly as if the settlement had been part of the ROC.